When we started Sales Talent Agency in 2007, almost 80% of B2B salespeople were outside reps. They travelled throughout their territory daily and were rarely, if ever, in the office. As a sales manager, your role was to stay engaged and be valuable to them when you were not in the same physical space.
What a difference 13 years can make!
Today, our modern B2B sales world has us sitting next to or across from our reps in an open space environment. We interact with them many times daily. If they make a sale, we celebrate with them. If a client call is not going well, we see it immediately in their body language and can help. We have become very used to in-person management and collaboration.
Until this week.
Starting today, every employee at Sales Talent Agency is working from home (it is Friday March 13, 2020 as I write this). Will it be for 2 weeks? 2 Months? None of us know. Like you, we want (need) to keep our business running but we will prioritize societal safety over revenues. Like yours, our business has not stopped. We have clients who need our help, we have candidates to contact and projects to run. We have recruiters to support. We even have our own new hires to onboard.
I want to share a few simple ideas that we have on how we are going to do just that.
1. Have a scheduled 5-minute “check-in” to start and finish each day
In a typical in-office work day, you would say “Hi” to your employee at 9ish, and “Bye” at 5ish. Now that we are working remotely, we are going to start each morning with a 5-minute 1-on-1 goal-setting session, and end it with a 5-minute catch-up. By framing a typical work day, we are ensuring at least 2 touch points to stay connected.
2. Be more available than ever
When you share a work area, you likely interact with your employees countless times a day. Losing that connection can feel isolating for both you and your employees. We are not going to let it go. We have encouraged our employees to contact us with even the smallest challenge, question or update and we will do the same in reverse: we don’t want every unscheduled call to have been initiated by them.
3. Start from a perspective of trust
We have so many tools available to us today to check activities. We can see call times, meetings booked, InMails sent and people called. I’m not sure I would feel like a valued sales professional if my manager suddenly started measuring the minutiae of my daily activities just because I am now working from home. Instead, we are going to start with establishing the daily goals of the role, and work with our employees to plan the activities that go into consistently achieving those goals. If they don’t achieve their goals, we’ll dig into their challenges from a strategy and skills development perspective before assuming they are not working hard enough. Only when it is clear that a lack of effort is the problem will we start monitoring activity closely, at which time it should be on a performance plan.
4. Make Salesforce (or whatever CRM you use) your shared office space
This is the best opportunity we will ever have to encourage the CRM behaviours that are needed for optimal collaboration between our team, their clients and prospects, and our leadership and support people. Without in-person collaboration, our CRM needs to become what it is best as: our shared understanding of company activities, interactions, relationships, pipeline, challenges and opportunities for improvement.
5. Keep the whole team engaged through video
Working side by side every day, there is a lot of innate team building and skills development through osmosis. In fact, a sense of camaraderie is the #1 reason most full-time “work-from-homers” end up looking for in-office roles after a year or two. We are going to have a 30-minute team meeting once or twice per week where all members are on video sharing successes, challenges, ideas and best practices to ensure we continue to build the team’s overall expertise, and can avoid a lot of that isolation.
6. Encourage a full calendar
In my personal experience, working from home with a full day of meetings and activities can be even more productive than working from the office (I’m on hour 7 of work already today and have forgotten to eat). I also know how easy I can be distracted if my calendar has too many gaps. We are going to encourage a full and productive calendar with meetings and time-blocking to help avoid distractions and help make continuous progress.
So, we are all in this together for the next 14 days at least. If you are like me, you are excited to get back to being around the people you enjoy working with every day. The occasional work from home day is great… all the time feels a little lonely. In the meantime, I would love if you share any ideas and experiences as you navigate the same business parameters. To those who are also helping our society by creating short-term distance: thank you!
Sales Talent Agency has plenty of other resources available at our Knowledge Center to help you attract, hire and equip great salespeople to your organization.