The world of business is a fast-paced and competitive environment. Sales teams are constantly under pressure to meet their quotas and deadlines. According to a study by the American Institute of Stress, job-related stress costs U.S. businesses over $300 billion each year in absenteeism, turnover, and decreased productivity.
This highlights the importance of addressing the issue of stress in the workplace, particularly for sales teams who face high levels of pressure and expectations. When you’re in a leadership role, you must prioritize the mental and emotional health of your sales team. That way, they can give their absolute best performance.
In this post, we’ll discuss the power of stress-relieving activities and how they can improve morale and increase productivity. Implementing these will help you create a productive and encouraging atmosphere at work, which will benefit both your sales team’s well-being and your company’s bottom line.
Provide Access To Creative Outlets
Creative outlets such as painting, drawing, or music can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Consider providing your sales team access to innovative tools or workshops.
For example, one great creative outlet you can use to provide your team with a stress-relieving activity during working hours is I’m A Puzzle, where they can design and create custom jigsaw puzzles.
These activities can be done in person and virtually, making them easy to incorporate into your team’s workday. In addition, by providing your sales team with access to creative outlets, you’ll be able to foster a sense of creativity and self-expression among your team members.
It’s an exercise that can be performed at any time, in any location, and does not call for specialized gear or instruction. In fact, numerous apps these days like Headspace and Balance provide guided meditations that can be finished in a matter of minutes, making it simple to incorporate meditation into the working day of your team.
Participation In Team Building Activities
Participating in team-building activities comes with many added benefits. They can increase team spirit, help cultivate a sense of camaraderie among team members, reduce stress and improve morale.
Find an option that everyone in your team can enjoy such as online trivia games, karaoke sessions, and escape rooms. Because your team can participate in these activities either in person or online, it’s easy to incorporate them into a typical workday. You’ll be able to cultivate a sense of community and teamwork among your sales team if you provide them with an enjoyable and encouraging workplace.
Promote Physical Activity
Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. During the workday, encourage the members of your sales team to get up and go for a short walk or stretch.
Not only does physical activity help reduce stress, but it also has the potential to improve concentration and productivity. Think about organizing a virtual step goal with coworkers using an app like Strava or MyFitnessPal for some added excitement. Mindful movement like desk yoga is a great option for a team activity that incorporates exercise.
You will be able to foster an environment at work that is both more productive and healthier if you encourage the members of your sales team to take care of their physical health.
Incorporating stress-relieving activities into your sales team’s workday can have a significant impact on their morale and productivity. By taking small, easy-to-implement steps such as breaks for meditation, team building activities, physical activity, and creative outlets, you can help to create a more positive and supportive work environment.
Remember that a happy sales team is a productive sales team. By prioritizing their well-being, you’ll be able to achieve better results for your business. So take the time to invest in your team’s mental and physical health, and you’ll see the benefits in both the short and long term.
Work environments have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing mandates kickstarted a rapid switch to a hybrid employment model. As it’s proven effective, more and more organizations jumped on the bandwagon.
That’s especially true for customer support. Nowadays, you can attend to customers and elevate their experience from different locations without it impacting the quality of service. Providing flexibility in work locations can be a great benefit for employees. But, it leaves managers with the challenge of finding new ways to effectively lead a hybrid customer support team.
In this article, we discuss challenges that managers may face and some tips that can help to effectively overcome them.
Being a manager is a complex role. You are constantly juggling the responsibility of leading teams, ensuring productivity, and facilitating your team’s personal and professional growth. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, a remote or hybrid situation raises even more issues for managers to worry about.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these issues.
1. Different locations (and time zones)
Keeping up with team members in other locations can be challenging for various reasons, including:
Difficulty aligning activities across different locations
Limited time to interact with team members in different time zones.
Team members may not always be available to work simultaneously, which could disrupt business operations and workflow. So, it’s no surprise that 50% of company leaders want employees to return on-site five days a week, according to CNBC Make It.
2. Communication and scheduling problems.
Several factors might impact a team member’s ability to communicate via specific channels. These can include:
Cultural festivities and national holidays
Family interference, etc.
For instance, the responsiveness of a team member in an area with a high-quality internet connection will not be the same as for a team member in an area experiencing rain storms and power outages.
These factors can also make it difficult to schedule calls and meetings. But when working in person, a quick stroll to a team member’s desk can quickly resolve such issues.
3. Retaining company culture
Managers are responsible for passing down company culture to their employees, but this can be challenging with a hybrid team. Since physical interactions play a vital role in shaping company culture, it takes extra effort to instill a feeling of camaraderie in a hybrid working team.
4. Monitoring work and productivity
Some managers have difficulty ensuring team members’ productivity in a hybrid workspace. Team members are often underutilized or have too much on their plate. Both of which can be detrimental to an organization. Keeping tabs on the working hours and workload of team members across time zones is a crucial part of hybrid team managers’ jobs.
5. Building trust
It’s no surprise that a remote setting can also make it difficult to establish and maintain trust between a manager and their direct reports. With team members working from different locations, managers might not understand individual working styles, working hours, or the current workload. This lapse in communication can result in uncompleted tasks and missed deadlines.
To maintain trust among team members, managers might consider holding daily or weekly stand-up meetings. This gives employees an opportunity to talk about what they’ve been working on and where they may need help. Understanding how everybody has been spending their time helps team members feel like they’re working towards a collective goal, which of course they are!
As hard as managing a hybrid customer support team may be, it’s not impossible. You can navigate most problems you encounter with a little guidance. In this section, we’ll tackle ways to solve the above-mentioned issues.
1. Communicate often as a team
Organize weekly team meetings or periodic team bonding activities. This will give your team something to look forward to and provide take a break from constantly speaking to customers and chatting about work experiences.
Frequent team communication through networking apps like Teams and Slack is also an excellent way to enable team members. They can share ideas on handling customer-related problems and the different temperaments a customer service professional encounters daily.
Other benefits of frequent communication include:
enhances team engagement
prevents potential conflicts
increases team productivity
fosters better customer relationships.
2. Communicate work schedules in advance
Communicating work schedules across the team is an excellent way to maximize team members’ utility to ensure no one is underutilized or overworked.
