Managing a Remote Sales Team During Covid-19
As the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed, companies across Ireland have been forced to rethink their day to day operations and embrace remote working. This rapid operational shift has required a fresh look at management and leadership, to balance people, processes, and technology in times of uncertainty. A key stakeholder on the Storm Leadership Team, Chief Commercial Officer, Mike Lillis shares his insights.
As a busy sales department with a focus on client relationship building our sales team would have operated a hybrid model, with our team officed based 50% of the week with the remainder of the week spent off-site at client meetings. This balance allowed the team to focus on building strong client relationships while benefiting from close collaboration not only within the sales team but the wider Storm team. Despite this hybrid model, the speed at which we had to embrace a fully remote set up was not without challenge.
Maintaining Face-To-Face Interactions
Working in an office ensures you can quickly pick up on social cues and body language, subtle indicators that help to identify and act on any potential issues such as stress and excessive workload. With COVID representing a significant change not only in our teams professional but also personal lives, remaining alert to these subtle cues while fostering the same camaraderie and team spirit was critical to ensuring maximum productivity and employee morale.
Encouraging everyone to use video calls as opposed to audio calls enabled our team to maintain face-to-face interactions. The establishment of a weekly team meeting provided a social outlet for the team while ensuring visibility on workloads and allowing rapid adjustment as necessary. Frequent catchups both as a team and one-to-one ensures no one is isolated or under undue pressure. An added benefit of this approach was that it fosters a collaborative approach to project management, with insight into workloads and priorities across the team, different members of the team could input suggestions and share their insights to help drive positive business outcomes.
Evolving Customer Engagements
As a sales function, one of the principal changes we noted was the shift in how we interacted with our clients. While historically our sales team would have spent a lot of time on the road, it was no longer possible to go on-site for a catch-up, an aspect that at first seemed daunting. The reality, however, was that this shift in the status quo transformed customer relationships, breaking down traditional barriers to communication and encouraging customers to reach out on a more ad-hoc basis. In turn, supporting more informal conversations and allowing us to work through the implications of the pandemic together and strengthen customer relationships.
While the rate of change and the subsequent period of transition presented challenges, we are lucky enough to operate in an era where technology bridges the physical divide. Providing our team with the right tools has been fundamental to successful remote working. Our team fully took advantage of Microsoft Teams, which allowed us to collaborate and work closely together, using video, audio calls and file sharing to support day to day operations and ongoing client meetings.
Embracing MS Teams has brought many additional benefits to the way we work. Aside from the main advantage of connecting our teams regardless of location, MS Teams has encouraged a more structured approach to meeting management, meetings are now much shorter and to the point. There are fewer distractions at the start and during meetings, meaning meetings kick off on-time and remain firmly focused on the agenda. Additionally, punctuality has improved, with video calls its harder to join a virtual meeting later as it would be more than likely to start on time versus with traditional meeting settings where conversations will meander until all attendees are present. This, in turn, saving employees valuable time and sustaining high levels of engagement throughout. Becoming accustomed to remote meetings has further improved time management, with improved system integration and shared calendars allowing easy time allocation and enhanced cross-functional collaboration.
While the overall shift to a 100% remote working model has been a challenge, technology has enabled the team at Storm to continue to serve our clients digitally. Looking to the future MS Teams has proven an invaluable tool, one we will continue to leverage to ensure our clients receive a quality service from point of sale to support and onwards.