The working-at-home protocol for sales professionals

T

he world is under attack by a terrible virus, the impact of Covid-19 will not only be felt in terms of our health, but also in our way of living and working. The world is fighting the virus with all its might; social distancing, schools are closing their doors, restaurants are closed and everyone is working from home. In the Netherlands, these measures are necessary until at least June 1, which means that we will be working from home for at least 11 weeks!

The essential professions

Generally speaking, anyone can work from home for two weeks, or maybe even three weeks if necessary. For some professions, working from home is actually more productive; copywriters, translators, accountants, web designers and customer service staff among many. In times like these it helps enormously to be able or allowed to work from home, but unfortunately, for many professions, working from home is unthinkable. Our society is and will always depend on the commitment of these people to go out every day – police, fire brigade, ambulance services; the essential professions.

In my opinion, all professions that focus on mobility and human contact will find it extremely difficult to work from home. In the long run, these professions are even essential to keep our economy running. A temporary lockdown is a necessary measure that everyone understands, but if it lasts a long time, its impact is incomprehensible. We try to stay positive and hope that we can put this crisis behind us soon. But in the meantime, we’ll all have to bridge these 11 weeks of working from home together.

Fight of flight

Sales professionals, account managers and relationship managers fall under the category of temporary homeworkers. No matter how difficult it is, our sales colleagues will have to make the best of it. It’s fight or flight. Therefore, in this article, we introduce a protocol for sales professionals who have to work from home.

The sales profession is a beautiful profession in which people are central. The sales process generally consists of three key tasks: informing (potential) customers, supervising the sales transaction and providing aftercare where necessary. These three tasks succeed and affect each other. In professional jargon, we call this the sales cycle.

Six steps approach

The focus of the protocol is to fulfill the different tasks of the sales cycle in a constructive way; the protocol is elaborated in six instructive steps. The effect of this protocol is most noticeable in maintaining existing relationships. In addition, the impact of this protocol is influenced by the current global crisis climate, so an approach like this is better tolerated by our customers.

Step 1: Digital profile creation and sharing

Everything starts with you, which is why it is very important to ensure that you and your organisation are clearly visible to your customers. Drawing up a complete and clear digital profile helps with that. Nowadays, almost everyone uses Facebook or LinkedIn, and you may wonder if that’s not enough. If you make optimal use of these media, then the answer is yes, but this needs to be supplemented with additional useful information. So not only your name, position and company name, but also what exactly you do and why your client should contact you. The digital profile represents you in the digital world, so the more complete it is, the better. For example, your work region, the product range, the visibility of your network and especially your accessibility are important.

In the age of GDPR and privacy sensitivity, it is extremely difficult to reach people. The best thing you can do is to be optimally accessible yourself with a clear and unambiguous message. Once your profile has been optimised, it should be shared with your network as much as possible, whilst asking them if they want to share your profile with their network.

Step 2: Digital pitch package preparation

For sales professionals, working from home is like working with a handicap. That’s why preparation will be half the battle. You probably won’t always get the chance to discuss everything with your customers if you work from home. That is why preparing a digital pitch package is very important. You can literally choose and share what you want to discuss with the customer at the moment of contact. Depending on the medium – phone, video conferencing or chat – you always have the possibility to share a small document or a photo with your customers. If you are going to talk about a new product, be sure to immediately send the photo and the brochure as well. If it concerns a promotion, you can confirm all necessary information during the conversation or shortly afterwards. Even when it comes to work procedures, such as how to arrange a service request. Make the story clearer with digital reference work. If you send information that is relevant, this will help your customer enormously.

Step 3: Map your network

For this step, you have to distinguish between customers and business contacts. Map your contacts and make sure you have a digital connection with these contacts. You can do this by, for instance, following them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other media. Make sure you create a moment of contact with them and keep them informed of your activities. Do not spam, but follow and respond to what they publish and do themselves. Take the initiative and be involved with what they express. For the record, by contacts, we mean the people behind your customer’s organisations. After all, people do business with people. We’re all in the same boat and what’s going on right now affects us all. However, avoid unnecessary jokes and polarising statements; be creative and interested.

Potential business contacts are not part of your network but you can approach them in the same way. A rule of thumb here is that when you are digitally connected to someone, it is important to keep that connection alive by reacting to his or her activities. A like or a short response can work wonders.

Step 4: Speak your mind and be committed

The power of a relationship manager is personal contact, but if you are at home in times like these, you will have to compensate by being even more active digitally. Make yourself heard somehow. Action and reaction is what it’s all about. If you get a like on a post, send a personal message and make contact. If you receive a response to an article or statement you’ve just published, pay attention to your contact’s response and build on it. Posting messages via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter strengthens your digital profile, so be committed and consistent. Do not polarise and do not seek confrontation. Your profile as a sales professional is about one thing and one thing only; connecting!

Step 5: Plan your day and take commercial hours into account

It takes iron discipline to take on the fight against time. Time flies by quickly, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a pile of e-mails and administrative work. That’s why planning your day is one of the most important activities that determine the success of your work.

Divide your day into three main activities:

  • Preparation: prepare call lists, specifically for projects that require calls to be made.
  • Customer contact: especially calling, initiating video conference.
  • Reference work: reporting, handling e-mails, updating customer registration system.

When planning your daily activities, you take the commercial hours into account. These are from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 16:00.

Business contacts are more accessible during commercial hours. Preparing call lists, writing reports, answering e-mails and contacting colleagues will be done outside commercial hours.

Step 6: Inject your knowledge back into the organisation and make your work visible to others.

Being cooped up at home isn’t fun, but it is no reason to be less productive. In difficult times, people gravitate towards trusted relationships and avoid risks. For a relationship manager, the focus will have to be on eliminating risks and building trust. Every moment of customer contact is an opportunity to build trust, gather knowledge, start projects and involve colleagues in your work process. Make a short report of your observation in your customer registration system, and link an activity to it if necessary. Make use of the organisation’s capacity and initiate future contact moments to ensure the continuity of your work.

The storm will eventually pass and the aftermath of the virus will leave its scars on humanity. Man is a great creature, we are made to survive, and the vast majority of people are surely going to survive this crisis. I do not believe in the theory of evolution, but I do believe in the evolution of mankind and our capacity to adapt to new circumstances. I hope you see the benefit of this document and I wish you all a healthy and successful life.

Dinsdag 7 april 2020 | written by Moustafa Turky MBA – Commercieel Directeur