Return to the workplace strategy: How to still hit your 2020 sales plans

Jun 19, 2020
Author: Julia Nymchynska

The path back into the workplace is still a cloudy one.

Around the world, sales teams are nervous. They’ve just finished adapting their playbooks to suit a remote office, and now there’s news of companies trying to return to work in the weeks ahead.

Although it’s uncertain how long it will really take to get back into the workplace at this stage, the truth is that we’ve all got yet another disruption to face on the horizon. Sales leaders will need to ask themselves how they’re going to approach the return to the office in a way that’s safe and efficient.

The first thing you need to know is that you can’t just return to business as usual.

COVID-19 hasn’t just changed the way that we work, but the way that we think about work too. We’ve seen that strategies like cloud communications and remote working can be beneficial and going back to the drawing board could mean exposing your company to reduced efficiency.

Instead, you’re going to need a strategy that combines your sales goals with what you’ve learned during this uncertain times. Here’s how to get started.

Advice from the pros: Adapting in uncertain times

The COVID-19 pandemic is sure to have had an impact on your business in some form or another. You’ve either seen a drop in your sales, a change in your go-to-market strategy, or an evolution in the way that you connect with your customers. There’s no doubt about it.

Just as you looked to market leaders for advice on how to cope with the sudden switch to life outside of the office, it’s worth taking the words of sales professionals into account again now.

Take it slow: The return to work is likely to happen slowly, which means that you’ll need to adapt slowly too. As John Barrows, CEO of JB Sales Training suggests, “Slow down and stop the generic cadences”. Build your return to work plan while reflecting on how your customer’s needs have changed over the last few months.

Keep customers front of mind: Remember, your “number one priority is to help your customers” (ASLAN training and Development, Tom Stanfill) – that’s something that’s going to stay the same as you pivot back into the traditional workplace. Focus on what’s going to make your customers feel more comfortable when returning to the office with you. Will they want to stick to video meetings for a while and avoid in-person conversations, for instance?

Plan everything: Only 10% of executives have done extensive planning on how they’re going to return to work. Unfortunately, rushing into old-fashioned processes too quickly could harm not just your bottom line but your business reputation too. Ask yourself how quickly you should be pushing all of your staff members into the office? Would hosting large events and demanding face-to-face demonstrations seem thoughtless right now?

Keep your empathy: It’s likely that many of the concerns and issues that emerged for your customers during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain relevant for a while. Concentrate on giving your clients exactly what they need. As Bob Perkins, Founder of AA-ISP says:  “Yes, we must continue to achieve our sales objectives but let’s share genuine empathy and care for our customers first.”

Follow federal guidelines: Remember, it’s important to show your customers and your employees that you’re putting safety first. Keep track of the latest government and public health guidelines as they relate to COVID-19. You don’t want to be seen as the business that endangered its clients and employees by rushing back into the office.

The return to work: Overcoming common challenges

We’re all going to face a series of challenges during the return to work after COVID-19. It seems likely that the government will still maintain some strategies for things like social distancing and client/employee safeguarding. This means that you won’t be able to instantly go back to the way things were.

Fortunately, with the right plan, you can ensure that you’re prepared to tackle some of the most common challenges of a return to work program head-on. For instance:

Challenge 1: Switching out of remote work

When the virus first forced companies to embrace remote working strategies, there was a lot of panic in the marketplace. Sales teams struggled to get used to an entirely digital environment, and the demand for collaboration tools was higher than ever. However, as the initial disruption died down, many of us found that working remotely was actually more convenient than working in an office.

Once you get the go-ahead to start transitioning team members back to the workplace, there’s a good chance you’re going to be met with some issues. Employees have discovered that working from home offers fewer distractions and more flexibility. The time usually spent commuting to the office is now available for crucial planning, meditation, or family time. The stress of getting ready for work each day has been replaced with an easy walk to the home office.

Your staff are unlikely to want to return to the way things were.

Rather than trying to push a return to work that involves everyone piling back into an office cubicle, it might be worth maintaining some of your remote working options for the employees that perform best in their own flexible environment.

You’ve already invested in the cloud-based software that you need to engage customers and keep employees connected outside of the office. Why not make the most of it?

Allowing for a continued remote working strategy will give your employees more freedom, while reducing office overheads as you attempt to rework your budget after the impact of this pandemic starts to die down. At the same time, you could find that maintaining your remote working strategy helps to bring more fresh talent to your company in the years to come.