As a manager, you can assign various aspects of customer relations, as well as daily or weekly goals for each team member. It will also make scheduling meetings easier with timely, advanced communication.
3. Unite your team
Your hybrid customer support team members may be focused on supporting customers, but they have needs too. One significant professional need lacking in organizations with hybrid models is inclusion. With team members spread across different locations, it is easy to feel left out. This can affect both motivation and productivity.
As a manager, you should find ways to make all members feel like part of the team. Some examples include:
organizing team bonding activities
rotating meeting hosting responsibilities
encouraging team members to share positive feedback
4. Initiate individual problem-solving
Make room to address your team member’s individual needs and the challenges they face. Ensure that the entire problem-solving process is not treated as a customer service issue and remains confidential, to build trust. Communication improves when your team is in a good mental space.
5. Leverage technology and collaboration tools.
Promote a culture of exploring and utilizing available customer service-related technology and collaboration tools.
Regardless of the challenges of remote and hybrid work, most businesses have succeeded because they leveraged innovative solutions, such as virtual call center software, to stay connected with employees and customers.
Managers can promote asynchronous communication to make it easier for team members to collaborate effectively. Recording essential calls or meetings for absentees to watch later helps to ensure you’re not leaving any team member behind.
6. Provide proactive support in the office and online
It is vital to offer helpful solutions to the challenges that your hybrid customer support team may face on the job.
It could be providing backup internet services in the office or pooling written resources online — anything that helps to make their job easier. You could also host team webinars to help team members further develop their skills and techniques from time to time.
7. Use monitoring tools
Implementing monitoring tools can be a helpful way to track team member workflows and ensure that deadlines and KPIs are met. Clockify, for example, can provide insight into how your team is spending their time across tasks and projects. Another option might be to have your team complete check-in forms before scheduled 1-to-1 calls to make your time together as effectively as possible.
8. Set boundaries and expectations
Remote work doesn’t have to mean working round the clock. Make it clear to team members that as much as you appreciate a high-performing team, you want to prevent burnout as much as possible.
Have team members work only during business hours in their respective locations and time zones. Simple tools like shared Google Calendars will allow team members to see all schedules and working hours. That way, they can respect each other’s work hours as well.
9. Spread positivity
We can all agree that happy employees are more productive than unhappy employees. You can help to foster a positive work environment by being proactive and encouraging positive reinforcement. For example:
Regularly recognize great performances through team shout-outs
Help your team set realistic expectations and deadlines
Hold regular check-ins and forecasting sessions to keep goals and objectives on track
Ask where you can provide additional support
Encourage collaboration between team members
Take the time to understand the needs of your team. Celebrating wins, showing empathy, and prioritizing their well-being will help you to keep your team happy and healthy.
Managing a customer support team can be challenging, especially in a hybrid or virtual setting. However, with the right strategies and tools in place, you can effectively navigate these challenges and lead your team to success.
Establish clear communication and understand your team’s needs, both as a whole and on an individual level. Doing so will help you create a healthy, positive work environment and ensure customer satisfaction.
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There are few workplace situations more uncomfortable than providing feedback. When employees know they’re about to receive feedback on job performance, they oftentimes clam up. It isn’t any more comfortable from the manager’s side of the desk either. Though it’s necessary, managers frequently dread giving feedback to team members. Providing your team with performance management best practices is key.
Here are 10 performance management best practices from top HR experts:
1. How and when to document feedback
Basic questions about feedback include how often to do it and which format to utilize. Most HR experts suggest a light touch when it comes to the formal feedback process, though each company will differ in terms of structure and timetable.
Karen Weeks, VP of People at OrderGroove, suggests that feedback should have at least some structure. Although her company previously utilized a more open system, it is now adding more structure to the feedback process. Once per quarter, employees’ OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) will be evaluated. Weeks emphasized that the process is intended to provide a holistic perspective on employees: “It’s not about a slap on the wrist or a gold star, but more about, ‘What did you learn? What did you accomplish?’ Then we’ll check in on development goals.”
Weeks also said that OrderGroove plans to focus more on competencies. Managers need to be trained in how to clearly communicate necessary competencies to employees so that everyone understands expectations.
2. Feedback should be helpful, not bureaucratic
Although formal feedback is important, HR experts warn against excessive administration. It isn’t necessary to rate every employee on every skill. Companies should develop a process that fits with their organization. Gordon said, “If process precedes purpose, then that’s the problem. The purpose of performance feedback is to let employees know how they’re doing.”
3. Understand the value of informal feedback
Some experts recommend doing formalized feedback less frequently. Cindy Gordon, VP of People at PolicyGenius, points to the value of informal feedback as a supplement to formal feedback (which at PolicyGenius occurs twice per year). Managers are encouraged to provide informal feedback when appropriate, including once per quarter in one-on-one meetings. It is expected that managers document the informal feedback they provide.
Gordon explained, “If you’re sitting down and know you’re going to have a performance discussion you may be hyper-focused on what you think someone’s going to tell you. So we try to set a norm where you have the discussion and then follow up with an email. It becomes an automatic reflex.”
4. Train your managers to give good feedback
Teaching managers how to give effective feedback is critical. One effective way to do this is through modeling. Karen Miller, Chief People Officer at Pond5, said she spent a lot of time trying to teach managers about the feedback model. But they were struggling to provide feedback effectively because they didn’t understand the basics.
Good feedback practices begin at the top. Recently, Miller did an offsite event with the executive team. Part of the agenda was to practice giving and receiving direct feedback. “Doing this as an executive team is good practice,” she said. “It creates an environment where the team gets used to it and then can turn around and do it for other people. They realize they survived it and maybe learned something.”
Other experts agree. Gordon explained that there are ways to practice feedback in a low-risk environment, such as team reflections where everyone reflects on the team’s performance. Through practice, feedback naturally becomes part of company culture.
5. When to use anonymous vs. direct feedback
One of the most contentious questions in the HR world is whether anonymous feedback is acceptable and, if so, when.
