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Adapting to the new normal: thriving in a hybrid sales environment

Posted on: January 7, 2022

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Category: Sales representatives

Adapting to the new normal: Thriving in a hybrid sales environment

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The last few years have seen seismic changes for your average sales rep. While some businesses are back in the office full time, there’s clearly been a marked shift towards hybrid work.

For sales teams, this change hasn’t just been about finding space for the home office. It’s also massively reduced the number of in person sales meetings: Inside sales is the new normal.

The shift of course began during the pandemic, with more salespeople working from home than ever before.

Pipedrive’s State of Sales report recorded that 60% of staff said they’d changed their primary work location and 41% named home as where they were now based – that’s more than any other location category.

But here’s something that may surprise you:

People working from home were significantly less likely to work on weekends, compared to those working from other locations.

And here’s something else:

Working from home as a salesperson compared to hothousing in an office did not particularly impact on their performance.

So, pat yourselves on the back, sales teams, for your resilience, flexibility and can-do spirit.

As we look into the distant future it does not seem overly pessimistic to suggest that social distancing is likely to be a cyclical requirement.

And it is certainly true that the hybrid sales force is here to stay.

So, let’s look at the best ways for sales managers and their teams to adapt to selling remotely. How can we help our teams prevent work from encroaching on our personal lives even as it invades their personal spaces?

Maintain a strong focus on output (and not the time spent getting there)

Sales managers, it’s time to let go:

  • Stop worrying if your team are working
  • Quit wondering when they are working
  • Forget trying to set times for people to be online and accessible
  • And, of course, put down that monitoring software immediately

Here’s the thing:

More hours worked does not mean more productivity – in fact, the reverse is often true. And that’s why any work culture that values hours worked is likely to come unstuck.

  • The boffins at Stanford University actually discovered that increases in output rapidly become negligible over the standard working day. Those who did not take a day off on the weekend actually became less productive.
  • Meanwhile, over at Boston, it was discovered that managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who worked a staggering 80 hours a week and those simply pretended to do this.
  • And Harvard’s finest insist that planned time off (such as evenings and weekends) makes sales consultants more productive.

As we move to hybrid working it is more important than ever that managers ditch measurements such as time spent online and rely, instead, on their CRM’s reports to track their team’s progress.

It is goals hit, not hours clocked, that count.

For this reason, it is critical that you have in place defined targets so that your sales staff working remotely are 100% clear on how their output will be judged and what metrics are going to be used to assess their performance.

A good set of metrics for your sales team may look like this:

  1. % of leads added to the pipeline
  2. % of pipeline leads that become real opportunities
  3. % of opportunities that become closed deals
  4. The time it takes to move from stage one to two and stage two to three

Simple – but effective.

Remote work does not call for more meetings

One of the toughest things for most people when not working in an office is the loss of those opportunities for spontaneous conversations.

You know, those water cooler moments where something just gets sorted over a quick chat.

The thing is:

Instant messaging is a poor substitute when you are working remotely.

And that’s why it is so important to communicate regularly with each of your team.

Make sure you have diarised regular one-to-ones to pick up on problems (and celebrate achievements) quickly.

At the same time, watch out for clogging up everyone’s days with too many online meetings. To do this, ensure that meetings are planned, structured and productive. If they are not, stop them.

Try introducing scheduled breaks and meeting embargoes. How about a ‘no internal meetings’ day or the option for some to catch up on a recording of the meeting if they wish?

Facilitate to make remote work easier

Not all of us work for organisations where a Head of Remote position can be created to help support new ways of working. (It did happen at Facebook, Gitlab and Dropbox though.)

And yet we all can take some time to review our workflows, processes and communication channels to ensure they are not causing unnecessary stress for our team.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider – but regular check-ins with your team should highlight any others).

  • Are the tools required accessible remotely?
  • Can the process be streamlined and any unnecessary steps removed?
  • Could we automate/digitise any parts of the process?
  • Is everyone involved in the process necessary?
  • Are there any additional requirements that are needed to facilitate this taking place remotely?

It is important that you take a holistic view of your remote team – their performance will be affected by more than just the things that directly impinge on their role.

For example, do they need help creating a suitable office environment at home or are they struggling to divide their time between work and pleasure?

Make sure you are there for them.

Can you sell from home without working weekends?

Working from home does require some adjusting – but we’ve already seen it done with no drop in productivity.

And no need for weekend work.

In many ways, it is the sales managers who are in the best place to ensure their team remain productive while working remotely.

And, as we’ve seen, your team do need you to be there – but not ever present.

Avoid micromanaging and let them deliver to clear expectations.

At home.

Or in the office.

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