So, your field sales team has become an inside sales team AND they’re working at home?
How do you make the transition?
Inside sales teams right now have a slight advantage in that their tools, strategy, and processes are not likely to be wildly different – except for those that were centrally located and now are working remotely.
Field Sales, or outside sales reps, are scrambling to adjust to a new norm as everything feels upside down.
Take heart, though, in reality, the amount of time an outside seller actually spends “selling” is 1/3 of their time or less. That means that the amount of actual face to face time with prospects and clients is probably less than 20% when you factor in phone calls, emails, travel time, et cetera.
So, with a deep breath in, hold it … now, exhale, let’s take a look at how we transition a small part of our activity from Face to Face to digital outreach, and while we’re at it, tackle the fact that our customers, clients, and prospects, are scrambling to find a temporary, if not, “new”, normal as well.
5 Keys to Transition from Field Sales During the Covid-19 Quarantine:
EQ is King – Lead with Empathy and Understanding. We’re all in this together. No, really, this time, the whole WORLD is facing this crisis. It’s a Pandemic. No one is unaffected from the virus or the quarantine, and the financial fallout to follow. So, listen. Really listen to your customers and prospects. How have their LIVES changed? How has their business changed? What disruptions are they experiencing now? What will their business look like 6 months from now? What do they need? Compassion? Help? A laugh? A sounding board? Technology tutorial or resources? A strategic partner?
Connect with Empathy first. Be a human first. Selling is about service and helping. If that’s not at the core of how you Go-To-Market, there’s never been a better time than now to make the switch.
Your Message Matters – This is the time to perfect the “value” in your value proposition. And mean it. And stand behind it. And offer it in multiple ways. Let’s be clear. There are people in some industries or markets that are on fire right now. Their business outlook is changing literally every day. You can offer your support and help but they may never respond. Do it anyway.
The other disrupted business outlooks might be, “we’re in a holding pattern right now”, or “we’re going to batten down the hatches and see where we are in 3 months”, or “we’re going to dig our oars in and paddle harder than ever to make it through these rapids!”
Your tone and approach should reflect what your clients and prospects are experiencing right now.
The worst thing you can do now is going on as if it’s business as usual. Actually, the worst thing you can do is sell like “business as usual” 1999 version (tone def, and “me, me, me!”)
Your outreach should probably sound something like this …
- I’m here to help and support you with ABC, what do you need right now?
- Here are some resources that might help you with XYZ, can I connect you?
- Can we connect and make a plan to help you with DEF?
- Here’s what company A is doing, can we help you as well?
Be sincere and helpful above all else!
Tools for the Times – Get thee on video NOW (quick YouTube video with tips here!) Your connection to customers and prospects is YOU: your eyes, face, body language, smile, warmth, sincerity, authenticity, compassion, and authenticity. These are front and center when YOU are front and center. You cannot discern those qualities in an email. Especially to someone who doesn’t know you or knows little of you.
The next best thing to being with your customers in person is VIDEO. Get your customers in meetings via video and send videos to your prospects and get yourself on video on LinkedIn.
Video has been a rising star in top seller’s tool kits for the past several years. It works. If you’re not using it, your competition is. I get plenty of pushback about using video – let’s be honest, most of it is about feeling insecure about the way we look, sound, or come across. We fear rejection and loss of control in a whole new way when we record ourselves and then put it into someone else’s hands.
Time to conquer that fear so you can build relationships, keep your client’s engaged, and create emotional connections in these strange and uncertain times. (Here’s a link to get started on using video in your sales process.) And, there are different tools to accomplish specific things – many have FREEmium models that get you started. Reach out if you need help deciding which tools match what you’d like to accomplish or if you want to do an online team training.
Other tools to highlight now are –
Your Team Communication. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Messenger, Zoom … whatever your mode, it’s super important that you provide the ability for your teams to connect and communicate with you. This might be the biggest challenge you face when you have a team that works together in an office and then is dispersed, the ability connect and access people and information quickly is glue that holds you together. Get your system up and running, put parameters in place so it’s not an all-out FREE FOR ALL of “Covid-19 Toilet Paper Shortage” memes (you know it’s going to happen), create teams and channels where specific information is housed or questions are asked. Lastly, set up some frequency to your touchpoints and meetings so the entire day doesn’t feel like one long dinner party. Give grace to everyone as they get used to working remotely and have fun with it.
Your CRM. Forecasting and understanding your team’s pipeline of opportunities is never more critical than when the future market is uncertain and worse, unpredictable. If you don’t have visibility into your team’s (or your own) activity and potential revenue, you’re operating blind.
- Clean it up. A healthy pipeline cures all ills. But it’s got to be clean to be healthy. The first part is to get real about the “fluff” that’s in everyone’s pipeline: the deal that’s been sitting there for 3 quarters, the leads that have never responded, et cetera. Clear it out.
- Get clear. Next, examine the parameters around Targets, Leads, Opportunities, and Stages. If your team isn’t clear on those, then you get a dozen interpretations of what constitutes a lead or an evaluation stage – making your forecast as clear as mud.