Some leaders take a strong position that anonymous feedback should be avoided. Although Gordon acknowledged that anonymous feedback can be more helpful than no feedback at all, she prefers direct feedback. “Anonymous feedback doesn’t breed trust. It can actually breed paranoia,” she explained. “If someone came to me and said, ‘I’m hearing this about you,’ I’d automatically raise my antenna and wonder who else is talking about me. It doesn’t help to foster discussion.”
6. Normalize a culture of direct feedback
The reason people gravitate towards anonymous feedback, Gordon said, is because they’re uncomfortable giving direct feedback. But while giving direct feedback is certainly uncomfortable, people need to accept it. They should understand they are helping someone else’s development process.
While other leaders agreed on the value of direct feedback, sometimes getting people to a point where they’re comfortable giving direct feedback can be a process. Miller and Weeks both utilize anonymous feedback for 360 reviews. According to Miller, direct feedback requires an evolution of culture. But she also said, “Ultimately the goal is to get to a place where you’re comfortable giving direct feedback.”
Weeks said that giving upwards direct feedback can be difficult for many people. “Many people aren’t comfortable criticizing their own managers,” she said.
HR leaders should push towards direct feedback, even if the transition can’t happen right away.
7. Performance management best practices linked to compensation
Another sticky issue is how to incorporate performance management best practices into employee compensation. Experts propose a variety of methods for performance-based compensation.
For Gordon, it’s important not to have compensation and performance management conversations at the same time. She said, “We carry that out through the structure of programs, but we also have processes in place behind that. First, we have the performance conversation, using skill development rubrics so that people actually know how they’re being evaluated.”
Then, the company utilizes data from databases and networks to determine appropriate compensation in conjunction with performance reviews.
Miller strongly asserted the need to tie performance evaluation to compensation. “If I’m not relying on information about who the best performers are, then I’m relying on who people like and who is nice,” she said.
She calls the system used at Pond5 “executive team validation.” The executive team meets together and goes through every employee, trying to develop a consensus on performance evaluation. She said, “It’s not formulaic, but we use information.”
8. Choose evaluation methods appropriate to your company
Weeks pointed out that companies of different sizes need different ways to determine appropriate compensation. When she worked at a larger company, they used ratings as a starting point for adjusting employees’ compensation. However, the organization also gave different departments the option to set their own compensation methods. The engineering team has different preferences than sales or marketing, which should be accommodated.
Now that Weeks is at OrderGroove, a smaller company, she implements a system that is less formula-driven. “We sit down and figure it out together,” she explained.
While compensation should relate to performance, there is no one-size-fits-all method for how to do this effectively.
9. Some tools for documenting feedback and determining compensation
There are a number of HR tools available that can help to document performance feedback and determine compensation. Here are some of the tools leaders recommend for feedback:
Reflektive: This performance management tool ties into Slack, providing a way for managers to document feedback.
GoogleDocs and Word: In terms of simple tools that enable employees to give and receive feedback, these are great choices for smaller companies.
Impraise: A software tool to provide feedback to employees. Although ratings are included as part of the tool, they are not the focus.
Slack: For providing informal feedback, Slack is a useful tool that your employees are probably already using for other purposes.
Leaders also recommend using database tools for information on average salaries:
Salary.com for small businesses: Offers data about average salaries for small businesses and early-stage startups.
Advanced-HR: There are two options within Advanced-HR, including a paid and free option. The free option allows users access to salary data in return for imputing organizational data.
10. Use survey tools to collect feedback
Simple survey tools like SurveyMonkey can also be useful for collecting feedback on employee performance—and the performance management process itself. Ask employees about their feelings on the feedback process itself. Weeks recently conducted a short survey for both managers and employees asking about the relevance of feedback. “We learned that people thought the feedback was rich but didn’t know what to do with it,” she said.
As a result, Weeks is modifying the performance management performance. Gordon said that by asking employees about the feedback process, her team learned that the performance management software program being utilized wasn’t working for employees.
Through surveys, HR leaders can learn what is and isn’t working for employees. Of course, employees oftentimes vary widely in their personal preferences. Some employees want more performance evaluation, others less. That too is useful information that should be communicated to employees. Miller said, “One of the most helpful things about surveys is being able to explain the results to people. You say, ‘Half of you thought it was too dark in here and half of you thought it was too light.’ It helps open up people’s perspectives and helps them realize others may see the world differently.”
Landing on the optimal performance and feedback process is an ongoing struggle for HR leaders. But with these tools and tips for performance management best practices, you can implement a system that works for your company and employees.
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Research shows that healthy competition within sales teams can boost results — often substantially. Sales contests are one way to introduce “healthy” competition into your team. In fact, they can be so effective that the organization who ran that study saw an incredible 45% increase in their bottom line margin the second time they ran a competition. For that, you need sales contest ideas.
But, to have a positive effect, sales contests need to be given careful thought, or they’ll turn into a playground only lets the top performers play. In that scenario, poor — or even perfectly adequate — performers become discouraged and stop bothering to try to win and the contest fizzles.
The elements of a good sales contest
So, to combat that, you need to understand what a good sales contest should achieve. To raise everyone’s motivation, your contests should meet a few criteria. A good sales contest has 3 main goals:
To improve the performance of bottom performers;
Increase overall team productivity;
And, boost team morale.
If an idea doesn’t do these 3 things, scrap it, or at least don’t repeat it.
In line with this, traditionally sales contests reward the best rep in a set period of time — i.e. the rep who generates the most revenue in a month wins. We certainly include that idea, but if you’re striving to achieve those big 3 things, you’ll have to get more creative.
A few ways to do that is to focus on front-end activities and KPIs — the processes of sales — and reward appropriately. Or, focus on specific thresholds, where anyone who reaches the minimum wins some sort of prize.
So, without further ado, here are our contest ideas.
12 sales contest ideas
1. First to reach X leads/sales/meetings/revenue
This is a more simplified version of the KPI-based contest and can be a great short-term contest. For example, if your marketing team just ran a very successful campaign and there are lots of SQLs just waiting to be given attention, that’s the perfect situation for this type of contest.
First past the post is typically the rule: the first person to qualify 50 leads a day, or book 10 meetings, or generate $25K in new sales pipeline — you get the idea.
