We’re living in unprecedented times. Industries around the globe are entering uncharted territory. Felt across all sectors, the business impacts of COVID-19 are far-reaching and ever-evolving. As companies navigate a new series of hurdles, they’re finding the road ahead is filled with more questions than answers.
Corporate leaders must learn to adapt in the face of these new challenges in order to ensure the well-being of their employees while also grappling with the real economic challenges threatening their businesses. To stay afloat, it's paramount that they empower their teams with the support and tools they need to be successful.
Every business leader knows that sales is the lifeblood of their organization. This is especially true today. Under increased financial strain, companies must now depend on their salespeople more than ever to not only maintain existing business relationships, but also generate new ones.
Piled on the heightened pressure that sales teams are experiencing is a series of changes impacting their ability to do business as they always have — namely, remote work mandates. As events and in-person meetings are canceled, many reps who relied on face-to-face communication may feel as though their hands are tied. They need guidance and motivation from leaders within the organization to maintain productivity and feel supported in spite of unexpected constraints.
Here’s my advice for sales leaders to keep their teams focused, agile, and inspired:
Foster a culture of empathy and understanding.
Settling into this work-from-home paradigm feels strange for everyone, but with it has come a renewed sense of humanity, showing us that we truly are in this together. Welcome to the new normal: Video calls place us in colleagues’ kitchens and clients’ living rooms, where toddlers and pets make cameos.
While I have a personal office, I'm sensitive to the fact that not everyone in my organization has the same conducive work environment. Many employees must now negotiate with roommates for space in their small apartments, and parents of young children must juggle having their kids home from school or daycare.
This shift has been particularly hard on salespeople, who spend much of their day on the phone and are having trouble finding quiet places to make calls. In this time, we need to be patient and flexible with one another. Part of this means being more accepting of barking dogs and children interrupting conversations.
Invest in technology to connect teams and drive better business.
More than ever before, sales leaders need to over-communicate with their teams. This is where so many cloud-based tools can be helpful — professionally and personally.
Between the lack of social interaction and constant drumbeat of bad news, it’s important that teams remain engaged and keep internal morale up. Ideas as simple as Zoom happy hours and fireside chats are helping people stay connected and sane. Not to mention, asking that teams turn on their cameras during conversations holds them accountable for being more alert and productive.
We're fortunate to have tools like Zoom that render it possible to stay connected from afar. However, for salespeople, it’s about more than that. It’s about hitting numbers, which are essential to revenue and thus essential to the overall business. This is where other technologies, like sales performance management (SPM) software, come into play.
SPM is particularly well suited for this moment in time, as it enables reps to track key metrics — such as the number of calls they made or their progress on a deal — in real-time, from anywhere, compared to their peers. Performance visibility among sales team members can be a powerful motivator. For instance, if a rep sees others are having success on any given day, it can encourage them to make more calls.
On the compensation side, these tools also allow companies to create special bonuses — sales performance incentive funds — to get reps rallied around a set of tasks. Naturally, leveraging incentives is another effective method of ensuring they feel energized and driven outside the office.
Consider long-term benefits of short-term solutions.
Lately, I've wondered what the business dynamic will look like when we emerge from this crisis. Before COVID-19, I personally always preferred old-school methods of doing business and was never a proponent of working remotely — largely because I myself found it difficult to stay focused at home. This transition forced me to alter my way of thinking, ultimately for the better. I'm finding myself more productive than ever. Moving forward, I anticipate the world’s view toward remote work and meetings will fundamentally change as well.
In years past, there seemed to be a stigma from prospects and customers about “calling it in” for meetings. There was an expectation, albeit usually unspoken, that folks should fly across the country for a conversation if they “truly cared.” It’s interesting to think when this virus eventually passes (hopefully soon) that this mentality may fade, too.
Finding that we all were just as, if not more, productive during this remote period, companies may realize the efficiency benefits and money saved from not traveling to meet face to face. From here on out, it could remain acceptable to “Zoom it in.” With that said, if remote work does evolve into a regular routine, it is more crucial than ever that we take advantage of cloud-based platforms because they will become essential for employees to achieve success.
The precedent we're setting could indeed become the new normal. When it comes to cultivating greater empathy for those around us and appreciating the immense value of sales as the engine that drives organizations, I hope that's the case.
Ultimately, I'm optimistic that some enduring positive change can come out of the horrible situation right now. As a silver lining, I believe the trials companies are facing can serve as lessons for new ways of engaging with one another in the future. That, when things return to a sense of stability, companies will achieve greater long-term success by empowering teams with the new outlook and approaches they once adopted out of necessity.
This article was originally published by Chris Cabrera and Forbes – you can view it here.