As it becomes clear that work from home is here to stay, companies must rethink sales strategies

Updated: June 12, 2020 7:20 PM

Many organizations are contemplating WFH for a greater part of the year, and many others have opted for a staggered work-from-office schedule, asking employees to work from home the rest of the time.

It’s been a while now since the coronavirus outbreak forced many offices to announce work-from-home guidelines for their employees.
  • Suvodeep Das

Two months after lockdown was announced, corporate India has adapted to the new way of working – Staying Home and Staying Safe, while trying to minimize upheavals in business. While initially the idea was to enforce work from home for a short time while the spread of Covid-19 could be contained, the situation is a little different now. Many organizations are contemplating WFH for a greater part of the year, and many others have opted for a staggered work-from-office schedule, asking employees to work from home the rest of the time.

Hence, the present reality – one where you and your employees spend your days in comfortable home-wear rather than formals, spend more time on video calls than in-person interactions, take status reports online, collaborate through shared drives and documents, trust the team to do their work while not under your eyes, and still deliver the best they can!

Interestingly, while WFH was enforced owing to the pandemic and has the obvious disadvantages of isolation and increased anxiety, organizations across the world are also coming to see its benefits. Less commute, more productive hours, more flexibility, more quality time with family, less infrastructure cost, et al. In fact, it will be fascinating to see how the future will shape up once this pandemic is behind us, and how organizational approach will change in this new normal of WFH, especially in Sales. COVID has taught organizations to reprioritize:

People First

Revenue, bottom line, profit – all can wait; your people must be taken care of first. The primary step from now on has to be people-centric disaster readiness, to ensure that employees, vendors, and customers are safe and secure. The team needs to shed inhibitions imbibed from this pandemic situation to be ready to sell, your suppliers need to have their resources in place before they can even think of
conducting business, and your customers have to take care of their people before they turn to you. So, empathize with your people and establish the company as one that cares, not just about your business, but also about your people, customers, and all other stakeholders.

Adapt with Agility

The re-prioritization of decisions and the consequent change in demand warrants that organisations be more agile and adaptable, especially in Sales. Using advanced analytics to decode the new demand curve will support quicker decision-making for reassigning tasks to employees and related capacity judgments. In B2B Sales, where constant interaction and seamless communication is paramount, yet the team is working from different locations, technology must be top-notch. The team always needs to be completely aligned with each other and with customers, so all relevant tools and infrastructure need to be set up and security of confidential data ensured.

Digital is indispensable

Discussions with other stakeholders in the value chain will help in firming up digital strategies along with the right safeguards. Rethink every process to support contactless interaction with emphasis on safety and hygiene. Automate systems to overcome operational constraints in providing back office support. Integrate AI into sales support to lessen the work pressure on employees; help them realign their inputs in crucial directions like preparing sales playbooks to engage with existing and new client organizations.

Enhance customer experience

The shift in the importance of digital interactions is reflected in customer behavior. Live chats, chatbots, strong social media presence, continuous interactions – do whatever it takes to delight your customer and create memorable experiences at every touch point. Your customers need to feel that even when the rest of the world is not what it should be, the people they trusted are with them every step of the way. This is especially true in the B2B world where face-to-face meetings have always been key to building ongoing relationships.

More human, more personal

Virtual town halls on a regular basis could be encouraged to address all team queries. Capability enhancement activities can also prepare the sales workforce to adapt better to the changed work environment. Most importantly, Sales is a high-stress function, and in these uncertain times the stress
levels are even higher. Integrating WFH with Fun@Work could lead to a highly enjoyable and productive environment. Now is the time to focus more on employee benefits too. Proven benefits like Virtual Meal Cards help support employees with meal delivery at home in place of workplace meals as well as facilitate online grocery shopping. E-Gift Cards works best as incentives and rewards when the sales team is stretching beyond the regular hours to ensure business as usual. It keeps them well-motivated.

The challenges of remote working are many. Although evolution is mandatory, organizations and sales leaders in particular need to understand employee needs clearly and ensure that the company rises up to fulfill these needs. Getting as close to the crucial human touch as possible can be the best way forward.

  • Suvodeep Das is Vice President & Global Product Head at Sodexo Benefits & Rewards. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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