2. Anyone who reaches X sales in a month receives a prize
Similar to the objective goals, this one has a twist to ensure that everyone gets motivated: whatever goal you set (X sales, Y revenue, etc.), whoever reaches that metric in a month gets a prize — not just the top or first person. It’s a sort of everyone past the post take on the traditional.
3. Yankee gift swap
Also known as “Dirty Santa”, this one can be effective around the holidays. Rules are simple: every time a rep makes a sale over the predetermined amount, they can open a gift. Once a gift is opened, anyone else who makes a sale over the set amount can either open a new one or steal.
Ben Jackson, VP of sales at Voices.com, reported that this contest was so successful that his team opened all the gifts the first week, forcing management to restock. They had a 50% increase in larger-than-average deals.
4. Short-notice “flash” contest
Everybody loves leaving early on Fridays — why not use that as a short-term contest reward? Jackson found that inside sales reps tended to ration their end-of-month deals to get a jumpstart on the next month. So, he spontaneously announced that if everyone met a certain quota in the last few days, everyone could leave early on Friday. It worked.
For this one, set predetermined small, daily goals for your team. If and when a team member reaches that goal, they pick a card from a 52-card deck. Throw in a random bonus card for fairness, and at the end of a 5-day workweek, everyone who reached their daily goal each day has a full hand. The best hand wins.
6. Trade show
If you do trade shows, this can a fun 1-day or week-long contest. It’s simple: whoever makes the most sales during the event wins. Just let your team know ahead of time and make an easy way to track their sales.
Like the poker contest, this one focuses on small, daily goals. Make bingo cards with different types of sales or tasks in each square. Every time a teammate completes a task, they can check off a square. When they fill the row or card, they get rewarded.
Positive + negative points ideas
8. Points for “carelessness”
Typically, contests are run to reward good sales behavior — what about the poor? Imagine that your team has been giving away a lot of free products added to deals to make the sale — too many. While it works in the short-term, it can lead to buyer relationships that are less likely to last. To cut down on this, reward reps for the deals that contain no free products.
To do this, you might consider mounting a board upon which points are added beside each team member’s name for careless sales practices. At the end of the week, the “leader” has to put $20 or $50 in a charity pot or office party fund. It’s a bit of a parody that servers to highlight less-than-optimal practices in a fun, non-accusatory way.
You can also combine the concept of positive and negative points by awarding points for good practices, and removing them for bad.
Using this metric, whoever gets the most clients in a set period of time wins.
10. More revenue for X product
Again, whoever generates the most revenue for a specific product of your company wins. Which product do you need to improve sales of?
11. Greatest gross profit for the period
Take a metric, like gross profit, and pick a concrete length of time, like the quarter. You can also do per month or otherwise. Again, whoever has the highest gross profit of that period wins.
12. KPI-based contest
Focusing on improving KPIs a process-based idea. What KPIs are lagging? Sales cadences? “50 meaningful calls per day” could be the goal for a contest. Start with 5-10 metrics and keep it simple. Resist the urge to overcomplicate this one.
You probably didn’t need us to tell you that salespeople are competitive — it’s a quality that often makes the top performers just that. But while sales contests have proven to be effective, they’re best when they:
Elevate everyone’s performance, especially poor and average performers;
Increase overall team activity; and
Boost team morale.
Hopefully, this list helps you get started doing just that.
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As the state of the pandemic is improving and more and more people are getting the vaccine, companies face the decision to remain remote or open up their offices again.
Despite changing circumstances, ensuring high sales performance remains a key goal for most companies. If your company took a hit due to coronavirus, boosting sales might be imperative.
A major part of making sales happen, and happen often, is setting up the right environment for remote sales teams. So, as full-time remote work transitions from the exception to a necessity to possibly an option again, is going forever-remote something that your sales team should consider?
Forever-Remote Isn’t a Walk In the Park, But It Can Provide Serious Benefits
The first thing to note is that transitioning to forever-remote work for sales teams isn’t necessarily easy. Although having no commute or office politics sounds great, building a strong remote work takes serious planning.
While some companies can build remote-first sales teams from the ground up, that’s not the case for many organizations. Transforming a company with a brick-and-mortar office culture into an organization that is 100% remote means revisiting your sales operation with fresh eyes.
Going forever-remote is not quite as simple as turning all your meetings into video calls. There are many intentional shifts that need to take place to make it work. For companies willing to take the plunge, the organizational rethink that forever-remote requires can provide long-term company-wide benefits.
Benefits for individual salespeople going forever-remote
For sales professionals, forever-remote work can bring significant benefits.
With so many salespeople nudged into remote work recently, many of them aren’t in a rush to get back to the office. In a recent survey from the U.K., nearly 70% of sales and marketing professionals said that moving to forever-remote work is a good thing.
From no more killer commutes to being able to live where they want to live, the lifestyle benefits of remote work are obvious. With smart planning, a bit of creativity, and myriad digital tools, many of the noted downsides of remote work (like loneliness) can be mitigated.
Forever-remote advantages for sales managers
Going forever-remote improves salespeople’s ability to make sales (by enhancing productivity).
A comprehensive study on remote work from Stanford University found that remote workers are, on average, 13% more productive than their office-based counterparts.
Transitioning to forever-remote also means documenting the sales processes by default. Mapping core processes turns routine operations into operational assets and allows more efficient analysis and management of sales pipelines for different salespeople.
This is also a huge benefit when it comes to team onboarding and training. With key processes well-documented, you’re saving many hours getting new team members up-to-speed.
Armed with a better understanding of how their teams achieve key sales goals, sales managers can be more effective in remote-oriented companies.
Companies can see significant gains when going forever-remote
The benefits of remote work for companies have been well-researched.
But these advantages are coming into clearer focus more recently amidst shifts during the coronavirus pandemic. Much of the conventional wisdom about the downsides of remote work have been largely disproved.
Companies have realized that going forever-remote helps them compete for talent on a bigger stage. Being able to hire people from all over the world opens the door to a new age of diversity and talent-matching. No longer limited by geographical factors, companies are free to hire the best employees no matter where they’re based.
Remote sales teams also save money. On average, companies can save up to $10,000 per remote team member a year compared to hosting them in an office. Foregoing this cost makes scaling sales teams easier by removing any physical limitations (i.e., office space requirements) on company growth.
