As I consider some of the biggest challenges for salespeople today, I looked back on my own historical viewpoint and came across an article that I wrote in 2018. It was surprisingly enlightening to what we are seeing in the workplace today, as the debate concerning remote work rages on. I’ve refreshed the data and information, and if you want to know what matters most to your hybrid or remote working sales team…read on!
When you think about sales enablement, I’m sure you are envisioning tools and dashboards, CRM, information in the hands of management to the front-line. And that’s right, and very true particularly as we look at how the sales landscape continues to change. But one fundamental sales enablement factor has come to the forefront that is easy to overlook. It is something that may have once been considered a perk or benefit, but is really a true enabler of the overall effectiveness of your sales team.
Flexible working models that are enabled with tools such as best-in-class virtual communications, tech-assisted and in-person connectivity with customers, and true PTO are considered the most valuable assets that salespeople are looking for to support them in their role. This means that companies that are paying attention to and doing these things correctly will have an opportunity to attract and retain top talent, keep the team motivated and drive their businesses’ desired outcomes. All are considered priorities of businesses as we head into the future of sales, which is already here.
Sales teams, which are motivated by their incentive pay opportunities and providing optimal products and services to their customers are expressing that flexible working hours and the ability to work from anywhere are table stakes for any sales role. Because of the demands of the job, company leaders need to realize that these are no longer differentiators, but instead are requirements. If such flexibility is not part of your culture now, it is time to take steps in that direction.
What to do?
Flexibility in work time/place enables salespeople to produce effectively, but nothing can replace the sense of community, team camaraderie and development that comes from in-person connections. From a customer’s perspective, it’s exactly the same. And you can add to that the outcome of identifying and closing more deals. It is in the team’s best interest to create opportunities for team members to share updates, best practices and problem solve with one another in weekly hands-on calls or meetings. Intentionally bring the sales team together a few times a year and change the tone of such meetings to include storytelling and sharing of what works. Providing sales management the tools and training so they can work with the team directly to master the sales strategy whether it’s relationship selling, building a multi-year account or selling recurring services. The ability to provide hands-on training and development is proven to get team members on board more quickly and give them the confidence they need to change what may have been many years of previous selling behaviors and techniques. For your customers, don’t assume they don’t ever want to see you again. Our intelligence tells us something else! Survey your customers, find out what matters most and deliver it. These connection points are critical to unifying salespeople with each other and with their customers so they can achieve their most important goals.
We are all familiar with Paid Time Off. But how often are your salespeople that are on vacation asked to call in, check their email, or attend a meeting for “just an hour?” While it’s reasonable to expect salespeople to check email/voicemail for emergencies – and some will do it to clean slate their in-box before returning – expecting on-vacation team members to be accessible defeats the purpose of vacation. With remote work we are finding that this accessibility is continuing to be an expectation from the perspective of both employers and customers. And people are burning out.
What to do?
A strong leader should enforce the message that time off is time off; not out-of-office-but-available. If a salesperson is submitting requests ahead of time, a plan should be in place for account coverage. Initiate a team system that allows management of one salesperson’s book to be taken care of by another rep while they are on vacation.
Some companies have expanded PTO opportunities for staff members to promote and encourage longevity. Intel and General Mills, for example, each offer lengthy sabbatical programs for employees who have been with the companies for seven years or longer, encouraging them to recharge and refresh. Not every company needs to initiate a program like this, but showing employees that their personal interests are worthy of pursuit and that they deserve extended time off cements company loyalty and energizes their approach when they return.
At times when demand for PTO is high, like the week between Christmas and New Year’s, consider a full office closure. Evaluate how much work is done during that time. Are most accounts quiet? Is there benefit to having sales teams active during this period? Many companies are experimenting with this approach, and finding that holiday office closures don’t impact sales negatively. Before putting such a practice into place, notify customers that your team will respond to emergencies, but general activities will wrap up before the closed period.
Ultimately, the goal is to respect PTO and enable salespeople to truly be off. When brain and body are relaxed and refreshed, exceptional thinking and boosted productivity are the results.
