Managing an Inside Sales Team During COVID-19

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You have an inside sales team who is now working in a distributed manner, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many companies have employees who work from home, very few have a fully distributed inside sales organization.

The question is how to manage a distributed team and ensure success during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Across the country all non-essential businesses are empty as their employees have been forced to work from home. This creates several challenges for a call team.

One of these new challenges is reaching prospects—now it is more difficult to reach people by phone, especially if they don’t have VOIP systems that can be set up anywhere. Additionally, distributed inside sales teams are not used to working from home, so it can be challenging to track team productivity. Managers will need to find a way to measure their success and productivity. It’s also challenging keeping teams engaged. Most inside sales team members sit within the same area in an office. They share ideas and hear their team members on the phone. Working from home, making dials day after day, especially when very few prospects answer, can be a very isolating experience. Putting the Covid-19 pandemic aside, sales teams are struggling to achieve revenue goals—they are finding it increasingly difficult to reach people on the phone. In 2018 over 8 billion robo-calls were sent to consumers and businesses. This, coupled with email over-exposure, has made selling more difficult than ever. 

The Fundamentals

Successful inside teams utilize sales fundamentals to ensure that they achieve their revenue targets. I will outline, briefly, these fundamentals. More information can be found in my book “Teleprospecting for Executives who Sell Complex Solutions.”

Successful teams during COVID-19:

Successful teams are driven to success by proven Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics. These KPIs and metrics are built utilizing funnel math to determine the number of inbound leads (HQLs or highly qualified leads) that are required to hit revenue objectives. Once the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) is determined to achieve 3x the revenue objective, managers have the data required to build out other weekly and monthly metrics to achieve the following objectives:

  • Total dials/day.
  • Number of key conversations.
  • Total HQLs (high quality leads that came from the MQLs). 
  • Sales funnel, per rep, that must be built to hit 3x of revenue target. This can be tracked, each month.
  • Quarterly revenue target required to hit an annual revenue goal.

Successful teams also track leads through the sales funnel to determine the number of quality leads that are coming into the sales organization. Leads should be given statuses that makes sense to sales. I use the following statuses:

  • Untouched: Lead has never been contacted.
  • Pursuing: Lead has been called with no connection.
  • Contacted: Someone answered the phone, but the person wasn’t the right contact and/or couldn’t move the sales process along.
  • Key Conversation: The sales rep had a quality phone call with a decision maker or influencer, which leads to a HQL or another call or a demo.
  • HQL: Rep has qualified the lead and it is ready to be converted to an opportunity.
  • Disqualified: After 10 attempts, or other issues, the lead has been disqualified. It is good to have disqualified reasons, such as a wrong number, no contact, etc. 
  • Nurture: Leads that aren’t ready to purchase now will be put back into the buyer’s journey. 

Teams should ensure that everyone has built a quarterly GOSPA or other mini-business plan that enables them to track their own success. Each manager should meet with each team member weekly to track how reps are doing against their plan. Weekly team meetings should be held to review issues, highlight successes and to train the team. These can be done through any web meeting service.

Managers should hold a daily morning check-in to see how team members are doing during this pandemic. I recommend that these be group meetings. Managers can take a temperature check of team morale, address issues with systems, and determine what each team member has planned for the day (number of demos, scheduled calls, contracts to write-up, etc.). These daily check-ins allow the team to meet as a team and provide ideas on how to work from home and stay engaged, each day. My team members came up with a few suggestions, including using a timer to ensure that reps are taking breaks, eating breakfast and lunch and are exercising; doing deep breathing techniques to stay alert; and stretching regularly to ensure that reps are leaving their chairs, regularly and throughout the day. 

Additionally, in a successful team, marketing should be working hard to write content that will attract buyers. Now more than ever, search is the way buyers get their information. Your company should be writing content that makes your company a thought leader in your space, so that HQLs flow into sales. 

It is the manager’s responsibility to keep the team engaged and to solve problems as quickly as possible. During this unique period, managers may find that they are in back-to-back web meetings. They need to ensure that some of these meetings are with individual reps and with the inside sales team. 

This is not an easy time for anyone.  Keeping the team engaged, and providing the tools that they need, will help your inside sales team to meet their objectives and stay in good spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about sales metrics and KPIs.