The process-oriented nature of remote-first workplaces also allows companies to integrate automation and leverage further cost and time savings.
Digital Tools for Forever-Remote Sales Teams
Gaining maximum benefit from a forever-remote sales team depends not only on having adequate systems and sales processes in place but also using proven digital tools in the right areas.
Here are three key areas where forever-remote sales teams can gain the most benefit from smart technology.
At the center of any remote-first sales team will be an effective customer relationship management (CRM) system. Well known names like Salesforce, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics allow sales teams to coordinate the countless variables of thousands of prospects and leads remotely.
These kinds of cloud-based systems make it easier for distributed workforces to manage client relationships. While choosing one can be complicated, the time you spend researching the various CRM systems out there is a worthwhile investment.
Be thoughtful and specific about your unique needs when choosing the CRM that best fits your organization as this choice will undergird the foundation of your future success in sales.
Project management software
With forever-remote organizations, much of the work is done in the clouds.
Cloud-based project management software allows sales teams to keep track of where their time goes and sales managers to see how and where the work of individual team members fits into larger projects. Applications like Asana or Trello can enable complex projects to be coordinated seamlessly regardless of whether stakeholders are co-located or in different time zones.
Project management tools can also be integrated with sales trackers and CRM systems to fit prospect behavior into longer-term sales strategies and goals.
The great thing about choosing the right project management software is that it saves a tremendous amount of time that would have been otherwise spent simply coordinating the work. With the right project management tool, the tasks are well-organized, aligned to a larger strategy, and the focus is on hitting specific benchmarks on the way to effective sales.
Remote security solutions
For companies looking at going forever-remote, cybersecurity is going to be a significant concern.
Distributed workforces create new cybersecurity endpoints due to often insecure networks that can be vulnerable to malware and phishing attacks. The burden is on forever-remote organizations to deliver training to all team members upfront so that security is the standard.
Mitigating against these kinds of threats can look like investing in lightweight distributed cybersecurity protection for employees’ devices and rolling out the use of a virtual private network (VPN) through remote sales teams.
Empower Your Forever-Remote Sales Team with the Right Tools
Forever-remote teams are having a moment.
With considerable benefits for salespeople, sales managers, and companies as a whole—it’s clear why. The organizations that invest upfront on CRM solutions, project management tools, and cybersecurity infrastructure will set their sales teams up for success.
The key to going forever-remote is remembering that it’s a fundamentally different work environment. Trying to bring over old processes and tools just won’t work and might make things worse.
From financial and productivity gains to getting a chance to turn processes into assets, forever-remote working environments present an opportunity to rejuvenate sales and help teams close more deals, more often.
If you are looking for job opportunities in tech, click here.
When the economy is in a downturn, the number of sales reps who miss quota is likely to be even higher. But there are many steps managers can take to help sales reps who missed their quota this quarter.
1. Create a performance report and compare data with past successes.
You and your rep can review past deals that went through, focusing particularly on the most recent deals. Identify commonalities among those deals. Why was the representative able to succeed? What were the most important elements of the sales process?
Use these successes to create a guidebook for a struggling sales representative. This exercise reminds them that they can succeed and provides actionable steps for reps to follow.
2. Evaluate the sales messaging they’re using when pitching to customers.
Sales representative who succeed adapt their message depending on the customer and their current situation.
During an economic downturn, sales reps should evaluate the strength of a prospect’s position before conducting outreach. It may make sense to focus on prospects who are in a relatively strong position. Even so, the sales representation should clearly understand the prospect’s current challenges and adjust their pitch accordingly.
Observe your underperforming sales reps’ cold calls and other early outreach messaging. Do they seem to be giving the same pitch to every customer? To overcome this problem, model how to successfully adapt a sales pitch. Brainstorm the best ways to reach a prospect on the sales representative’s list.
3. Strategize on getting current deals over the finish line.
Even if sales have been slower than you would prefer, your sales representatives still have deals in the pipeline. Help them strategize how these accounts can be closed by asking detailed questions about the deal’s progression.
If your sales representative suspects that poor economic conditions may be contributing to delays, create a strategy that specifically addresses the downturn and associated uncertainty. Prepare your sales representative for the possibility that the sales cycle might be extended, while still emphasizing that the deal can close with the right approach.
4. Help sales reps focus more on what they can control.
When the economy is mired in a downturn, it is all too easy for sales representatives to become despondent. They may feel as if their sales performance is largely beyond their control.
To mitigate this kind of thinking, encourage your team members to focus on factors that are still within their control. Although a sales rep cannot control larger economic conditions, they can control their prospecting, messaging, and other sales techniques. Share motivating resources with your team that prompt them to take ownership over their work, instead of focusing on what’s going on in the wider world.
One way for sales reps to focus on factors that are within their control is to pivot more towards growing their established accounts. Existing customers are oftentimes the best source of new business, and that is particularly true during a downturn. Encourage your sales representatives to check in with their existing customers. They should not go into early conversations with the goal of a sale, but should focus on learning about where the customer is right now and how your company can provide help. Invite customers to pursue your resources and participate in webinars. The sales representative should always be looking for ways to add value, even if they are not trying to sell a specific product or service.
Once the sales representative better understands the conditions the customer is facing, they can create a strategy for expanding business.
Sales representatives struggling to meet quota should also consider reaching out to customers who have churned. They should ask if they can provide help and suggest resources.
Connecting with existing and previous customers offers additional benefits for struggling sales representatives. By engaging with their customers, they can also better understand new customers they might reach out to. Salespeople should also be on the lookout for referral opportunities.
5. Consider offering quota relief in future quarters.
If you are going to provide quota relief, you should offer the same conditions to all members of your sales team. Avoid responding to individual requests for relief. When rolling out quota relief, explain the reasoning behind it. If the relief is simply a short-term response to a crisis, make sure that everyone on your team understands that.
One benefit of quota relief is that a lower quota can lower sales representatives’ anxiety and thereby enable better performance.
You may also want to consider offering additional incentives to sales representatives who do manage to meet or exceed quota.
6. Examine how your sales rep’s work habits can be improved
Sometimes, a sales representative’s struggles may be rooted in their workflow rather than insufficient sales skills. This is particularly relevant for sales representatives who are adjusting to a new work environment, such as working from home full-time.
