As we all know by now, this is unlikely to be a typical start to the year for businesses.
With concerns over travel now heightened, annual activities like sales events and industry conferences are quickly becoming grounded, and many businesses are faced with the reality of supporting a primarily remote workforce.
Last week, Gartner stated “remote work is suddenly a new choice for many employees — and an overnight requirement for some,” adding that “few organizations feel prepared for large-scale remote work, but you can take steps to make the experience productive for both employees and your organization.”
Most companies are quickly exploring how best to do just that, and that certainly includes sales organizations.
The first priority, of course, is to do what it takes to ensure the health and safety of everyone. For many businesses, this has already led to restrictions on travel (at the very least). After that, the question becomes how to maintain continuity from a sales perspective. Doing that likely means putting strategies and infrastructure in place to ensure sales teams remain effectively prepared and enabled without disruptions – which, honestly, can take time. But as Gartner noted, there are steps that can be taken to maintain that continuity.
When it comes to sales readiness specifically, here are 5 ideas to be considering right now.
#1. Take sales onboarding online
Naturally, most companies prefer that new hires walk through the door on Day 1… by walking through the door on Day 1. Even out-of-state workers will typically fly in to HQ for their first week on the job and show up for group training sessions.
If your company typically holds in-person bootcamps for new sales classes, it likely makes sense to start exploring a fully virtual onboarding model.
If you’re concerned about how to develop the content to support an ‘on-demand’ program, don’t be. In-person training sessions can be repurposed pretty easily these days into on-demand assets, complete with webcam videos, slides, interactive quizzes and more. Making that content available as virtual, trackable learning courses can even increase engagement with (and retention of) new material.
#2. Standardize communications to keep everyone in the loop
When no one can be at the same place at the same time, effective communication becomes more critical than ever. There’s already a lot sales teams need to be kept up-to-speed on – product updates, competitive news, process changes, and so on. As the news around COVID-19 continues to evolve, updates from HR and executive leadership on travel and work policies will need to be seen by everyone as well.
One suggestion is to centralize where those communications come from. Email alone is probably not the answer. Collaboration platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams are already prevalent at many companies. Think about creating chat groups for your entire sales organization and individual teams within. (This could also include customer success and other client-facing teams.)
These threads can centralize the sharing of important information from sales enablement and sales leadership. It also gives team members the opportunity to comment, ask questions and learn from each other, without those conversations taking place in dozens of separate silos.
Keep in mind that this may require a behavior change for reps who are new to these types of tools. In that case, to ensure adoption, it will be important to clearly state and reinforce that this will be the primary communication source for remote employees.
#3. Utilize video as part of your communications
Another challenge with supporting remote workers is ensuring everyone feels unified and part of the team. (Home offices can get lonely.) Video conferencing tools for live meetings offer one solution for bringing people together, but most communications happen outside of these meetings.
In lieu of purely text-based emails and chat threads, one idea is to encourage teams to record more messages via videos. Sharing these short clips can make the messages more personal. It may not seem like much, but providing more ways for co-workers to see and hear each other can go a long way toward making everyone feel connected.
#4. Consider virtual sales events and kickoffs
While many companies are likely past their annual kickoff events, some are held later, quarterly, or even multiple times per year. As with onboarding classes, now is a good time to think about what a virtual sales event might look like.
The technology is out there to support such an event, so it really comes down to asking yourself questions that will dictate what your requirements would be:
- Will the event presentations be delivered live or on-demand (or both)?
- What will be the format be for the presentations and how do we enable our speakers to create them easily?
- Will there be pre-work and post-work that reps can complete online?
- Will we need to facilitate live Q&As for team members, and if so how?
- How should we communicate the “new” SKO format so everyone knows what to expect?
- Will we be able to incorporate third-party speakers or customers?
These are just a few examples. One silver lining here is that if the event is held virtually, it will make it easier for reps to access and refer back to the content later, as all the work to adapt it will already be done.
#5. Give managers a path to remote coaching
With a primarily remote workforce, the approach to day-to-day meetings also changes. For sales managers, this may impact the regular 1:1 meetings they have with their individual team members – a prime opportunity for coaching and performance improvements.
Still, even under normal circumstances, it’s not unusual for coaching to take a backseat. With that in mind, providing managers with a virtual way to not only continuously coach, but do so more effectively, can be really valuable.
Coaching technology is an option here. If a rep is across the country working the phones, it can be challenging to ensure they are saying the right things to clients. Online coaching activities with video give both sales managers and enablement leaders a simpler way to see and hear if reps are prepared to deliver key messages beforehand.
These are just five quick examples, but it’s pretty clear that the topic of supporting remote workers will continue to be a top-of-mind issue for the foreseeable future.
If you have questions about how to effectively implement these ideas, or about how else you can better support remote workers with sales enablement and readiness, contact the Brainshark team and let us know.