Have you ever found yourself at a large event - whether a concert, festival, recital, anything - and you spot the person holding the whole thing together? They're usually seen running into the back, probably with their arms full of merchandise or stage equipment, cell phone to their ear, usually closely followed by some people who are trying to ask a question. These individuals always seem to have and untenable amount to do in a very short window of time, but it has to get done. For those of use who have experience leading a sales team - this may feel distressingly familiar.
Sometimes, the challenges of running a direct sales team can feel a lot like the plight of these event managers, especially in the lead up to a busy selling season. While we can't speak for the logistics of running a concert, we do know that for sales teams, these situations are usually due to the unique situation that new sales representatives find themselves in at the beginning of the season:
They often don't remember where to take their questions.
They are often fearful of looking stupid when asking questions.
They get inconsistent answers depending on who they do ask questions to.
They create a burden for the team leaders, who should be spending their time on motivating the team.
The work that comes from these situations almost always requires team leaders to be reactive and able to provide support when needed. Meanwhile, team leaders need to be on top of team-wide messaging, make sure that things like deadlines, meeting times, announcements, and product updates are sent out. Only in the remaining fraction of time can team leaders actively driving sales through good, efficient communication and sales motivation.
So, those are the challenges, but challenges breed opportunity.
This is how most teams operate now, but what if it didn't have to be this way?
What if your team could sustain focus without repeatedly having to stop and answer simple questions?
What if team leaders could focus on motivating and influencing sales reps instead of addressing logistics all day?
What if your reps always knew the right channel to get the answers that they are looking for?
What if your reps told you, "it's like you read my mind"?
What if leadership could be proactive, not reactive?
Why Would I Listen To You?
We feel that we at ConveYour are uniquely qualified to talk about this problem. Our CEO, Stephen Rhyne, has developed SMS solutions for field support for sales businesses for over a decade now, and he has seen them all struggle with the challenges above. ConveYour was created out of a desire to be the solution.
Using our framework, one of our clients was able to go from having one support-dedicated receptionist in each of their 700+ locations, to having 100 text message responders in a centralized text/call support center, managing literally millions of text messages. Through experiences like these, we have learned what does and does not work, and use that to inform our framework.
The "call center support" solution has worked for organizations historically, but completely ignores the considerable power of text messaging, which has become by far the dominant means of mass communication for a massive amount of the work force.
In fact, did you know what 90% of text messages are read within the first 3 minutes of being received? That's a remarkable amount of eyes on your messages. Furthermore, 68% of all millennials choose texting over all other methods of communication. If your business is ignoring text-based support, they're missing out on a powerful tool.
Step One: Map the Journey
In order to do any sort of automation of the rep's journey through your organization, you need to know what that journey looks like for them. Businesses who do this often find that so many individual processes and experiences have been added or removed from the recruiting and selling experience. As a result, no one person fully understands the rep's journey besides the rep.
Regardless of how you wish to visualize it (The ConveYour team recommends Whimsical), the steps in your process should be consistent with all of the possible steps that a rep takes throughout their experience. The process of constructing this should look something like as follows:
A potential sales rep is referred by a friend. They are then sent an opportunity video to introduce them to the job. This is the first yes/no scenario for your rep. If they do not show interest from there, we can enter them into a nurturing sequence which will send them webinars every so often to foster interest. If they did take action, did they fill out another application? Another yes/no scenario. If they did not, we can automate a nudge notification after a few days. If they did, then we can get them in contact with a field manager to reach out about contracts, and so on.
When setting up a visual map of the journey for the first time, it is helpful to use the statement "by [date], I will have to do [action] for [stakeholder]." Thinking in terms of the stakeholder will help ensure that all appropriate departments get all of the necessary pieces of information on time.
It is also important to be mindful of fixed events that may occur on a separate track. For example, perhaps your business runs a sales contest every summer, and you want to notify anybody who has ever expressed interest in a position about it as well as your existing sales team. These events happen for all individuals at the same time regardless of their status within the flow.