Invite sales representatives to track their habits while working. Are they able to set a routine and stick to it? What outside factors and distractions may be preventing them from doing their best work?
Once the sales representative has identified potential problems, suggest that they establish a new work routine. You might recommend tools to assist with organization and other work-from home challenges.
It’s also helpful to give your team members opportunities to share best work-from-home practices.
Sales is a challenging field, and economic downturns present a particularly harrowing set of challenges. By using these strategies, you can help your team to get through it.
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The events of the earlier months of 2020 have significantly impacted the way companies function. The economy has taken a hard hit and most organizations have adopted remote working practices at a rapid speed to keep themselves from suffering major losses at the hands of the pandemic.
According to a report by Forrester, in the US, sales are expected to drop by $321 billion this year due to the economic downturn, that’s a 9.1% drop from 2019. To stay competitive and ahead of the race, every organization needs to figure out how to keep remote working employees engaged and focused toward their end goal at all times.
Here are powerful strategies on how you can boost the performance of your remote sales team.
1) Leverage Tools and Automation wherever possible
With so much time being spent on the administrative side, there’s a striking need for tools that can help automate some of these repetitive, unproductive tasks. This can help your reps concentrate on the more important tasks. Afterall, ameliorating sales productivity becomes more effortless when you can put things on the “auto-pilot” mode.
An efficient CRM can considerably boost your remote sales team’s performance.
Tools that provide you an overview of all sales activities at a glance help you stay on top of everything. Take note of important features such asautomatically organized and embedded calls, emails, voicemails, tasks, and reminders. It allows your team to keep track of what’s going on and what they should be doing next. Every member on your team has complete access to everything that is going on in the sales process. This allows better coordination and increased productivity especially with a distributed workforce.
According to recent sales statistics, around 71% sales reps said that most of their productive time gets wasted while doing manual data entry.
Automation can greatly help your remote sales team by freeing up their additional effort and time that they would have otherwise spent feeding the data manually into the system. This, in turn, helps you scale your sales team effectively and decide upon where the effort needs to be diverted for better results.
For instance, automated phone sales software can drop prerecorded messages when appropriate, dial phone numbers, and keep track of every little detail of your company’s phone activity. Reducing manual dialing can significantly increase your reps’ productivity.
Both your remote sales team and customers automatically get exposed to enhanced follow-ups and communication with sales automation tools. You can get rid of wasted time spent on trial and error and make sure your customers see what they need to see when they need to see it with automation.
2) Streamline information sharing within your remote sales team
Overcommunicating is better in a remote work setting. Touch-base calls during the day, or atleast week, are important when setting up workweek priorities with your remotely working team. Nothing can match a virtual face-to-face meet or a good old fashioned phone call when it comes to setting up a week of productivity.
If your clients and employees are in different time zones, you might have to be creative with the meeting timings, but the results are going to be completely worth the effort you put in when it comes to staying connected.
3) Simplify your processes by making use of templates
Sales teams must present a unique sales experience before the customer that leaves them feeling appreciated and valued during every interaction. Templates make this task easier and much more scalable.
By making use of a prefabricated template, you will have saved ample valuable time for your team that can be utilized elsewhere to boost their performance. Today, you can easily create templates for absolutely any sales-related task. You can create templates for business strategies or something as easy as drafting emails. Certain templates even come with features that enable them to pop-up during video calls and other modes of client interactions for specialized sales pitching.
These templates don’t necessarily have to be fancy. They must, however, contain all the considerations that need to be taken care of by your sales team while carrying out different processes. Legal templates also include necessary terms of agreement when sealing deals with clients.
4) Let your team explore what makes them most productive while working remotely
Spending some time thinking about what your remote working employees truly need during these extremely testing times can take your business a really long way. It isn’t always a good idea to get your team working from a fixed 9a-5p EST, Monday through Friday. You can be creative with your employees’ productivity in more than one way.
Allowing flexible work hours and letting your team decide on their shift timings can be an exceptional incentive for employees who like to let their creative juices flow during uncommon hours. Allowing your employees to work when they are the most effective is one of the best productivity hacks, especially when we’re talking about remote work strategies.
Remote workplaces are in a unique position to allow employees to get work done at random hours; practicing the same for your team can have a large impact on efficiency, productivity, and overall remote workplace happiness.
5) Conduct Team-Building Activities for your Remote Sales Team
Lastly, you need to strengthen your remotely working sales team by investing in exciting and fun-filled activities. Encourage camaraderie and friendly competition. You can easily do this in a number of ways, one being using a newsletter to ask weekly questions and assign quizzes.
Also, team-wide adventures like an online storytelling workshop for remote teams, are sure-fire ways to strengthen all aspects of your sales team. Through these methods, your team will get to learn new techniques and tips for telling engaging stories that appeal to your target audience.
Sales leaderboards are one of the most efficient ways to get your sales team members aligned and keep them motivated. They encourage healthy competition and improve engagement.
Sales leaders must at all times remember that their true strength lies within their remote sales team’s overall performance. To achieve maximum productivity out of each of your team members, you constantly need to innovate and create strategies that will keep them motivated and from killing time.
The world of sales is witnessing an unprecedented transformation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With sales teams being forced to work remotely, sales managers have to keep up with the changing times in order to keep the morale high and the sales soaring. Technology and innovation need to work together to ensure that your remote sales team stay productive and keep your sales graph growing even during these challenging times.
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The past few months have prompted business leaders to make huge and mostly painful decisions as companies went full on survival mode. And while COVID is not entirely gone, businesses are gearing up for the next chapter. How do you prepare your team for what’s next and ensure that your company thrives in the new work environment?
1) Be strategic in organizing your team according to new initiatives you will be pushing
One thing that businesses have to consider when faced with a sudden economic downturn is how to keep the company afloat. This usually involves letting go of some people in the team. There’s never a good way to go about it and it takes a lot of decision making before finally deciding who gets cut. Doing a deep and one-time cut has worked for many business leaders as it gave them the opportunity to focus on other aspects of the business sooner.
