On busy days, when an outbound sales team is making calls and sending emails and messages, booking demos and meetings, and closing deals, there is a buzz of energy in the room.
On good days, a team of business development reps (BDRs) can make quick work of a list of numbers to call. Targets are smashed. KPIs gradually worked through, and the CRM receives a steady influx of positive data. Demos and meetings are booked, and in some cases, demos taken as potential customers express interest and have the time.
When deals are won, sales managers can congratulate team members, knowing every close/win gets everyone closer to hitting monthly targets.
Now that Covid-19 has forced millions around the world to work from home (WFH), where it’s safer than being in an office together (until there is a universal vaccine, at scale), outbound sales has changed. Sales managers need to know how to transfer that energy and best practices into a remote working environment. We look at the most effective ways to do that in this article.
Challenges of working from home
Fundamentally, sales haven’t changed.
Outbound sales teams, in particular, still need to make calls, or reach prospects in some way and engage them in a conversation. Demos and presentations still need to be done, and deals won.
Sales hasn’t changed, only the environment these calls, demos and presentations are conducted in has changed. And these changes create unique challenges. As sales leaders, we can’t overlook these challenges because they can have a direct impact on performance and outputs.
Let’s think about some of the main ones people encounter since working from home:
#1: Wrong environment to make calls. Especially for those with partners working from home, and young families, there might not be a room where a salesperson can make calls.
It could mean people are improving, either using bedrooms some of the time, or gardens, or even garages and cars. For outbound sales calls, having a quiet undisturbed space to make them is essential. Salespeople and their families, and managers may need to work together to find the best solution for creating the right environment.
#2: Everyone at home, together, every day. There isn’t any getting around this, until it’s safe for schools to reopen. Covid-19 has brought families together in ways that few people are used to. This can create tension, tiredness and bring underlying stresses to the surface.
Managers need to be mindful of this, that everyone isn’t going to be performing at their best every day. At times, home stress is going to impact work stress, because right now it’s the same environment. Make sure BDRs are doing whatever they can to manage and reduce these stresses, while at the same time, supporting them as much as you can.
#3: Mental and physical stresses of lockdown/quarantine. Even though many countries are looking at safe ways to ease lockdown and quarantine orders, we aren’t out of the woods yet.
To keep everyone safe, it might be necessary for companies to weigh the benefits of people returning to the office before a vaccine is readily available. We could be working from home for many months yet, easily into 2021. Consequently, and even after schools are back, we need to be aware that lockdown/quarantine is creating unique stresses.
Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are on the rise. Its increasing feelings of isolation, despair, and has impacted the sleeping patterns of millions around the world. People can’t do what they’d usually do after work, such as see friends or go to the gym. Our lives are more limited, and because of the difficulty imaging when life can go back to normal safely, that increases stress levels too.
Unfortunately, this is something sales managers can’t do anything to fix. We, collectively, as a species, are facing and fighting this same challenge together. Long-term solutions are being worked on. Billions have been pledged to create a vaccine.
All sales managers can do is check-in with team members. Ask how everyone is doing, and suggest ways team members can look after themselves through this. Mental and physical health can’t take a backseat during this. Sales reps will perform better if they’re in the right headspace to talk confidently with prospects and close deals.
How sales managers can support outbound agents?
- Work with them to ensure they’ve got the best space possible for outbound calls. If, for any reason that isn’t viable — remember no one bought or started renting a house or apartment expecting to need to turn it into a workspace — then adjust workloads and tasks accordingly so they can still contribute without making as many calls.
- Do regular team and 1-on-1 check ins and meetings. Make sure that everyone is in the loop, on the same page, and feeling like they’re part of the team. Don’t leave anyone out. At the same time, try not to micromanage and overwhelm team members with too many meetings and calls. If you trust them to work in the office, that same trust needs to be extended to the home working environment.
- Pay attention to how team members are feeling. Mental health in the workspace has become more of an important issue in recent years. Companies are realizing they need to look after employees. Now more than ever, managers need to check-in and ask how everyone is doing. Give people time and space when they need it. Ensure they’ve got the right support from family and friends. Sales managers need to play more of a proactive role, and at present, not overload anyone with too much pressure to hit targets.
As the world gradually, safely gets back to normal, it will become easier again for sales reps to hit targets and generate revenue. Right now, everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances, and sales managers need to be supportive throughout this.