Building and Managing a Productive Remote Sales Team

The sales team is usually the most euphoric and energetic team of an organization. It is their collective horsepower that drives businesses ahead even in trying times. It is, however, a team that craves interaction and thrives in the physical environment. COVID has thus played havoc with the psyche of the otherwise strong and exuberant team of the workforce. Here’s exploring how top business leaders are keeping their sales team motivated in such hard times.

Post the initial shock, most companies were up and running within a couple of weeks. The employees were successfully working remotely, and productivity was restored. The insurance sector actually picked up post-COVID. Bajaj Allianz issued 25 lakh policies and settled 17 lakh claims despite the pandemic. All the transactions were closed digitally, very smoothly.

In the words of Tapan Singhel, MD & CEO, Bajaj Allianz, “Pre-COVID, although digital tools were ready, policies were largely being sold offline. Due to the sudden shift to digital mode, coupled with COVID led uncertainties, our sales team felt insecure. We connected directly with each of our employees and reassured them. We anticipated a mental health issue and onboarded an agency that our employees can reach out to. 33% of our employees have availed the service.”

Dinesh Aggarwal, Panasonic’s Joint MD, claimed that this has been a rewarding period. They utilized the time to engage and train the sales team on the product line up. Regular engagement has kept the team motivated. Going forward, they will continue with the current online initiatives for need creation and only a section of the sales team will make physical visits to close deals while the rest of the team will follow-up with leads on virtual calls.

Anupriya Acharya, CEO, Publicis Groupe, South Asia shared an interesting perspective, saying “We are creatures of habit and structure, so, to ensure the productivity stays up we introduced some structure. We set a sense of purpose and gave realistic goals to teams. Virtual connectivity worked for us. Teams had successful brainstorming sessions via digital meetings, and we had fabulous outcomes. Now, that our virtual townhalls happen nationally, some of the regional offices are feeling more connected. Appreciating people and celebrating small wins has helped in team motivation.”

All the leaders stressed the importance of connecting and engaging with employees. Virtual video calls and conducting fun sessions like Antakshari or Birthday celebrations contributes hugely to keep the team spirit alive. There is an anticipation of lethargy kicking in, however, since it is almost 3 months at a stretch that people are working from home. But with effective leadership, it can be overcome.

Tapan Singhel put on his thinking hat, and said, “Leadership is not a fancy or glamorous job. It is a hard job. As a leader, you can’t be demotivated or afraid. You need to address issues head-on. Identify problems and implement solutions. Be energetic, enthusiastic, empathetic, and instill a sense of purpose in the team.”

Leaders need to walk the talk and to do that effectively, they must take care of themselves – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They must put on their own oxygen mask first to be above the situation and think ahead, added Anupriya Acharya.

Devendra Chawla, MD & CEO, Spencer’s Retail & Nature’s Basket, shared a simple insight to round things off. “Empathy is of utmost importance, right now. People have a lot to say and must be heard. Leaders need to have regular virtual team meetings and occasional onsite visits to keep the team reassured and motivated.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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