By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

COVID-19 has been a challenging time for salespeople. The social distancing norms have compelled the teams to stay at home and interact with prospects online instead of having a face-to-face conversation. This makes it more difficult for them to close deals. Challenges in closing deals are not exactly new for salespeople. However, given the current situation, it could add a real strain to the spirits of the team. 

In times like these, sales coaching comes to rescue.

It helps to boost the team’s morale and keep them engaged. 

Unlike sales training programs where the teams are trained on how to sell a product or service, sales coaching takes a more personalized approach towards a holistic development. 

Through sales coaching, organizations can identify the gaps in each salesperson and try to provide a custom-made solution to fix it and help them grow. Think of it as a mentor-mentee relation where the end goal is to nurture the person and not necessarily only sell more products.

So, what can companies do to keep the teams motivated and engaged?

Assess the team’s strength and weakness

Every salesperson is different. Some may be extremely confident; some may be anxious while pitching. A one-size-fits-all approach would not work in such cases. The sales coach has to assess each person individually to find their strength and weakness. To remove prejudices or assumptions during an evaluation, coaches can use AI-based tools to measure the team’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Numly™, for instance, provides a 16-personality factor self-evaluation that measures the strengths and weaknesses of a person’s personality traits. It offers accurate insights that help the coach find areas of improvement for each salesperson and coach them accordingly.

Provide personalized feedback

Based on the assessment, the coach can formulate a detailed and personalized feedback to guide the salesperson effectively. Giving feedback cannot be a one-off activity. It is a continuous process that leads to a journey of holistic development. 

Coaches can leverage tools to make this a productive process. For example, Numly offers organizations with custom engagement tools that identify skills gaps in each salesperson and pairs them internally with a coach. The coach helps the salesperson to meet their goals using various methods such as self-scoring, peer-rating, and continuous feedback.  

Develop new skills

The modern-day customer is well-informed. A cold call or aggressive sales pitch can no longer persuade them to buy a product. They have to be educated, informed, and provided with relevant content so that they can trust the company. 

Salespeople cannot just pick the phone and start pitching. They must develop a different approach to build a long-term relationship with the customer. It has become even more critical now, as COVID-19 has led to an economic meltdown across the globe. Salespeople will have to become more empathetic instead of pushy to gain the prospect’s trust. Such skills cannot be attained overnight. Only a sales coach can help the team to develop new skills, and catch up with customer needs, and their way of engaging with the company. A personalized sales coaching program will eventually help the sales team to do their job better. 

Change the behavior

Behavior, like new skills, cannot be improved in a day. It is an ongoing effort, wherein, the sales coach identifies a positive behavior and reinforces it to bring in a change within the person. So, it could be encouraging an introvert to open up and communicate more with the customers or coaching someone to listen more and talk less. A positive change will help the sales team to perform better and deliver better results. 

Build a strong relationship

Sales is all about building a strong relationship – not just with the customer, but also with other stakeholders such as the marketing team, the product team, etc. To create a positive and harmonious relationship, the sales team can take guidance from sales coaches. They can learn how to develop a relationship with internal and external stakeholders and use it to build goodwill for the company and themselves. A good sales team knows how to keep everyone happy and achieve their goals. 

Conclusion 

Sales is less about selling a product, and more about the process of doing it. A successful salesperson possesses the right power skills. They don’t sell; they build relationships. 

Power skills are a combination of science and arts. With the right tools and accurate data, companies can help their sales teams to improve these skills and build a roadmap to a successful sales career. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

“Crisis does not build character. It reveals it”.

The strength of a true leader is revealed when it comes under fire. And it can be safe to say that the past few months have been an extremely testing period for leaders across organizations. 

As the lockdowns are gradually being lifted across the world, we are just about realizing what our new normal is going to be like. The term, ‘responsible leadership’ takes on a deeper meaning as employees and customers try to settle into the new rhythm of things. 

The global environment that was already fast-moving now has become unfamiliar as well. Virtually all organizations are identifying how to get back to ‘normal,’ but speed is also of the essence. 

Leadership has to work quickly to redistribute disrupted supply chains, they need to safeguard employees, have to enable a remote workforce with no time in hand to ease people into it, and also have to be the bearers of bad news. All of this, while maintaining their own energy so that they can inspire confidence and continue to motivate their employees.

The thing with leadership is that it has leaders, even the highly successful ones, to be in a mode of continuous improvement. They have to look at ways to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and have to embrace change faster or run the risk of being outrun. 