But ultimately, the important thing is having the team that you need to move forward and to keep the business going. Be strategic in organizing your team and encourage every member to step up. Roles may be switched up and some people may have to perform duties outside of their job descriptions but these things are necessary to ensure business continuity.
One of the challenges of managing a distributed team is maintaining a sense of community among employees. It’s difficult to make people feel tied to the company’s mission without having to meet in an office and just seeing faces on a computer screen.
As a leader, you have to make sure that you remain transparent with your team and keep them as involved as they possibly can – especially on matters that they’re most affected with such as adjusting employee perks and benefits. Foster an environment where employees can communicate effectively not only to other team members but to you as well. You can not overemphasize the importance of overcommunicating particularly when your team is the most distributed.
One thing that working remotely has forced companies to do is check how strong and deeply embedded their company culture is in every member of their team. It’s one thing to feel part of something when you constantly interact in an office environment. So you have to work on keeping your team connected even with all the distance between all of you.
Carve out time for team building activities that you can do virtually. There are a lot of fun things that you can do on a weekly basis such as team yoga, work out sessions, team lunch, coffee hour, etc. Find an activity that will work for you and your team and keep everyone involved by assigning certain teams to plan your activities for the week.
Also encourage 1:1 interactions among team members. Find a way to get that one on one interaction that they may miss in the office by matching people in the team to grab coffee or have lunch at the same time.
4) Decide if you need to stay remote for the foreseeable future
While the threat of the pandemic is still very real, companies need to consider whether they would resume office operations or remain remote for the foreseeable future. It’s important to figure out the decision-making behind that.
Are you going back to the office because you think it’s what you should be doing? Are you going back because you aren’t seeing the output from your team that you expect? Or are you going back because you work in an industry where people have to physically be back in the office?
You have to think about what is best for your company but your team’s health and safety should also be top of mind.
5) Be thoughtful about bringing furloughed employees back
If part of your preemptive actions was to furlough some of your employees, you have to create a plan for bringing them back and doing it the proper way. Don’t bring people back just because you’re seeing signs that things are picking up. Even though the economy is starting to recover, we’re not entirely out of the woods yet. Bringing them back only to lay them off for furlough if things slow down again would be unfair.
6) Check on your employees and find out how you can make remote work easier for them
This is especially important for members of your team who are working parents. They’re not only adjusting to having to work from home, but they also have to create a balance between their full-time job and taking care of their kids even while working.
If you do decide to remain remote for the foreseeable future, make sure you’re checking in on your employees and ask how you can make work easier for them. Not everyone has the same situation at home. For working parents, it is extra hard to keep that balance between work and keeping the house in order. Allowing some flexibility in their work hours or providing options for remote daycare would help them a lot.
7) Be considerate and at the same time thorough about your performance reviews
Performance reviews can be a touchy subject right now as things haven’t been exactly normal in the past few months. Everyone has been adjusting to the impacts of economic unrest brought about by the pandemic. But despite the fact that you’re dealing with a totally unique situation right now, you still have to keep your team’s performance in check.
Before conducting performance reviews, check if your team has completely adjusted to the remote work environment. Don’t implement a big OKR system right away. Try to do things slowly like having a pulse check every week. Check in on the team for feedback as well. Maybe there are things you’re not doing properly in terms of managing a remote team. Make this an opportunity to help your team succeed despite the circumstances and learn from them at the same time.
These are certainly uncharted territories. No one knows what’s going to happen next and you can’t fully prepare for it. You may have to make things up as you go. But these are exciting times ahead. Think of it as an opportunity to re-examine your company culture and work on things that you can improve to help your team and your company thrive in the new normal.
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The events of the past few months certainly had a huge impact on how businesses have been operating. Companies have adapted the work from home setting. And while everyone is gearing up for the new normal, some teams prefer to stay remote for the foreseeable future.
And like other teams that remain remote for the time being, sales managers have to adjust the way they implement coaching sessions for their reps. If you’re one of those who are having a hard time providing effective coaching to your remote team, here are best practices for remote sales coaching.
1. Get comfortable with the technology you will be using for virtual coaching.
Working remotely is a major adjustment for both you and your team members. To ease the transition, create opportunities to become familiar with the tech stack you will be using. Point your team members to learning resources or create your own training sessions to help them learn the basics.
Most people learn how to use technology best by using it. If you’re implementing a new tool, start using it soon so that your team can gain hands-on learning experiences. Do not try to introduce a tool and then not use it for weeks or months.
2. Keep Zoom meetings focused and to the point.
These days, most people are overwhelmed with video conferencing meetings. To maximize the effectiveness of your team meetings, create a tight schedule and stick to it. Remember that for your team members, Zoom meetings can consume just as much bandwidth as a standard in-person meeting.
When holding a virtual meeting, it’s more important than ever to follow general best practices for team meetings. Send everyone a copy of the agenda ahead of time and steer the meeting so that you conclude on schedule. Give your team members other opportunities to virtually socialize. Make it clear that team meetings are for business so that everyone can work efficiently.
3. Formalize your remote sales coaching sessions.
During the normal course of work, you may hold one-on-one meetings with your team members on a regular basis. You should continue doing so when working remotely. Clearly communicate that your meeting will be a coaching session and treat this time seriously. Remove any distractions, including children and pets, from the room during your session. You want to communicate that you are 100 percent focused on coaching.
4. Emphasize the plan of action and next steps.
Your team members are probably feeling a little lost right now. Help them feel more secure in their work-life by emphasizing the plan of action. A concrete plan helps salespeople to claim ownership over their work even in these uncertain times.
Every coaching session should include a plan of action featuring specific steps that the salesperson needs to take. Put the plan in writing and set the expectation that you will review results during your next session.
5. Remain attentive to body language and nonverbal cues during your coaching sessions.
When you see your team members every day, you’re picking up all sorts of information about their mental states without even being consciously aware of it. Remote work makes this kind of deduction more difficult.
However, it is still possible for you to gain intelligence on how your team members are responding to their work and the pressures of the job. During your video meetings, pay extra attention to your team members’ nonverbal cues. This can be difficult to do via a laptop, so it can be helpful to review the nuances of body language interpretation. As you become accustomed to working with your salespeople remotely, take note of any nonverbal tells.