Do you think you have the best virtual tools to enable your team? Let’s check. Can they update the CRM and check on anything they need from a mobile device? Can they conduct customer conversations and demos via web conference without connectivity hiccups? Have you trained the team to ensure that they “show up well” on camera? That includes both visually and how they communicate. Can they see where they stand with quota achievement and incentive pay? Many organizations that say that they employ the ability to work remote with sales, but they really don’t have the right tools in place. Developing a seamless remote experience with increasingly mainstream and reliable technology, training, and ongoing development means increasing salesperson productivity significantly. That translates to both company revenues and sales incentive compensation – a winning proposition for all.
What to do?
Video communication is just one dimension of remote work that allows salespeople more frequent touchpoints with clients that are “seemingly in person”. One of the benefits of virtual communications has been less wear and tear on the sales rep who was previously a “road warrior”. Telecommunication gives them more time to focus on building their business, staying in close contact with their customers and increasing their individual sales capacity.
Although this should result in an increase to the bottom line, we tend to forget that the team needs more training in order to adapt to communicating virtually. I know… you are thinking we’ve been in this for two years already. But it still continues to be a top challenge and complaint that we receive from sales, from the front-line all the way to management. Leaders are frustrated with how people “show up” on camera and how they communicate. The visuals are now as important as the content! There is a new future of sales playbook. No, this isn’t a new methodology. But it IS what and how your people need to communicate. Is it outcome-based or solution selling? Is it helping to build the longer-term strategy? Don’t underestimate what they need to make this transition, and how they differentiate with their customers is even more important in a hybrid and remote contact world.
For salespeople, the biggest questions are: How big is my pipeline? When can I get paid on my deal? How am I doing against quota? If you’re not providing answers, the sales team is spending time figuring it out instead of producing more sales.
Access to a CRM mapped to the sales process and SPM continue to be two of the most effective sales enablement tools available to stop the madness. Your tool choices need to provide what the sales team needs, not just act as a reporting function for top leadership. Include plan calculators to give direct visibility of quota status and payout progress. Make sure work flow is set up so that when one event occurs, the next automatically follows. For example, if a salesperson enters a customer opportunity, the next step could be to email all team members who would participate in this customer’s needs analysis meeting. This accomplishes two tasks at once, making it easier and more efficient for salespeople, while at the same time giving managers insight into sales progress.
All of the support in the world won’t help a salesperson who isn’t right for the job. Remember that training and ramping up a new salesperson is very expensive. Every one you lose costs you 2 to 2.5 times the cost of maintaining salary of the original one. Successful sales organizations always start with hiring correctly.
What to do?
Develop descriptive role profiles instead of simple job descriptions detailing tasks. Think about the traits that your top 10% performers have in the roles like ones you’re looking to fill. Do you need creative problem solving? Are verbal skills important? Should this person be an initiative-taker who can price packages independently?
Beyond interviewing and basic skills assessments, put candidates through a challenge to determine their percentage of fit. Asking prescriptive questions and strategically assessing talent helps results in well-matched hires. This automatically brings down sales churn numbers and confirms your new hires are poised to succeed.
Finally, we are finding that culture matters. Discuss what you believe in as a leader, what you expect from a team and how you work together. Be clear about your company values and beliefs as well. This really matters.
SalesGlobe is a leading sales effectiveness and data-driven creative problem-solving firm. We specialize in helping Global 1000 companies solve their toughest growth challenges and helping them think in new ways to develop more effective solutions in the areas of sales strategy, sales organization, sales process, sales compensation, and quotas. We wrote the books on sales innovation with The Innovative Sale, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, and Quotas! Design Thinking to Solve Your Biggest Sales Challenge.
Chief Operating Officer and Partner at SalesGlobe
She hosts the podcast, “Riding the Big Wheel,” a platform for women in leadership to share their personal and professional stories and insights.
“We elevate your team’s altitude and new thinking to develop fresh perspective, ideas, and initiatives.”