In the last few weeks, many sales managers are deciding whether their teams should return to the office or stay home. No matter today’s decision, tomorrow brings new information that completely alters yesterday’s point of view. Professionals each have an opinion on what to do. Some are itching to get back on the floor with their teams. Others find the benefits of being at home more valuable. However, when we look at the data, this should not even be a choice.
Current research says that remote teams are more productive and more cost-effective than their in-person counterparts. A study from Airtasker showed that “on average remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 days every year, than those that worked in the office” (Airtasker). Even though this is the case, many managers resort to monitoring technologies. They are concerned about whether an employee is at their computer at a specific time. Yet, as sales managers, is the team’s goal to sit at their desks or meet their sales targets?
Returning to the data from Airtasker, they also found that one of the main distractions for teams is their managers, especially when in-person. According to the research, “Nearly a quarter of office employees said their boss distracted them from doing their work. Sixty-five percent of office workers said it was because their boss was too talkative, and another 52% said their boss stressed them out. Only 15% of remote workers, on the other hand, said their boss had distracted them from work” (Airtasker). Too often, sales managers let a lack of trust guide decision-making. This leads to more distractions and a decline in production.
Whether in person or remote, many managers throughout the day loosely check in with each person every morning, randomly jump into coach someone, and schedule multiple training meetings. While we think this is supporting our teams, it is counter-productive. Internalizing that we are more of the problem, rather than the solution, is not easy. However, when we take ownership of this situation, we can increase team engagement, remove unnecessary distractions, and grow revenue – which is our goal. As opposed to making a decision between the office or home, how can we, as sales managers, take this time to better guide our teams for increased production?
To ensure quality support, a sales manager must be more intentional about their management. No matter the location, high performing sales teams are deeply engaged. Sales managers work to accomplish this by building trust with their team, supporting the team’s development, and empowering teams to solve problems. This involves being available to them. To communicate, empathize, train, and coach each person when needed. While certain technologies can show whether a team member is at the computer, it is more imperative to formalize a plan to best support a sales teams’ effort and effectiveness. Here are four principles to consider when developing a strategy.
Connection: Build relationships with your teams to learn who they are, what they are learning about, and what motivates them. Instead of only discussing business in group meetings, offer space to learn about each other. Begin each group meeting with open-ended questions, such as “what is one new thing you learned during the pandemic,” “what object near you best represents who you are,” or “where would you like to be right now”. This vulnerability cements trust with the team and enhances team bonds. It also directly models valuable sales techniques like listening, vulnerability, speaking confidently, and asking open-ended questions.
Clarity – Determine the measurements for effort and effectiveness. Effort is fully in the control of the team member, while effectiveness adds outside variables. Layout the expectations with each team member. These can be individualized or standardized. Each has its advantages, yet it is essential to focus solely on objective markers. For effort, this might be the number of calls per week, while for effectiveness it might be the number of demos or closes.
Oversight – With team connections and clear expectations in place, the team knows what to do. The manager’s role in oversight is to manage up rather than tear them down. Ask yourself, where is a team member deficient in effort and effectiveness? Based on the answer, devise an individualized plan to intervene on that specific issue. For a team member struggling with effectiveness, lay out the exact days and times to sit on calls and support them. It will take more than one time. Plan on a minimum of 5 to 6 reoccurring times and add to the plan if needed.
Intervention – A sales manager’s success is measured by helping a team member overcome the challenge. Be transparent with team members. Show them where you are seeing problem areas based on the expectations. Train this specific area for an extended time frame then continue to monitor whether that challenging area improves from week to week. While there is a tendency to fix every problem at once, focus only on the core issue during the planned intervention time.
It is much easier to randomly engage sales teams to set up ongoing training and to ensure they are working at specific times. It is harder to be intentional about one’s management. Yet, planning accordingly leads to more trust, ownership, production, and revenue from sales teams. And, it allows team members to concentrate on their job – no matter where they work.
[i] “The Benefits of Working from Home,” Airtasker, March 31, 2020 https://www.airtasker.com/blog/the-benefits-of-working-from-home.
[ii] “The Benefits of Working from Home,” Airtasker, March 31, 2020 https://www.airtasker.com/blog/the-benefits-of-working-from-home.