6. Ask your team members to share the challenges of virtual work and be proactive about problem-solving.
Being suddenly thrust into virtual work can be challenging, and you should acknowledge the frustrations. Problems may be anything from creating a distraction-free workspace to challenges in selling virtually. Encourage your team members to share the roadblocks they’re facing so that you can come up with a plan of action for addressing it. Communicate to your team that you’re all in this together and that you want to help.
7. Gamify the sales leaderboards or create a sales contest to keep motivation high.
Maintaining strong motivation is a definite challenge right now. You can encourage your team members to stay motivated by fostering friendly competition. Continue to track sales leaders while you work remotely.
You can also go a step further and give special prizes to sales leaders. A formal sales contest can also be a good option. If you run a contest, consider making it a team contest. This can encourage your team members to form bonds and work together even when they are physically separated. When done well, competition can add excitement to otherwise monotonous days.
8. Encourage your team members to pursue learning independently or as part of a team.
Remote work can provide people with more time to learn new skills on their own. Encourage your team members to pursue independent learning. During individual coaching sessions, discuss skills that can be developed. Point your team members to the right resources and check-in to see how their development is progressing.
Continued learning can also be a group activity. Select a book for your entire team to read (or a podcast or video). Set a time for all of you to discuss the content on your Slack. This can be an effective way for everyone to feel connected without adding the burden of another video conference.
9. Track the progress of individual deals through CRM and pipeline management tools.
It can be harder to gauge the progress of deals without being able to meet with your team members face-to-face. This means that tracking deals through the CRM and other pipeline management tools is even more important than ever.
Ask your team members specific questions about the deals you’re tracking. This lets them know that you’re still here to help them strategize.
These are challenging times for all of us. But by implementing remote sales coaching techniques, you can ensure that your team is well-equipped to navigate remote work.
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Operating expenses, or OPEX, is something all sales managers must optimize for. Even more so in the wake of the global pandemic. Unfortunately, many sales teams are being squeezed as demand has dried up for many industries.
Some sales teams have been inundated with opportunity as decision-makers are stuck inside with the time to hear a good sales pitch. There are opportunities to discuss how an innovative solution can help them achieve their goals: faster, cheaper, better.
In this article, we aim to help you achieve those same goals (faster, cheaper, better) in the performance management of your sales team. During times of crisis, a healthy balance sheet is essential.
We think it’s vital for sales leaders to use what best-selling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb deems, slow thinking. We will use an analytical approach to breaking down a few high-level line items that may be weighing down your balance sheet’s liabilities section. Additionally, we’ll provide tips for dealing with operating expenses effectively.
1) Identify Your Assets and Challenge Them
Widespread layoffs are an unfortunate byproduct of economic downturns, but in sales, the top performers will shine in any economy. Laying off your star account executives or SDRs with everyone else is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, figuratively speaking.
Instead of layoffs, consider alternative compensation structures that can limit the company’s expenses, but maintain a healthy pipeline. One strategy could be to reduce the team’s base salaries and offer a higher commission. This will incentivize your top performers to push harder while naturally eliminating the weakest links in the chain.
Your company’s goals and guidance numbers will likely need to be recalibrated for the new normal, which in the realm of sound generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) is important. In the eyes of a sales manager, however, now is not the time to set expectations any lower. In fact, we advocate you set even more audacious goals.
Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill the time available for its completion. We believe this applies to sales goals as well. Sales goals are reached according to the local maximum, not the true potential or global maximum. Sales reps that barely achieve their goals every period would also likely just barely achieve their goals if they were slightly higher. Set audacious goals for your sales team, and let them battle it out to achieve them.
2) Let Quarantine Test Your Ability to Build a Remote Sales Team
If your sales team has been able to adapt to the order to work from home, then consider this a government-mandated experiment into whether your salesforce can effectively operate remotely. It’s likely best to measure productivity instead of results to be realistic about the effectiveness of your remote salesforce during this time, as the greater economy could be impacting your team’s results.
Many sales managers will likely reconsider the need to sign off on those expensive business trips and even maintain that sprawling office space for their sales teams. Even after the quarantine period is lifted, the risk of business trips and crowded office buildings will need to be weighed.
Perhaps you re-evaluate your sales process. Try leveraging remote tools for the early conversations with new prospects, moving them down the pipeline. You can then dispatch a closer to travel and close the deal.
3) Reconsider Your Toolkit
Perhaps you adopted that fancy CRM for a killer new feature, but with it comes a ton of baggage in the form of features that go completely unused. Consider how much that annual expense for that SaaS product weighs on your balance sheet. Ask if it could be replaced by a lightweight tool that accomplishes the same end result.
Another potential strategy to reduce your expenses on bloated SaaS tools is to renegotiate your pricing model to only pay for what you use. Perhaps the company would be willing to charge you a discounted price limiting access to features your team actually uses.
Sales teams were able to thrive before any fancy software products were on the market. And even though the products certainly have a positive impact on productivity and organization, it’s good to know they could be eliminated from your balance sheet entirely if your finances are in dire straits.
4) Leverage High ROI Strategies
In times of crisis, you must leverage what works best in terms of return on investment (ROI). Often times, companies refer to these expenses as one line item, sales and marketing. In times like this, however, it’s more like sales or marketing.
Some companies overreact and start slashing their sales and marketing budget down to its bare bones. As a diligent director of the company, however, you should dig deeper into the actual results of your various sales and marketing campaigns to cherry-pick those that work.
For example, if you determine the ROI of your sales team is significantly higher than social media marketing, suspend your social media spending. Leverage your sales team’s ability to achieve higher ROI. Even in times of economic expansion, you should be reallocating your budget to be more heavily weighted in what works well.
Operating Efficiencies, Not Operating Expenses
When you analyze the balance sheet of your business, you are like a doctor taking a patient’s vitals.
You must understand how each metric is interconnected, and what can be done to boost or suppress each one. For example, if your social media marketing expenses are driving qualified leads to your sales team, cutting your expenditures from this channel would likely impact the performance of your sales team.
In fact, every decision you make should be discussed with your board, checked, and double-checked before any execution. This will ensure you are operating with the highest level of efficiency, and not simply the highest level of operating expenses.