In many organizations, the sales team was using a hybrid work model long before we all started using the term.
Reps would regularly come to the office, for example, especially when they had to meet with their managers or the rest of the team. Those in sales have also needed to connect with their counterparts in marketing to align on the volume and quality of leads being generated, or to fine-tune the value propositions of products and services.
That said, sales reps were rarely confined to a cubicle and a swivel chair for long.
Closing a deal has often meant meeting with clients on site at their offices, whether it was making a pitch to a single decision maker or to an entire buying committee.
In other cases customers might be more willing to discuss a purchase in a more informal setting, like a networking event.
Sales teams have also been a staple of the conference circuit, either manning the booth at a trade show or even hosting demos at nearby hotel rooms or other facilities.
The dynamic nature of working in sales has led the most successful reps to become really good at communicating and collaborating no matter where they’re located. They can close deals in their home office or even their car as they would from their employer’s physical headquarters.
Today, of course, hybrid work models are emerging as more communication is happening in ways other than just a phone call or e-mail. There might need to be greater flexibility in how the team comes together, and what should be on the agenda for those meetings.
For managers who were used to coaching reps in person during weekly touchpoints, meanwhile, hybrid work might call for some additional check-ins or changes to how guidance is offered.
If you’re a sales leader, make sure your team feels consulted and like they are active contributors in the transition to hybrid work. This means conducting a conversation that touches on the following points:
In a hybrid work model, the dreaded “status update” meeting may finally be coming to an end. Rather than force reps to sit down in person to provide details on the progress of the deals in their pipeline, there should be other ways to give managers and coworkers the information they need.
If the company has standardized on using a CRM, for example, all the details are already in the platform and accessible to whoever needs it. Instead, you might want to determine whether there are channels to raise a red flag when a deal is no longer going to close as expected, such as a text message.
For other kinds of meetings — such as conveying information about a new company policy or an update on a product’s feature set — e-mail or a message in Slack could do the job. This would leave videoconfencing sessions an ideal place to brainstorm solutions to problems or to make decisions collectively.
In-person gatherings can still be important, whether it’s for the purposes of training reps on new products and services or simply culture-building activities, such as celebrating company milestones.
A hybrid work model could have people in and out of the office unexpectedly, so agreeing upon at least a few times when people are available on site could ease scheduling issues.
Of course, there might still be last-minute emergencies or opportunities with clients that take a rep out of the office, but aim for a balance of consistency and flexibility.
When people are working at home or another location, they may still organize their time in a routine manner. They might prefer to organize their calls and meetings earlier in the day, for example, leaving the afternoons free to create pitch desks, update the CRM and respond to messages in their inbox.
The better you understand how reps want to work, the more likely they’ll be ready to respond if you reach out with a question or want to offer some coaching.
People used to come into the office because it was the rule. As those rules change, companies have an opportunity to reflect on the purpose of being on site and how they can use those moments to enhance the sales team’s development.
Reps might say they like gathering in person to have more spontaneous interactions with each other than other departments, for instance. Others might say they want to get inspired by getting a first-hand look at products in development or hearing about the company’s strategic vision.
Maybe some reps will want to be in the office because it has helpful amenities, like proximity to a good cafe, a gym or a wellness centre. Even nice art and plants can create an atmosphere that builds a strong employee experience.
Sales reps may be used to being on the road, but a hybrid work model is still a significant change and may make a few people nervous. Discuss a timeline for when you can conduct a sort of town hall for reps to share their feedback and get transparent responses from managers.
If you’re moving to a hybrid work model, it’s probably because the company recognizes that it’s not possible to empower team members to be successful from anywhere. The sales team may not need to be “sold” on this idea, but by asking the right questions you can help them embrace it and make the most of it.