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How 3M Transitioned Thousands of Field Reps to Remote Sales

3M, leading maker of personal protective equipment, shares how it applies the best practices of inside sales to field reps.

In the early days of COVID-19, I noticed something I’d never seen before on our sales team: field reps reaching out to inside sales reps, asking them for tips on selling – especially related to building remote customer relationships and video conferencing.

I’m the inside sales technology leader at 3M, the major producer of single-use N95 respirator masks, hospital cleaning solutions, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). I normally work on building technology processes for our inside sales teams. But since the pandemic began to take hold, I’ve been tasked with retraining field reps using our inside sales best practices so we can continue helping customers.

How 3M Is Managing Sales Teams From Home

Find out how manufacturing firm 3M pivoted its sales team to meet global demand.

Now, a month later, I’m looking at a sales team that’s pivoted 100% to working from home. In that time, I’m proud we’ve trained trainers and reps across all our regions – U.S., Canada, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia, and even Guam.

Through this experience, we’ve learned a lot about pivoting our selling strategies. All sales teams have to sell from home right now. So I hope my tips help you learn from what we’ve tested and implemented.

Learn more about our story and the tools we use in 3M’s recent webinar about running sales from home.

1. Create a training task force

Our sales leadership knew we had to keep sales moving in the new fully remote selling environment.

One of the first things our leaders did was assemble a first-of-its-kind virtual selling team. This task force combined a few leaders from inside sales, including me, with global trainers to plan brand-new training for field reps wherever they are, from Los Angeles to Madrid, Spain. Our new training helped traditional field sellers – accustomed to office visits and client dinners – connect with customers virtually.

As part of our virtual selling team, I’m helping train our trainers, who then train their respective teams. With this model, we’re cascading the guidance to everyone who needs it, getting field sellers comfortable with a whole new selling motion. What does that motion include? It’s largely dependent on having the right technology, which brings me to my next point.

We’re training field sellers to be comfortable with a whole new selling motion, learning from our inside selling best practices.

2. Retrain sellers with the right technology

My priority is arming our totally virtual salesforce with the best technology. Sales Cloud and Chatter are a major part of that tech stack. We were already using these tools before the crisis, but now we’re teaching our teams how to get the most out of them.

Here’s how we’re doing that:

Logging every interaction in Sales Cloud

Now that everyone at 3M is selling from home, it’s critical to track every customer interaction, even if those interactions are video chats. Our field reps have always been great at logging pipeline, but not necessarily every conversation because they were on the road. Now that everyone’s in front of a computer, they’re logging interactions more holistically, catching up to the way our inside sales teams do it – and we can better track trends and progress.

Leaning on data to see what’s working

Data is fundamental to building and maintaining forecasts, even though things are changing quickly. I’m asking teams to look at the data in Sales Cloud regularly to motivate them. Everyone is learning to sell from home, so we’re relying on that data every day to see what’s working and what’s not. For example, I recently noticed in Sales Cloud that a rep had 60 people from one account log into a video meeting. As soon as I saw it, I congratulated him on the impressive work.

Encouraging teams to celebrate on Chatter

In the past, when someone put through a big sale, we could give them a high-five in the office. Now, we’re using Chatter as a way to celebrate wins from home and keep everyone feeling positive. Our inside sales reps were already doing this, which has been valuable modeling for our field teams to see.

When training new reps, I always remind them that Salesforce is our customer relationship management (CRM) tool – the word relationship is there for a reason. Customer relationships are still the most important thing, and technology is how we maintain those relationships right now. So ensure your teams have the technology they need to stay connected.

All of our teams are reskilling to sell from home. We’re relying on Sales Cloud data every day to see what’s working and what’s not.

3. Change your KPIs to reflect the new way of selling

For inside sales reps, we’ve always had a key performance indicator (KPI) of 10 conversations a day. That’s now become the KPI for field sales reps who are selling from home, too.

At first, it was more of an encouragement. But as working from home has become a longer-term necessity, we’ve embraced it fully. Why 10? For our business, it’s been a good measurement of whether you still take the time to have meaningful conversations throughout the day, even though you can’t go into an office.

We’re also piloting new tools and processes to reflect our shifting environment, like logging emails through Salesforce Inbox. The KPIs you choose will depend on your industry and how much is evolving. But make sure you’re not using 2019 KPIs amid 2020 challenges.

Make sure you’re not using 2019 KPIs amid 2020 challenges.

4. Build your team’s confidence in remote selling

Many field reps may believe their success hinges on the ability to shake hands and meet in-person. That makes the present time tough. As part of our virtual selling team, though, I’ve seen firsthand that field reps can quickly get confident and effective at remote sales skills.

As a sales leader, you can help reduce anxiety among your team members and get them back to work by reminding them customers are open to using new tools. Everyone is using video conferencing now, even grandparents! Reps can still give presentations, have a sense of humor, and demo remotely. For example, one of our reps hung up a rival football flag behind his desk of his customer’s favorite team to start a fun conversation.

When you put customers first, it makes the rest of your job much easier.

Of course, some products are easier to demo than others. We definitely can’t showcase a large sterilization product via video chat. But we’re encouraging reps to get creative as they develop new demo tactics – like sending a prerecorded demo video before a call instead of showing it live.

Our inside sales team has been a big help in boosting confidence, too. They’ve shown our field reps how to start Chatter groups for different regions and use Sales Cloud to report their progress.

The effects of COVID-19 will linger long after offices reopen, so all the reskilling of your sales team now will pay off moving forward. I’m proud we’ve been able to move fast and keep customers first. When you put customers first, it makes the rest of your job much easier.

For more on 3M’s story, check out our on-demand webinar.

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