The coronavirus is causing many companies to move swiftly to enable their employees to work from home on an unprecedented scale. What does this mean for sales teams accustomed to drawing a big part of their motivation from the collaboration, communication and community that comes with working in close proximity to one another? Can a transition to working from home be effective for a sales team?
Studies show that with the right technologies and processes in place, WFH will not only work, but will actually result in a significant increase in productivity. So while a short commute, comfortable clothes and easy access to the refrigerator are some of perks of working from home, let's discuss the real keys to realizing maximum productivity from a WFH sales team.
Develop a Plan With Clear Goals
Each salesperson must develop a plan for their business that includes clear goals. Those goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) as well as motivating, and most of all, personal.
When working with salespeople in setting goals, the most important two areas of focus are:
- The sales number they want to achieve (hopefully above their quota :-)
- What achieving that goal would mean for them personally (e.g., financial reward: family vacation, kids' college fund; recognition/sense of accomplishment: admiration of their coworkers)
While it’s important to the company that they achieve their quota, the salesperson’s personal motivation is what drives them everyday. Keeping that key motivation in mind will drive daily productivity.
Key: Salespeople who set goals are more successful and productive than those who don't.
Convert Your Sales Goals Into a Daily List of the Right Activities
Without the community of teammates and a manager in an office environment, it's more critical than ever to have a clear understanding of the activities you need to perform everyday — in what quantity and with what quality.
“Do I need to make three prospecting calls a day or 10?” Among other factors, the answer depends on the conversion rate of a prospecting call to a sales opportunity, and ultimately, a sale.
Starting with a sales goal and other inputs, such as average deal size, close rate and conversion rates of pipeline development activities, a salesperson can reverse engineer their sales goal back to the activities they need to complete every day, week and month to ensure they hit their number.
It is imperative that the focus be on outcomes (opportunity creation and closed deals) achieved by selecting the right activities and completing them with a level of quality that results in the required conversion. Otherwise the activities become the focus and it becomes busy work.
Key: Don't confuse activities with results (but measure performance of aligned activities daily).
Develop the List of the Right Activities
How is a salesperson to know which activities will produce the outcomes they are looking for? Drawing on past experience, trial and error? A salesperson in an office can observe their successful teammates, but WFH teams don't have this luxury. While they can see data in the CRM system for other team members, that data tends to be limited to results (open and closed opportunities) rather than showing how they got there.
When I bring my field-based salespeople together for in-person meetings, they always want the same item on the agenda: "Can you have Bill present on what he's doing? He's clearly got it figured it out." In a WFH environment, salespeople need to retain this visibility to what top-performing team members are doing — they want to replicate what works! Make it easy for them.
Key: Replicate the behavior of top-performing sales reps across the team.
Technology can help sales reps maintain a level of connectedness with their teammates and their manager. Messaging technology can be used to share news, insights, learnings and obstacles, and facilitate communication between team members. Sales leaderboards are great, but daily sales rep activity summaries are even more effective. They provide peer motivation to complement the coaching and motivation provided by a sales manager. And now that each sales rep has a personalized plan with goal-oriented activities, one-on-one meetings can be more focused on coaching skills and activities to complement pipeline and opportunity review.
It has been shown that a move to remote working, as is happening in our current environment, can affect morale, productivity and mental health of workers. Companies should look at ways to add the human touch by incorporating elements that more deeply connect the sales leader with team members, and by asking questions that get to the heart of what is most important to the sales rep. This helps reps feel valued, heard and connected. In turn, the team member is more engaged, has greater energy and clarity, and is ultimately more productive.
Key: We all need sources of inspiration and motivation.
Track Results — Not Hours Worked
Measuring productivity by looking at hours worked isn't likely to be very effective. Rather, consider a results-oriented performance management approach based on daily/weekly/monthly activity-based goals with measurement to those goals. For example, providing a team summary performance report that is emailed at the end of the day to all team members and managers will help sales reps feel connected and provide that extra motivation of friendly competition.
Key: Focus on outcomes and the activities that get you there.
Maintain Work-Life Balance
When working from home it can be easy to fall into the trap of working all the time and ignoring some of the other elements essential to productivity without peers or a manager to nudge you, things like eating well, regular breaks, exercise, planning time and skills development. A sales rep’s plan should not be limited exclusively to sales-generating activities (e.g., calls, meetings) but should also include personal and professional development goals that are also important in maximizing productivity.
Key: Maximizing productivity isn't just about working hard.
Working from home can create new levels of productivity but it requires thoughtful planning, a commitment to deliberate communication, the use of planning and accountability tools, and performance management. Done right, expect new levels of engagement, accountability and trust through transparency.
About the Author
Rob Griebel has more than 25 years of experience as a sales VP responsible for scaling sales teams for B2B SaaS/technology companies. His experience is what led him to co-found BlueZone Systems, Inc., a cloud-based software company focused on increasing sales rep performance of enterprise sales teams by converting sales goals into engaging, daily action plans that motivate. And with performance tracking and insightful analytics, sales managers are empowered with the data they need to effectively coach and manage their teams.