After a few weeks of adjusting to the “new normal” of working from home temporarily, it’s becoming clear that this situation we all find ourselves in won’t be quite as temporary as we had hoped.
Like anyone who thrives in a busy office environment, I started my WFH stint by reading all of the tips and resources on how to transition to remote work; I know that I need to set up a proper desk, put on real clothes every morning, and go for walks whenever I can. Those are great quick tips for being more productive in an untraditional office set up, but now that we’re settled and it’s time to prepare for the long haul of working remotely. What are some bigger scale changes we should make to set our teams up for long-term remote success?
According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020, collaboration and communication is the #1 struggle among remote workers. Doubling down on remote-friendly tools like Zoom and Slack help with the communication component, but what about the collaboration part? How do we actually empower people who are not used to working remotely to do so effectively? Especially those who are on teams like sales that rely on in person collaboration?
At Guru, we know that knowledge management (KM) empowers the cross-departmental collaboration that sales teams need to be effective no matter where they’re working. Given that knowledge management is a key part of many a complex sales team’s tech stack, here’s what we believe makes knowledge management critical to enabling remote sales teams:
Problems that knowledge management can solve for newly remote sales teams:
- Shifting policies and processes are hard to keep track of
- Virtual meetings present their own sets of challenges
- It’s hard to know how to help
- Training and onboarding is not an individual sport
- Knowledge silos develop
Shifting policies and processes are hard to keep track of
Things are turbulent right now. Your organization’s goals, KPIs, target personas, ICP, rules of engagement, and more are likely shifting rapidly. Not to mention your prospects’ goals, KPIs, and budget. With so much in flux, what do sales reps need in order to do what feels like a brand new job?
First and foremost, they need clear documentation of all changes. Is your ADR team still expected to be prospecting? Are your AEs still being held to their same quotas? Information like that is crucial to understand how to operate in these uncertain times. It needs to be clearly, concisely written out and easily accessible across teams. Documenting updates to goals and tone can be the difference between building strong relationships with prospects and finding one of your reps on the wrong end of an angry tweet about tone-deaf outreach.
“The transition to WFH has made our knowledge management and documentation processes invaluable. Within the first few days of transitioning to WFH we updated several of our core sales processes to adapt to our customers’ needs and circumstances. Whereas before sales people relied on turning to their neighbor or hopping in a breakout room to talk through these types of changes, now they’re turning to announcements and sharing Guru links via Slack” – Liz Jurewicz, Global Sales Enablement Lead at WP Engine
When these changes take place, it’s important that reps are able to refer back to them whenever they need to. Communicating a serious policy change over a conferencing or chat tool makes it difficult for people to find and revisit that update after the fact. Clearly outline all changes in a knowledge management solution so that reps can access it whenever, wherever they’re working.
Virtual meetings present their own sets of challenges
Guru’s enablement team’s goal is to meet our revenue team where they are working, always. Today, WFH distractions are amplified by the psychological and emotional complexity of this time. For many of us, it’s hard to pay attention in long, large virtual meetings. And that’s okay. Guru’s Senior Manager, Revenue Empowerment, Julia Soffa recommends leaning on a KM solution to make virtual meetings more effective. Her tips include:
- Do a meeting audit. Can hour long meetings be slashed in half? Can large meetings have breakout rooms for smaller group interactions? Can enablement utilize existing team meetings and empower a SME (subject matter expert) to join and give and update? Or perhaps meeting updates be delivered via your KM tool instead so that revenue team members can review them on their own time in an environment that is most conducive to retention.
- Share knowledge before and after a meeting. This is a best practice regardless of whether your entire team is WFH or not. Every adult learns differently, so give your team a chance to digest and explore knowledge when they’re not distracted by needing to feed their children.
- Empower managers with knowledge and learning objectives. They want this too! Leading a team during such extenuating circumstances is not something the average manager has prepped for, so help them help their teams during these uncertain times.
“Shifting to a remote environment from an in-person environment, it’s easier to miss out on some of the team and company communication that happens organically in an office. As an enablement team member, make it a point to attend regularly held revenue team meetings so that you can share information across the organization and help keep the teams connected.” – Deborah Sanderfur, Sales Enablement at Articulate
It’s hard to know how to help
Keeping an eye on what your sales reps are searching for in your knowledge base is an easy way to get a pulse on what types of questions are going unanswered. They may need clarification on recent, remote-specific topics, or maybe they need a refresher on an older concept that you haven’t touched on recently. The knowledge reps are searching for and/or consuming provides a candid look into where their needs and priorities lie.
“Are you trying to determine what your remote teams need immediate support or reinforcement on? Look for the themes in what they are searching for in your knowledge and/or learning management systems; this is what you need to enable, reinforce, and coach on.” – Roz Greenfield, Co-Founder & Chief Enablement Officer at Level213
Overall activity in your KM solution could also act as a proxy to gauge sentiment. Has a super user’s activity plummeted? They may be having a hard time transitioning to remote work and might need some additional support. Has a lackluster user’s activity skyrocketed? Maybe they’re bored and looking for inspiration. You can’t necessarily judge how hard someone is working based on their activity, but you can certainly infer some other useful things.
Training and onboarding is not an individual sport
Sales training and onboarding will look very different in a remote environment. Deborah Sanderfur, Sales Enablement at Articulate, reminds us, “Like all communication in an organization, being intentional with providing upfront information and context is key. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”
- Include why this information will benefit them and how they’ll use it in their daily interactions.
- Keep the content concise and easy to adopt in various sales settings.
- Incorporate a variety of methods including live (online) sessions, e-learning, follow up collateral, and knowledge checks.
A KM solution can also aid in designing the framework and structure for remote onboarding. Deborah suggests: “Don’t be too rigid in building out the onboarding schedule. Use tools to help organize and map out your onboarding blueprint, including what needs to be covered and a general timeline, so that you are equipping new hires to take ownership of their own learning. This ownership is key to remote onboarding and ensuring your teams will be successful beyond the onboarding period.”
Knowledge silos develop
Knowledge siloing is a hard thing to avoid when sitting in an open-floor plan office, and it gets much harder when sitting in several isolated home offices. Making sure that everyone has equal access to information is key to collaborating across locations and departments.
“Things move quickly in a remote environment and it can be hard to keep up with all the company-wide posts within your org. Take a few minutes to compile some of the key posts that are relevant to your revenue teams and send out in a weekly summary with links.” – Deborah Sanderfur, Sales Enablement at Articulate
If ever there is a time to over-communicate and overshare, it’s during a period of remote work. Open up knowledge to all teams to keep everyone in the loop. Or, at the very least, ensure that all teams know where they can find the knowledge they need to do their job. It’s okay if someone doesn’t know an answer, but they should feel empowered that there’s a mechanism in place to help them get that answer. In order to do this, Julia Soffa recommends:
- Establish knowledge governance and authorship i.e. who are the explicit SME who can publish knowledge on a given topic?
- Ensure consistency of delivery i.e. knowledge will be delivered in a specific format, pushed to the revenue team at a specific time, in a specific way.
- Provide explicit opportunities to collaborate i.e. create an avenue for the team to contribute to and give feedback on knowledge.
Don’t have a knowledge management solution?
Why didn’t you say so?! If you’ve read this whole post and are bought in on using knowledge management to empower your sales team to work remotely but don’t have a current knowledge management solution, we’ve got you covered. 64% of sales enablement leaders report that using Guru has helped sales reps on their team feel knowledgeable despite working remotely. Read up on how to use a knowledge management solution like Guru to transition to remote work and get started for free with our Starter plan.