Irrespective of their effectiveness, yesterday, today and tomorrow will make new demands on the leaders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that clearly. And there is no playbook to refer to what to do and how to change leadership styles in the face of a 21st-century pandemic. 

While there might not be any silver bullet suggestions on how to navigate the challenges of the new reality, it is clear that leadership has to become more accommodating than ever before.

‘Building Trust’ was important before – it is essential now

The definition of a good leader has always included an element of trust. A leader can only be considered a good one when the workforce expresses trust in them. With COVID-19, this has assumed deeper importance. The workforce is looking to trust its leaders, and this trust can now be inspired only with clear and focused actions.

The actions of the leaders have to show their employees that they care for each individual. They are not mere cogs in the wheel. Along with caring, leadership has to become more transparent about their plans, how they plan to navigate the treacherous business landscape and communicate clearly with their employees. Establishing strong communication and governance principles, and the tone becomes important to build trust.

Increase focus on shared purpose

Leaders also work on building ‘shared purpose’ with their employees now. With teams operating remotely and with uncertainty looming large, employees need an anchor to get a sense of connection and belonging.

Once President John F. Kennedy visited a NASA space center. He met a janitor and asked him, “what are you doing”. He replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When people are connected to their work, when they have a sense of shared purpose, they become more committed to their work.

Given the upheaval that COVID-19 has had on people, how it has impacted them at a professional and personal level, how it has changed the world of work, how isolated the entire experience has been, leadership has a lot of work to do. They have to help employees reconnect with their work, find a sense of purpose and excitement in their roles and relearn how it ties back to the business goals. Irrespective of how big or small their role is, leadership has to work on helping employees understand how they are contributing to the larger picture.

Also Read: Engaged Employees Are Driven by Shared Values and Vision

Over Communication – there’s no such word anymore

There is no such word as ‘over-communication’ in the vocabulary of the leadership anymore. Establishing new guidelines as the world of work hobbles back to its older pace and with uncertainty looming large, the focus falls heavily on leadership communication skills to keep their teams connected.

While leadership had to always maintain clear communication, today this communication needs to be more detailed, transparent, emphatic, and continuous. Ambiguity is overwhelming in the minds of the employees. It becomes the task of the leadership to rally around clear and consistent communication. Leadership across the organization also has to also be in sync with each other, and thus establishing strong communication guidelines and protocols are now even more essential.

Leadership has to step down from its altar and get down into the trenches. This means becoming more visible in even standard meetings (think everyday sprint sessions or client calls) to establish their presence and make the workforce feel like they are a part of the crowd.

Take tough decisions

When the pandemic hit the world with all its force, leaders across the globe were compelled to act urgently to enable remote working. Many organizations in the pre-pandemic time were already aware that they would have to enable some form of remote working. The pandemic just shows us that we need to accelerate human and machine collaboration to support people to adopt a more digital way of working.

Those in leadership roles have to now take many such tough decisions. Whether it is to restructure and realign the workforce, identify new revenue streams, refocus the business, or include more automation, the road ahead involves taking several new and tough  decisions. These have to be taken with integrity, intention, and without guilt.

Increase flexibility, agility, and empathy

Flexibility, agility, and empathy – these are venerable traits in the new world. If leaders are not already working with cross-functional, agile teams, the time to do so would be now. There is no place for functional silos anymore.

The world is only going to become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). As leaders face this new world, past experiences might not be enough to navigate through the current scenarios. Leadership development has already been focused on increasing the capacity of leaders to deal with VUCA. 

For this, developing traits of flexibility to accept challenges, agility to deal with such challenges easily, and empathy to help others to overcome rapidly changing realities become essential arsenal in the leadership kitty.

Also Read: The 3 Most In-Demand Power Skills for Managers Today

Learning intelligence and growth mindset

Leadership also has to now take a deeper dive into the growth mindset. They have to actively invite and objectively evaluate information and ideas not only from within their own organization but also from peers and colleagues in other organizations.

Leadership has to believe in ‘learning intelligence’. They have to develop the ability to look for help and learn and leverage others’ expertise and experiences to increase their ability to make better and well-informed decisions.  

It is time for leadership to gear up and increase their stamina and build resilience for the long haul now. Given the way the world is shaping up, it is clear that they need to build their capacity to run a grueling marathon over a sprint.

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

In the last few weeks, companies around the world have directed their employees to work from home to maintain social distancing and to safeguard themselves from the further spread of COVID-19.

While people welcomed the move, they are finding it difficult to strike a work-life balance.

