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Communicating with sales teams working at home

15 May 2020  
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Friday 15 May 2020

When everyone works from home, how to replicate all the complex communications that go on in an office?

There are a myriad ways we exchange information and views with co-workers, and they are all important. Telefonica O2/YouGov research shows that 30% of home workers are struggling with loneliness during lockdown, and 26% miss socialising with office friends.

Yes, even complaining by the water cooler, or venting petty frustrations over a beer, all serve a purpose in keeping the office ecosystem healthy and sellers motivated.

With up to 45% of businesses planning not to go back to full-time office-working, managers need to make sure that everyone is able to communicate using digital channels, whether to share creative ideas, celebrate a win, or get something off their chest.

“You have to find virtual equivalents for some things done face to face,” said Matt Spencer, head of public sector sales at Telefonica O2, who manages a 44-strong sales team.

“If you have the right technology, communication and information infrastructure, it can get us close to normality, but it needs the help of purposeful management.”

Office interactions vary on a spectrum from the most formal to the least.

Spencer lists these as:

  • policy, product updates
  • general
  • coaching
  • learning and development
  • social interaction, celebration
  • gossip, griping and speculation
Each one is dealt with differently. “There need to be channels for all of these in the remote working environment,” said Spencer. “One medium definitely doesn’t fit all.”

The way his team is playing this at Telefonica O2, the formal end of communications still takes place on email, as it has for over a decade. General communication happens on Teams, as does coaching and learning and development.

Mark Evans, Chief Executive Officer Telefonica O2 UK, uses virtual presentations to make announcements, and staff show they are listening and engaged by posting a healthy volume of comments - 552 on his last communication.

For the Telefonica O2 public sales team, social interaction and celebrating achievements happens on Teams Workplace (like Facebook for business, says Spencer), with some kind of social downtime every night of the week, and a virtual pub quiz with beers on Friday.

Last and not necessarily least, comes the gossip and speculation - which takes place on WhatsApp.

The proliferation of channels has thrown up a new, digital problem of trying to remember which social media an interesting bit of information was shared in, admits Spencer.

The purposeful management comes in with understanding that everyone consumes social media in a different way. From the Gen Z digital natives to the boomers who may find a degree of digital overload, sales leaders need to make allowances for the individual.

Spencer said: “Not everyone will want to do the virtual pub quiz. You have to allow people to cooperate in and react at the level they’re comfortable at. Recognise that some people need different levels of interaction. Remember it's about individuals as well as about teams.”

Matt Spencer was speaking during this morning’s webinar, called "Communicating remotely with sales teams", hosted by the Association of Professional Sales as part of our Covid-19 series, to keep sellers safe and selling.

Our free series of sales webinars is open to everyone, not just members.

Click here to see our full programme of events, and book your place.