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PPE To the People: How 3M Is Managing Sales Teams From Home

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[®RZCREATIVE/Stocksy United]

The last month at work has been one of the most challenging and rewarding of my career. That’s because I lead customer relationship management (CRM) at 3M. As the major producer of single-use N95 respirator masks, hospital cleaning solutions, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), 3M is in a unique position to provide critical tools for the fight against COVID-19. We’re doing that by:

  • Increasing our global PPE output.
  • Combating unethical counterfeiters of our products.
  • Prioritizing shipments to people who need our products most.

I’m proud that we’ve been able to quickly pivot our sales approach overnight while maintaining our customer relationships and productivity. Learn more about our story in my recent webinar, and read on to discover how our team has adapted to all the changes.

Solving for speed

With PPE pricing going through the roof and unethical counterfeiters purporting to sell our products, we had to act fast. We quickly stood up a site inviting anyone with concerns to report them. This critical effort includes an 800 number, a service queue, multiple languages, email support, and redeployed inside sales reps to handle the new inbound traffic.

Laptop with 3M's site for reporting COVID-19 fraud, price-gouging, and counterfeit products
3M’s site reports COVID-19 fraud, price-gouging, and counterfeit products

Because we could model the same service setup we already had for other divisions using Service Cloud, the project team and I had our new fraud hotline operating within 48 hours. 

Another example of how we’ve had to move fast: Early in the crisis, our CEO asked us to send a single email to all of our customers, highlighting details of our company’s response. Around 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, he requested that email to millions of contacts be sent the next day. Luckily, all of our customer data was in Salesforce, so we were able to get a clean, validated contact list that was free of duplicates, globally compliant, and ready to use – all within the tight time frame.

Running sales from home

Field sales is a big focus for 3M, with reps accustomed to in-person account visits. Suddenly, we had to make field sellers into inside sellers – in other words, remote sellers. Fortunately, we have a single instance of Salesforce deployed in 83 countries and in 13 languages. That means our leadership can look at sales and pipeline holistically across our business, and field reps can use the same tools from home as they do on the road. All the core CRM functionalities – account, contact, opportunity, and case management – that reps normally use still apply. These core functionalities are perhaps more important now than ever.

With one Salesforce instance, we can leverage knowledge across teams. A great example is helping field reps learn from veteran inside sales reps. Our corporate training team is making their in-person training materials virtual. 

Every rep can also flag a COVID-19 field in Sales Cloud to identify which opportunities have been impacted by the virus. This easy-to-add, no-code tag helps us expedite deals, so 3M can get PPE and other necessities to the right people on the front lines at the right time. In addition to tracking new business with this field, we’re also using it to track potential business lost. This negative forecasting gives our sales leaders a full, dynamic pipeline view.

With everyone now selling virtually, we’re also using this opportunity to encourage sellers to master their Sales Cloud fundamentals: updating accounts, logging activities, building lists, and beyond. 

By upskilling our team members, we’re enriching their capabilities now while giving them the tools they need for the future – all with the goal of building strong, effective customer relationships.

Sales Cloud helps us expedite deals so we can get PPE and other necessities to the right people at the right time.

Prioritizing productivity and agility


For me, the past month has underscored the importance of transparent communication – and the power of technology to keep folks on different sides of the country or even planet aligned.

Our distributed team had to rethink business planning between sales teams and our distributors. Before COVID-19, we were piloting Salesforce Anywhere (SFA) to review and organize key accounts, using custom templates integrated with Sales Cloud. Now, we’re rolling out new processes in SFA to standardize widely different businesses with distributors. It’s easy, because SFA is versatile and intuitive to learn, quickly becoming a muscle memory for reps and partners.

Without code or IT support, the combination of Sales Cloud and SFA is promising to be a secret sauce, helping us get through remote collaboration challenges, like updating external partners on internal accounts.

Phones that demo how 3M uses Sales Cloud and Quip for remote collaboration
Sales Cloud and SFA are useful for remote collaboration

Leveraging the power of one platform

Thanks to Customer 360 and a single instance of Salesforce, we have our analytics and data centralized in one place. That ensures we’re as ready as we can be for whatever comes our way. 

We lean deeply on analytics to manage our sales teams and supply chain effectively. The value of CRM comes when you extract and gain insights from the data that’s captured upstream in the process. That value isn’t about the quantity of data points you put into the platform, it’s about what you do with them. That’s especially true right now. 

We’re aggressively piloting Tableau CRM to give us one intelligent pipeline dashboard, even as a complex company bringing in tens of billions of dollars. With that view, we’re able to track business risk and take action where it counts. 

Because data is standardized across teams, regions, and business units, it acts as a north star, guiding us toward the most critical areas of focus.

The value of data isn’t about the quantity of data points you put into the platform. It’s about what you do with them. That’s especially true right now.

Coming out of this crisis, my teams and I will have learned a lot and changed our processes for the better. My advice for other leaders: Lean into this as an opportunity to adapt, transform, and help your community.

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