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March 4, 2020

Maintaining Sales Productivity and Employee Health in the Face of Coronavirus

The handshake is often viewed as a universal symbol for sales success. However, in a world where contact can lead to illness, those kinds of handshakes are increasingly rare. How can companies keep sales going without the relationship building and collaboration that happen face to face?

Business travelers are facing new restrictions and cancellations as health concerns grow in the wake of the coronavirus. Companies around the world are rethinking travel, conferences, and even their employees’ daily commutes.

Every day, we see another company encouraging employees to work from home if they’re able. But what should business travelers do about trips that are essential to their work? Many global brands have thousands of employees in the air on any given day. No one wants to send their people into a risky situation.

Corporate travel restrictions especially impact sellers who spend a lot of time on the road. Less travel means less contact with prospects, with the industry, and with the market. As companies begin to cancel trips to events and trade shows, reps have fewer opportunities to connect with prospects and peers. Managers have fewer chances to do ride-alongs with reps, leading to significantly reduced opportunity for learning, reinforcement, and coaching.

Many companies have tools that allow employees to work remotely. This is especially true for organizations with large sales forces who work “in the field.” Thanks to technologies such as Skype, FaceTime, Slack, and Allego, as well as texting and email, you don’t have to be physically in an office to be a productive member of the team. Video-based learning, content and collaboration tools such as Allego are an especially effective way to bring people together virtually.

This week, several of our biggest customers came to us for help supporting employees who are being affected by travel restrictions. On our check-in calls, we learned that they have business in areas where travel has been restricted or that their employees were being required to work from home. These long-time customers are experienced at using mobile and video to onboard, collaborate and coach. They wanted to know how they could adapt to new and unexpected disruptions such as cancelled calls with prospects, new employees that they can’t get up to speed, and missing intel on deals.

How to Maintain Sales Productivity While Keeping Everyone Safe

Allego works with many global customers who are actively dealing with the threat of coronavirus. Given this experience, we wanted to quickly share the ways that these companies are preserving both health and sales productivity so that others in this same situation can prepare.

From what we’ve learned so far, we see eight key areas your company can address to keep the sales team’s (and other employee’s) wheels rolling while reducing the risk of exposure to illness.

1. Support

If your team is working from home in an affected region, they’re probably feeling cooped up and anxious about what’s ahead. There is something reassuring about seeing a human face versus reading an email. Checking in with a short video can be a source of comfort and a great way to let your far-flung colleagues know that you care about them, personally and professionally.

2. Prospecting

One of the biggest challenges is not being able to get face-to-face with prospects. In some cases, events where sales people were hoping to meet up have been cancelled. In others, either the rep or the prospect (or both) must work from home. These reps can supplement phone calls with video so they can interact in a more personable way.

3. Onboarding

It’s a challenging time to be recruiting, interviewing and onboarding. But you must continue to build your team. Whether you’re hiring new reps or shifting existing one into new roles, the time to get new hires ramped and productive is critical. Use video to virtualize the training program and onboard new hires remotely if they are grounded. Instead of flying new hires into corporate, have them watch videos, practice their pitches, learn your company’s systems, get to know the executive team and receive coaching and feedback from their location.

4. Sales Kickoffs, QBRs and Training Conferences

Instead of live Sales Kickoff meetings, hold some or all of the meetings virtually via video. Replace live classroom training with video training and certification. Record presentations in the form of voice over PowerPoint and share with the team. Use this format to shorten presentations and allow viewers to interact and collaborate regarding the content.

5. Collaboration

Next best thing to being live is to share videos of you being live. Use remote tools to connect employees that are at home, allowing them to collaborate with each other.  Be aware of language and localize key messages whenever possible. Use video and PowerPoint together to share prospect stories, bounce ideas off of colleagues, and brainstorm asynchronously across space and time.

6. Coaching

Insufficient coaching interactions between front-line managers and their reps, or between senior managers and employees, can hinder productivity. Use mobile video-sharing technology to extend managers’ reach and maximize time. From their home, they can accomplish as much as they could during a ride-along.

7. Product Launch

Video can also help ramp up sales teams on new product launches as well as product line mergers. Whether for an existing product or service or a new offering, have sales reps record practice videos to share with managers or peers, then receive point-in-time feedback to accelerate mastery for every sales situation.

8. Market Updates

Real-time market updates are important in many industries, particularly financial services. Push real-time updates to your sales and services teams so that they are prepared to answer questions and reassure your customers that your company can weather the storm. These messages can come from your CEO, CRO, investment officers or other point person.

Finding Ways to “Keep the Lights On”

Leaders in all industries are preparing for the unknown. If your business relies on a productive sales team, use the suggestions above to keep operations running, support your team, minimize disruption and sickness, and offset the impact of travel restrictions.

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