- Revise Activity Goals. With a change in HOW you reach out and meet with customers as well as a shift in how your customers are responding, what expectations do you have around activity and outreach? If you’re a sales director or manager, meet with your team to discuss new expectations, response rates, and keep adjusting to reflect what “meaningful activity” should be during these next few months
Productivity looks different. Normally, we talk about productivity in the context of time blocking, activity goals, efficiency, et cetera. Those are important but working from home (WAH – you’re going to see that a lot now), there are some extra considerations to productivity beyond the organization of your activities. Working from home collides your work life and your personal life and it’s easy to blur the lines and end up with a hot mess of BOTH personal and work life. Here are some helpful tips to keep you or your team productive:
- Keep the same routine. As much as possible – with consideration to the fact that other inhabitants of your home are now part of your office life. Get up at the same time, get dressed for work (your finest yoga pants or sweats, but look presentable on top!), get your breakfast and coffee and then when you get to your home office or workspace, you’re “at work”. Keeping the same routine and work hours keeps you on track.
- Hydrate. Sounds strange to say hydration = productivity, but when you’re out of your routine of coffee breaks at work, or lunches, or meetings with bottles of water, it’s easy to forget to hydrate. Your brain functions 100% better (or some big %) when you’re hydrated. Your cognitive skills and focus are impacted greatly when you’re dehydrated. Getting water is also a cue for your brain and your body to switch tasks. Set a hydration goal of refilling your water bottle 4x during the day – which is also an excellent reason to get up from your desk.
- Move your body. It’s easy to get glued to your seat when you’re working at home. You’re relaxed and comfortable and sometimes WILDLY productive, but since you don’t have coworkers prompting you to move to another room for a meeting, a meeting to run to, a printer to go retrieve something from … it’s easy to forget to get up and move. Drinking sufficient amounts of water helps – you’ve got to go refill your water bottle and take a “bio-break” as a result. Take this opportunity when working at home to get up and stretch, build in breaks to walk around the block, or run up and down the stairs. Moving your body also helps clear up brain fog and fires up your neurons to do more creative and strategic work. You can use planned breaks as a fun challenge for your team: get out and walk, or treadmill – can we hit X miles this week? Who could lead a group stretch? Send everyone water bottles. Blast the group with reminders to “Drink up you thirsty beasts!” These are great healthy habits that can be a new norm when you return to your offices.
- Set boundaries. Work is work and home is home. That’s kind of confusing now when you’re working from home. And your family is at home as well. I know a handful of my colleagues that have difficulty “turning off” work when their laptop and phone are always near them at home. The hours of the day blur into the evening and night and they never stop working. This is an easy recipe for burnout. Set boundaries about your workday. Like in the first suggestion – keep your routine – what are work hours? What is acceptable to respond to and when (team messages, calls, and emails after hours)? Set boundaries about when you work and share them with your partner and family members at home. This is tricky with young children. There will be exceptions because you or your team members are at home and are always “mom” or “dad” – caregiver, protector, provider … kids and pets don’t see the difference. Give yourself and your team members grace for the unavoidable interruptions.
Leadership and Support. Things are about to get even more personal with your employees and colleagues. Family and pets don’t see the difference between “work” you and “home” you. I’ve had specific flashbacks this week as we discuss working from home challenges – to the many times I had a feverish toddler and needed to stay home with him/her but continue to work. The STRESS of being torn between two priorities is terrible. There was a ridiculous moment of closing myself off in a remote bedroom closet (some might call it “hiding”) to take an important client call while my fever-recovering toddler was yelling “MOMMA” at the top of his lungs while he searched for me throughout the house – and hoping desperately that the client didn’t hear him so I remained professional in his eyes. It felt so critical to take that sales call but in retrospect, it was ridiculous that I didn’t feel I could tell the client I was at home with a sick child. There’s plenty of stress about performance and getting results as a salesperson, adding family or home responsibilities to those at the same time are incredibly stressful.
Grace. Grace and compassion and understanding are incredibly important right now. There will be interruptions. There will be unexpected and uninvited video call guests. Nothing, and I mean, NOTHING is more interesting to a small child than you and 10 other people having a video call. And there is never more urgent a time to, “Show you something, Mommy!” than when you’re trying to have an important work conversation. Let them say hello. Give them a thrill. Get to know your coworker’s kids and pets. Embrace the weird and awkwardness that comes with your co-workers seeing where you live and with whom you share your lives. Help relieve the stress by accepting and acknowledging that our home and work lives are colliding in a way we cannot control. Each of your team members has at home variables that they’re now balancing with their work. That’s a whole new level of stress and complexity.
Support your team, your colleagues, and/or employees by letting them know it’s okay to address something happening at home. Find ways to help – share ideas for activities for small kids during work time (send coloring books, crafts, or games). Reset your expectations so they don’t feel that they’re disappointing you or failing (been there, done that, got the T-shirt). How you and your company support your team now has the potential to make or break your relationship with your employees.
The unknown is scary.
However, we’re all in this together. Encourage your team to take care of themselves and their families so that they can then take care of their customers and future customers. Your ability (as a manager, business owner, or seller) to be flexible, agile, and compassionate, right now, will be a large factor in successfully transitioning to a Work At Home – Inside Sales Team for the next few weeks, months, or undetermined future.
Reach out if you need help. I mean it. Truly.
Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!