Children interrupting a conference call, poor internet connectivity, and the blurring line between work and personal life are some of the challenges that people are facing right now. To add to the woes, employees not used to the system of working from home are grappling with loneliness and burnout. In fact, companies like Microsoft, Deloitte, and Procter and Gamble are reaching out to professional counselors and psychiatrists to help employees to tackle the current pandemic and the loneliness caused by social distancing. 

With no immediate respite in sight, employees are compelled to realign the way they work with the existing techniques.

So, what can employees do to stay productive while working from home?

Tips on Staying Productive While Working From Home

Flexible schedule and mindset

You may see a dip in your productivity levels as you work from home. There will be distractions, numerous calls from managers and team members, and some of you may also have to work across different time zones to collaborate better with team members from across the globe. Considering that this is the need of the hour, you need to develop an open mindset and be open to working in a flexible schedule to align yourself with other team members and to ensure that there are no negative implications on business. 

Self-discipline

It is easy to lose self-discipline while working from home. You may feel tempted to snooze the alarm clock and sleep an extra hour because you don’t have to get ready and travel. In fact, there have been reports on how employees turn up in home clothes for video conferences. It is advisable to follow self-discipline and remind yourself that you have to go to work even if it means working from home. Following the same routine of waking up at the same time, getting ready, and starting work at the same time will help employees to stay focused and disciplined throughout the lockdown period. 

Motivation

With no water cooler discussions, team lunches, or occasional walks at the garden, you are bound to feel disconnected and lonely. It is essential to stay connected, especially during these times, when there is panic all around the world. Checking in with the team members before the meeting kickstarts, working at the same time, and virtual tea sessions are some ways to keep the team members motivated. InMobi, for example, has asked managers to connect with their staff individually. Every Thursday, the team members wear caps or connect while having tea or coffee. “We are trying to ensure that we don’t lose the connect. It’s important for employees to meet and connect,” said Sahil Mathur, the global head of HR and culture at InMobi. 

Verbal and written communication skills

Imagine receiving an email that has no clarity on what is expected. In the usual situation, you would walk to the sender’s desk and get your doubts clarified. But imagine the same situation while working from home. An unclear message can delay the completion of tasks. Much time will be spent on understanding, calling, and emailing people back and forth. As Kim Koga, a solutions engineer at Zesto.io said, “Sometimes I just need a quick yes or no, or a time frame of when something can get done, and our internal communication tool doesn’t cut it. I could wait hours for what could be a quick response in person.” The only way to solve this issue is to communicate clearly with the team members, leaving no room for misinterpretations or miscommunication. It will save other’s time and lead to timely completion of tasks. 

Collaboration and teamwork

Several projects demand people to work in collaboration. It also requires them to manage projects on a large scale. So, how do companies ensure collaboration when employees work from home? Luckily, they can leverage collaboration tools such as Slack for communication, Zoom for video calls, and Trello to manage projects. Maintaining ongoing communication will also foster teamwork despite people working from different locations. Appen, a US-based machine learning company, for example, used a variety of collaboration tools and internal forums to drive communication and to troubleshoot common issues. 

Time management

The lines between personal time and work have blurred. Employees have multiple chores to finish and not to forget numerous distractions that could lead to delay in completing a task. Focusing on work can also become challenging. Hence, time management is crucial. You must learn to schedule your time and demarcate your personal time from work time. Switching off completely after calling the day off, avoiding multitasking, and prioritizing tasks, are a few ways to manage time efficiently. 

The lockdown may get extended for a few more weeks, prompting companies to seriously consider making some of their functions virtual. It can help them streamline their operations and reduce establishment costs. With telecommuting becoming popular, and collaborative tools making it easy for people to work more efficiently, we foresee more remote working opportunities in the future. Employees must take this experience as a learning opportunity to get acquainted with the future of work. The onus also lies upon companies to find ways to keep employees engaged, so they do not face burnout or loneliness while working. 

Find out how to keep the employees engaged during and beyond the current COVID–19 pandemic.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The world is bracing itself against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. Many organizations are scraping big-ticket events − Facebook’s F8 2020 Developer’s Conference and the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 already stand canceled. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and the like are taking deliberate steps to support their staff with remote working opportunities to keep the workforce productive, without compromising on health.

Twitter, for example, has made it mandatory for all its 5,000 employees located in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan to work from home. Facebook is conducting interviews via video−conferencing instead of in−person. Amazon has asked its Seattle workers to work from home as well for the time being.

While Coronavirus risk is pushing organizations to support remote work, the fact is that, for many companies remote working has already become the new normal.

