In a recent LinkedIn poll, Bryan Elsesser, Aircall's former Senior Director of Sales Development discovered that 71% of participants felt fatigued.
"Almost 300 people responded and said that they were either more fatigued now than they've ever been, or constantly fatigued in their everyday work," Elsesser says. "That's a problem."
The level of fatigue isn't shocking -- especially in the 2020 sales industry.
Even with an ongoing global pandemic that has created financial uncertainty and forced many companies to go remote, sales teams are still expected to hit high quotas or goals. At this point, learning how to adjust to new working styles while also making endless sales calls can feel utterly exhausting.
But, despite growing industry fatigue, some sales teams are finding themselves more productive than they were before the pandemic. And, they aren't the only ones.
HubSpot's recent report, The 2021 Sales Enablement Report, reveals that 67% of sales leaders see equal or more productivity than they did pre-pandemic.
As part of our 2021 report, HubSpot sat down with sales leaders, like Elsesser, to learn how they're successfully navigating change, leading teams, and increasing deals in 2020.
Below, Elsesser shares six key tips to help managers, directors, and other sales leaders boost or maintain sales productivity.
How to Boost Sales Productivity Like Aircall Sales Leaders
1. Recognize that work environments have changed.
Many sales reps are used to making deals on a loud, bustling sales floor. In this work environment, they could work with their team, develop working relationships with leadership, and take part in healthy competition with their colleagues.
And, after a busy day of deal-making, sales employees at any level could drive home, decompress, and relax.
But, in 2020, sales teams are learning how to make sales calls alone in their quiet homes -- sometimes surrounded by family or roommate distractions.
As a manager or company leader, Elsesser says it's important to recognize how working from home can impact productivity and help your team find remote solutions.
"When you're working from home, you're pretty much 'on.' It's not like you're taking that lunch break or your commute to decompress. You may not even have the general decompression you get from speaking with others," Elsesser says.
"There's a whole new siloed piece to your work environment that you haven't had before. We have to recognize that first and foremost as teams," Elsesser adds. "Our people are undergoing a lot of personal change in the way in which they're working every single day. That identification is the first part of helping solve a much more complex problem."
2. Understand how burnout impacts your whole hierarchy.
When you're always working and can't easily separate your career from your home life, it's easy to get stressed, fatigued, or completely burnt out.
"There's a lot of different things that contribute to the team's burnout level," Elsesser explains. "And we have to know burnout is as much physiological as it is psychological."
Regardless of your role, level of experience, or industry, Elsesser points out that no one is immune to burnout.
"The longer we're remote, it's going to become an obligation on sales leaders to ensure that you're managing not only the performance level, but the burnout level as well," Elsesser says.
Elsesser adds that stressors and sales performance, "go hand in hand."
How Aircall Identifies Team Burnout
To learn how burnout impacts Aircall sales teams, Elsesser regularly sends sales employees at all levels an anonymous wellness survey where they can check off any present burnout symptoms they have, such as stress and fatigue.
Elsesser then compares the number of team members with burnout symptoms with the level of sales performance. With this data, he can identify when burnout is impacting performance and know when to step in with prevention or re-engagement strategies.
How to Prevent Burnout at the Manager Level
Based on his experience as a Director, Elsesser explains that it's important for leaders to pay attention to burnout symptoms of managers as well as sales reps.
"Managers are going to deal with a tremendous amount of burnout. … [Sales leaders] need to help them manage their burnout, alongside helping them help the burnout of their team," Elsesser explains.
A few tactics Elsesser encourages sales leaders to use to prevent managerial and team burnout include:
- Having open conversations about burnout: This will enable reps and managers to feel comfortable openly speaking about burnout, their blockers, and what's top of mind for their team.
- Scheduling skip-down or skip-level meetings: With skip-downs, senior leaders meet with direct reports of a specific manager. This allows a leader to be visible to a direct report and provides a space for sales reps to discuss how work is going on their team, and talk about how they are doing in general.
- Allowing time off: Allowing managers or reps to take time for meditation sessions, a walk, or days to bond with their family can help them feel like they have more control over their work-life balance.