Step Two: Become the Customer
When considering the rep's journey throughout your organization, it is important to maintain a "servant leadership" mindset. It's helpful to envision your reps as customers of yours, to whom you are providing a service. Thinking this way serves as a useful reminder that despite any frustrations for leadership behind the scenes, the rep's experience is their reality and needs to be given as much consideration as interactions with customers.
Let's face it, it's easy to get stuck in a culture of, "oh, this is just a bunch of new reps who OF COURSE were supposed to listen and forgot." The fact of the matter is, your new reps still need to sell, and still need their questions answered. Considering their experience and working to improve it will help mitigate a lot of these culture problems within your organization. In fact, documenting and mapping the journey will probably illuminate the points in your process where necessary information is slipping through the cracks, cutting down on questions in the future.
Step Three: Create, Collect, Curate
Once the rep's journey has been mapped out, you can create and collect questions that may come up at each given step of the way. For example, if a potential rep may have questions like:
Is this job legit?
Is this job commission only?
Is this job door to door?
What's the average pay?
Am I committing for any certain amount of time?
What is my next action?
Once you've come up with a big list of questions and associated them to the proper steps, you can then reach out to leadership and support within your organization to see what kinds of questions they hear the most often, and have them add those questions to the list as well.
Now that we've collected and curated, it's finally time to curate your answers. If the question goes too far beyond a simple "yes/no" answer, it is helpful to come up with two versions of an answer - a TLDR (Too long; didn't read) version and a full-length version. Once all of that information is assembled, it just needs to be turned into a resource that support staff can access quickly and efficiently.
ConveYour Snippets gives support staff access to pre-saved replies to common questions for even greater support efficiency.
Step Four: Build the Muscle
Now that you have assembled all of this wonderful work, it's important to put it to use! Once it's ready to go, immediately send out messaging within your organization that these resources are available and the best way to get support and the answers that you need in a timely fashion. Changeover to a new system can take some adjustment, so be consistent with your messaging and your people will catch on.
A great way to quickly send this messaging out is to give your field support a persona name (like a Siri or Cortana) and then send out an iOS v-card to your entire staff with that support number. Numbers for things like emergencies, legal, or commissions can be added to the v-card as well. Directly providing that text support number will do wonders for reducing the amount of reps bypassing processes to ask questions.
The main key to successfully transitioning your support in this way is to be strict about it. If employees continue to ask leadership directly and get their questions answered, they have no incentive to use the text support you worked so hard to set up. If they are forced to contact your support, they are going to see how much more efficient that process is and will be likely to stick with it.
Step Five: Automate All Outbound Field Communication
Remember all the way back in Step One, when we talked about fixed events, such as a summer contest, that happen at fixed points in time? Once mapped out, those are all things that you can plan for as far in advance as you want.
The benefit to this is twofold. First off, this will buy back leadership's time and cut down significantly on the "event manager" experience of dealing with a hundred small problems at the very last moment. Team leaders can then reinvest this time into motivating their team and driving sales.
Second, it reinforces the channel. Following from Step Four, this can be an important part of building that muscle. If your team is consistently seeing messages coming in from you in this particular channel, they will be a lot more likely to utilize that channel with any questions that they have.
Step Six: Automate Your Messaging Like a Marketer
They may not want to admit it, but sales managers share a lot with marketing managers in that they need to drive belief and new behaviors with a large group of people. With this perspective in mind, opportunities to be creative and send out contextual, timely text messages to your reps that will drive their motivation to succeed through the roof.
Imagine a scenario where a rep reaches the end of their sales week and receive an automated but personalized text message congratulating them on hitting X amount of sales for the week, with a reminder that their next promotion is only Y number of sales away. Automated birthday and job anniversary texts are easily automated as well. When you automate your messaging like a marketer, you can find yourself opening up conversations and making your reps' days while still being able to focus on your other tasks.
Starting sales reps find themselves in a pretty overwhelming situation. There are a variety of factors that work against them wanted to reach out and ask for help, and when they do ask it can easily overwhelm team leaders. But by utilizing the considerable power of text message support, along with a well-planned out map of the journey, it's entirely possible to refresh your field support and turn your leadership team from event managers to the sales-driving professionals that your organization needs.
The content from this article was derived from The Reps' Journey, Episode 001. It was compiled and re-worded by Andrew Baldis.
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