Leading a sales team during a global pandemic hasn’t been easy. For Dave Zeornes, sales leader at Aon Programs, it has meant “bumping heads” and “stubbing toes” along the way.
“We’ve tried stuff that hasn’t worked, but ultimately, we’ve gotten to be pretty effective at not just getting our message out, but getting in front of agents and having conversations that are meaningful,” he said. “But if you would have told me 10 years ago that we were going to be selling without seeing the face of an agent in real life for a year, I would have called you crazy.”
With the pressures of the pandemic to generate new business opportunities, and the virtual environment keeping everyone online at all hours, agents are working more than ever. Zeornes offered a few tips for agents, or anyone, trying to find balance in a hectic remote work environment.
“One of the keys that we’ve learned is you have to be willing to be flexible with just about everybody all the time,” he said. As a sales team, not meeting in person has been a challenge. “Meeting in person is a really important part of building culture on our team,” he said. To continue to build comradery, Zeornes and his team implement fun Friday meetings. “We’ve started to do different things, fun stuff, on Friday calls. Just silly things that have helped build a culture within our sales team.”
He suggests always being flexible on where, when and how to meet as well. “That’s been a big help.”
Set a Hard Stop Time Each Day
Working from home makes it hard to stop working and that could lead to employee burnout. Creating a hard stop time helps to rewire the brain to get certain tasks done. “The end of the day might be a different time every day,” Zeornes said. It might be 4 p.m. on one day or 6 p.m. on another day. “But when you’re done, the best thing to do is to be done and not go back and forth.” That could “blur the lines” between work life and home life. “That will drive you crazy,” he said. “So, having set times, even if those times aren’t regular, is going to be very helpful.” Also, be proactive with work time by scheduling a “things to do” list appropriately and allowing time for rest.
Set Up ‘Away’ and ‘Snooze’ Capabilities
Set the standard for your team and do not be afraid to use the “snooze” and “away” functions to establish boundaries. This will allow your team and or clients to keep business hours unless an emergency comes up. You can also turn off your business phone at certain hours and create exclusive time for work that does not interfere with private life.
Take Time Off
Many workers have not taken vacation time in the past year of COVID. Of those that did, 43% said they worked or planned to work while on vacation and 59% checked or planned to check work emails and communications while on vacation, according to a December 2020 IPX 1031 survey. Zeornes says it’s hard for agents to “turn off the phone” for a client. “But I think clients are getting better and more comfortable communicating in different ways.” Time off is essential. “I’ve heard of agencies and even larger companies realizing how much time is being invested by the employees,” he said. “And so they actually have days off. They say, ‘OK, this coming Friday, everybody’s off.’ A little holiday.”
Focus on Things That Really Matter
Planning is important — especially when it comes to carving out time to focus on those strategic issues that are critical to your business but easily pushed aside in favor of tackling all the other little things that pop up every day. Make a point to create specific times each week to think about strategy, Zeornes says. One that has helped Zeornes’ own sales team is to schedule the actual work. “Identify the five or six hours that you’re going to plan for outbound phone calls
because if you don’t set that time aside, you’re not going to do it and you’re not going to generate new business.”
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