Challenge 2: Empowering and protecting employees

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to transition your employees back into the workplace, you need to think about how you can add safety and support to your return to work program.

Most sales leaders will find that it’s vital to have a re-orientation or re-induction process that help staff to figure out what’s happening next. You may need to discuss new working schedules with your employees or ensure that they know which tools they’re going to be using if you’re moving away from the cloud.

The best way to limit disruption as much as possible will usually be to allow your employees to continue using the tools and applications that they’ve found useful in the last couple of months. Your team members don’t necessarily need to be working remotely to have video conferences instead of in-office meetings. What’s more, maintaining the same tools for CRM and revenue optimization could ensure that there are no gaps in your sales analytics too.

As well as getting the right software in place, remember to think about the infrastructure changes you’ll need to make to your office. If you’re sticking with your new strategy to deliver demonstrations and presentations virtually, maybe you need to turn your in-office meeting room into a video huddle room instead?

What’s more, it may be worth considering how you can preserve the safety of any staff members who are returning to the office, by  adding more hygiene stations to your office, and keeping desks far apart.

Challenge 3: Your company culture

Thanks to the massive disruptions in the business and sales landscape, there’s a good chance your company culture has gone through the ringer. As companies have struggled to find a way to keep teams connected in a remote environment, there’s a chance that your employees have lost sight of your company’s values and missions.

As you plan the return to work, think about how you can enhance your focus on workplace culture. Start by promoting cross-functional collaboration using the tools you’ve embraced in the last couple of weeks. If you implemented a gamification element to your sales where you awarded a prize to the salesperson with the best outcomes each week, stick with that process.

Gamification can be an excellent way to keep employees engaged, and all it takes is a little tracking on your sales engagement platform to see who is performing best. With the right cloud solutions, you can ensure that you’re tracking the work outcomes of both your internal teams and the people who continue to work remotely outside of the office.

This ensures that even though your employees might be working in different locations for a while, they’re all on the same page when it comes to meeting sales expectations. You can even consider investing in some fun team-building events that people can participate in digitally, like a video conference where everyone uses a funny filter to change their face.

Challenge 4: Updating processes

A lot of sales teams have needed to adjust their sales processes over the last couple of months. After all, if your employees were working from home, and face-to-face demonstrations were no longer available, you couldn’t rely on things like events and presentations to make a sale.

As the world begins to return to normal, you’ll need to think about which new processes you should keep in your strategy. For instance, there may be no need to avoid events in the future. Still, you might find that it saves time and money to issue demonstrations digitally, using video webinars and collaboration tools. This way, your customers can choose a time that works for them, and you don’t have to travel across the country.

You might also find that you can connect with more leads if you stick with some of the engagement strategies that you started during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, are your clients more likely to respond to messages sent through LinkedIn and social media, than phone calls?

Use the metrics that you’ve gathered over the last couple of months to decide which processes should remain in place as you plan your return to work program. After you know what kind of strategies you’re going to be using, make sure that you create a full and comprehensive playbook for your team members to follow.

According to a Gallup poll, managers that establish clear expectations for team members are more likely to experience outstanding results.

Challenge 5: Falling back into old habits

Finally, as terrifying and overwhelming as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it has also presented an amazing opportunity for sales teams to think outside of the box and try new things. As Alice Heiman, the CEO and Founder of Alice Heiman LLC says: “Out of chaos comes innovation.”

As you prepare for the return to work, don’t let the innovations and ideas that have helped you to grow over the last few months fizzle out. You’ve put in the time and effort to discover new sales processes and strategies that work in a digital environment, so take the lessons that you’ve learned with you.

Pay attention to the metrics and information that you’ve gathered over the last few months from new interactions with customers and ask yourself how you can continue to use those lessons in the years ahead. Whether it’s a new set of processes or a new go-to-market strategy, take advantage of this opportunity that you’ve had to grow. Don’t let yourself fall back into the old bad habits of doing things “they way they’ve always been done.”

Planning your return to work program

Ultimately, the return to work is likely to be a confusing experience for a lot of sales teams. It’s going to take time for us to find our footing again after such a significant market disruption. However, just as you adapted to the concept of remote teams and working away from the office, you’ll learn how to adapt again.

The most important thing you can do right now is listen to your customers, empower your employees, and make sure that you learn from what’s happened in the last few months.

Julia loves all things innovation, productivity, and tech. Currently, she’s helping companies increase their ROE (Return on Customer Engagement) at revenuegrid.com