3. Encourage your team to decompress.
"Our team is communicative in terms of things that they'd like to do to decompress," Elsesser explains.
Elsesser adds that now -- more than ever -- leaders need to know what helps teams decompress as well as what gets them excited. This enables teams to take breaks when they need them, but also return fully motivated.
Leaders should also recognize that “decompressing” looks different this year, because the place many people go to decompress, their home, is now their office. This is amplified for the people experiencing lockdowns.
When aiming to help teams decompress, Elsesser suggests things like allowing blocked out time for breaks or time off on calendars or coordinating virtual team meetups or events.
4. Enable sales teams to win.
While quotas or major goals might seem strenuous or exhausting, competitions that name a winner at the end might seem fun to reps.
"Salespeople love competition. When they're in a competition, they're focused in a way that's exciting for them and gets them pumped up," Elsesser says. "When teams or individuals feel like they're winning, they might feel fatigued at the end of the day. But, the juice has been worth the squeeze."
Elsesser adds that managers should ask themselves questions like, "What does winning mean for your team? What does winning mean for your metrics?"
If you're a leader who answers the questions above, you can then "build incentive plans, put different pieces into play, and help your team get excited," Elsesser says
"You'll see fatigue levels adjust," Elsesser adds.
5. Balance results with empathy.
This year, leaders around the world have found that empathy is more vital than ever. Elsesser is no different.
"We have to keep in mind our people have environments that they're living in every single day," says Elsesser. "It's not just COVID spiking in an area. It's not just the wildfires happening around them. There's social injustice happening. There's political uncertainty. There's uncertainty in general about the future and what it means for work. -- All these different stressors … are having an impact on teams."
"Making sure that you're being mindful, empathetically more than ever, around the environment your team is living in couldn't be more important. That's actually a differentiator in leadership today." Elsesser says. "You're not just managing a person's performance, but you're trying to help them manage the environment that's around them."
To act with empathy while still aiming to hit results, Elsesser engages with them by helping them identify and go after solid sales opportunities.
"I don't care what level of business that you're in, you could be an individual contributor, you could be a vice president of sales. But everybody's hands get dirty in this environment," Elsesser says. "I absolutely will re-engage on a really key opportunity that I think my team could go after."
Elsesser says leaders who go to the "ends of the Earth" to help teams will always feel like they have engaged sales departments that want to help each other win.
"It's not just coaching at the director level. It's not just coaching at the managerial level right now. It's got to be all hands on deck," Elsesser explains. "We win, we lose as a team. That's how you help your team feel supported."
6. If you're a leader, ask yourself tough questions.
Although most sales teams report seeing equal to more productivity than they did before the pandemic, 33% of sales teams see less.
Elsesser encourages leaders who see less productivity in 2020 to get introspective and reflect on their managerial skills.
"What are you doing to help your team feel engaged? Where is it that you're spending your time?", Elsesser asks. "How are you getting them fired up? How entangled are you in their world? Do you care?"
Although the questions above might feel uncomfortable or bold, Elsesser says they can be "really impactful."
"[Less productivity]'s not a byproduct of an individual contributor, that's a byproduct of leadership," Elsesser says. "Spend time thinking about what you're doing as a team in terms of your messaging, in terms of what you're directing them towards."
Boost Sales Productivity Like the Pros
Ultimately, increasing sales productivity in 2021 and beyond will rely on solid management, patience, empathy, open communication, and recognizing team needs.
Aside from improving on soft skills and emotional intelligence required for the tasks above, another tactic that can help sales leaders or managers is researching how experts, like Elsesser, are navigating sales productivity.
Want more great tidbits from Elsesser? Check out his video interview with HubSpot below:
If you're a manager or sales leader looking to learn more, HubSpot's 2021 Sales Enablement Report, Sell Smarter, Grow Better, offers tips for building effective 2021 strategies, interviews with big-company sales experts, as well as data from hundreds of sales executives and managers.
Download the free report by clicking on the banner below, or hear from industry experts in these related blog posts on 2021 sales priorities and sales analytics. Additionally, if your team is looking for a cloud based phone system that helps teams stay connected while working from home - Aircall is offering a free month to try it out.