−A report by PWC shows that 64% of millennials would like to work from home.

− Another study by Buffer on the state of remote work in 2019 showed that ‘99% of the interviewees reported that they would like, at least once in their career, to be able to work off−site’.

− A Zapier report showed that approximately 74% of the workforce would quit a job for one that offers remote working options. The report further elaborated that 57% of the workforce consider remote working options their ‘most preferred employment perk’.

A Upwork study revealed 63% of companies now have remote workers.

Companies such as WordPress have augmented the case for remote working as well. WordPress, for example, runs on a 100% distributed team and runs at a successful net worth of $1.16 billion.

It is hardly a surprise that remote working is growing at a phenomenal pace. As we waltz into the age of hyper−mobility, remote working is emerging as a valuable tool for organizations − to gain access to a skilled workforce, irrespective of location, and to improve competitiveness.

With remote working becoming a grounding reality, organizations have an important question to consider − how can they engage a remote workforce? While it might seem that enabling remote working should be enough to guarantee high productivity, the isolation element of remote working can impact the engagement levels of employees.

Not being physically present with other team members and colleagues can have residual effects on team performance, individual productivity, and communication. Consequently, it impacts employee engagement as well.

So what can organizations do to keep their remote teams from falling into the chasm of disengagement?

Identify high−potential remote employees

In the midst of acute skills shortage, organizations are increasingly compelled to look within their workforce and identify high−potential employees who can fuel their leadership pipeline. Lack of interaction and contact between employees owing to physical distance can lead to discontent and flagging motivation levels. All of these contribute to lower productivity and end up impacting the bottom line negatively.

Just like the in−house workforce, organizations have to give equal opportunities to their remote workforce to thrive in their careers. It is essential to have clear, open, and transparent communication along with a proactive feedback process to enable employees at work. The absence of face time and day−to−day interactions should not be an impediment to identify hard−working employees and help them navigate their careers to success.

Provide opportunities for skill development

Not all are created equal in the work environment. However, the tables often turn unfavorably on remote workers as organizations do not focus on the skill development of this remote workforce as their other counterparts.

However, while it can be easy to identify the technical skill development needs of this workforce, finding out where they need help to hone their power skills can be a challenge. Power skills such as problem-solving, communication, decision making, collaboration, and such are important tools that help navigate the workplace challenges and also increase employee engagement levels. Along with this, power skills also help in creating a more mature and well−rounded leadership pipeline − one where power skills complement technical skills.

Enable self-development

The art of self−development is a critical art to master in remote working environments. However, the boon often becomes a curse in the absence of direction when it comes to chart one’s career path.

It can be hard for remote workers to know how they can improve, and which development aspects they should focus on, especially in the absence of everyday interactions. This can lead to dejection and flagging engagement, especially if employees feel they are not rewarded at the end of the year. The reality of today’s work environment is that people have to be self−motivated. And organizations have to enable this self−motivation and self−development.

Helping employees understand the areas of improvement and development, especially in a remote environment, can be a challenge. However, organizations can leverage assessments such as 16 Personality Factor (16PF) Assessments to help their workforce identify their potential and development needs quantitatively.

Armed with this information, organizations can leverage coaching as a tool to help their remote workforce navigate the skills chasm (especially soft/power skills) and drive business results by becoming more engaged.

Say goodbye to generic engagement programs

Engaging a remote workforce means saying goodbye to archaic, one−size−fits−all engagement programs. Given the rising number of millennials in the workforce, their proficiency and ease with technology, and their predisposition towards personalization, engagement programs need to be tailored to meet each enterprise function and the audience specifically.

Employee engagement initiatives can be broken down into smaller programs that will resonate with the remote workforce. This could include aspects such as core values and skill development, innovation engineering, new hire skill development, inside sales coaching, sales management coaching, and many more. Taking a tailored approach that accounts for the unique development needs of the remote workforce helps in driving up engagement levels, even in remote teams.

Along with all this, to boost employee engagement levels of the remote workforce, organizations should foster shared values, ensuring that employees, irrespective of their location, are bound by common work principles and attitudes. Shared values have to be a part of the everyday existence of the employees and hence have to be communicated clearly, and repeatedly. It can be an incredible tool to boost engagement with remote teams.

NumlyEngage is an innovative platform that enables the development of soft skills through personalized coaching, in a structured and consistent manner, and enhanced by Machine Learning and AI. Talk to us to know how you can leverage the power of NumlyEngage to deliver measurably greater employee engagement for your remote workforce.