Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

Managing an SDR Team Remotely During COVID-19

by Matt Bertuzzi on Mon, Mar 16, 2020

Over the past 4 days, I’ve seen a lot of amazing work from home content from the broader Sales community. I particularly want to call out GitLabs Guide to All-Remote, this post from Laura Guerra (ringDNA Sales Director), and Matt Heinz’s how to work from home (when your kids are there too).

We wanted to share a few thoughts targeted to the SDR leadership community. Note: this isn’t an all or nothing platform - you take pieces and leave others as you see fit. 

Steps you can take over the next 20 days for SDR teams working remotely

Step 0- close your office.flatten
If you have not, please do it now. Social distancing is highly effective at flattening the curve. If you have 25+ people in a room and/or a large number of your reps take public transit to work, closing your office will have a huge impact on flattening the curve of infection.

Step0(b)- take a moment to appraise where we are….and breathe.
We’re in uncharted waters here. Many on LinkedIn are treating the situation as if a bunch of companies, by sheer coincidence, decided to adopt work from home - with little to no planning. This is a public health crisis combined with a supply-side and demand-side shock. It doesn’t seem likely that, in the near term, work will be “like before, but at home.” 

Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Sales leadership is a hard job in the best of times. Take care of yourself, your team, your family, and your community.

Step 1a- review and confirm InfoSec.
This is a big one folks. Do your SDRs have password secured wifi? If they have roommates (or even if they don’t) are their devices auto-locking? Your company cannot afford a data breach right now. Hand hygiene + information security hygiene = 😀.

Step 1b- pause all automated emails.
You have emails that are sending automatically. I'm sure they were written with the best of intentions. You cannot predict how they are being received today. Pause them all. Manual, human, respectful, emails only for the foreseeable future.

Step 2- speed test & voice test.
Have reps visit (thanks Netflix!) and test their network speed. Then (thanks Salesloft!) to test their network’s VOIP-ability. If either are slow, have them plug in. Wifi is generally slower than connecting directly via ethernet. 

Step 3- determine a home office stipend amount.
A bad office setup can have a massive impact on productivity. An hour slouching over a laptop on a bed is fine for checking email at night. It isn’t fine for getting anything meaningful done. Your reps need support for their home office buildout and it isn’t fair to expect them to fully fund it. 

As basics, make sure your reps have a decent headset, maybe an external keyboard + mouse, and a laptop riser (posture care is health care!). We don’t know how long this will last. Buying everyone $500 varidesks is extreme at this point, but doing nothing would be folly.

Step 4- institute a daily huddle.
Bring the team together with a virtual, video 15-minute huddle every morning. Things are going to change day-by-day. Have a standing meeting to give updates, ask for anything that might be blocking their productivity, and stay connected. 

Step 5- spend the majority of your day listening to calls and reading email replies
I’ve seen a lot of great content about increasing call coaching during this period. And I love it. But yesterday, you were a great coach. Today, you don’t even know what sport your reps are playing. You need to hear what prospects are saying and you need to hear it now. 

Add in your Execs too. What are prospects bringing up? What specifically are they saying? This is the intel your entire org needs - and you need it now.

Step 6- be ready to make a partial pivot.
Only after you’ve completed step 5, you might consider pivoting the SDR role in part. If your team was having 10 quality conversations last Tuesday, they ain’t this Tuesday. I don’t know the right mix, but consider re-focusing 10-30% of their time on account profiling, building target lists, Salesforce data append, generating ideas for A/B tests in your sequences, having a book club for a book that’s meaningful to your market, and so on.

Step 7- set a floor for variable payout.
SDRs are the tipped waiters and waitresses of the sales team. We all knew the appropriate quota yesterday. Today...we haven’t a clue. As much as cash flow can support it, pay your reps a floor on their incentive compensation. Maybe 10%, maybe 50%. Definitely not 0%.

Step 8- get local with SPIFs.
SPIFs can be a great way to break up the monotony of work from home prospecting. Get reps excited about something other than themselves. Launch a SPIF that benefits a local org (food bank, shelter, healthcare, etc). We’re all in this together.

Josh Delisle, Sales VP at Catchpoint, added this: "re: 'Get local with SPIFs' idea, you can really help out the local restaurants and bars by grabbing a few gift cards!" Fantastic point from Josh.

Step 9- no PIPs.
We’re all in this together. Putting someone on a Performance Improvement Plan for missing productivity targets right now is a bad look. And Glassdoor never forgets. Make the call and then communicate it. (Note: attendance, attitude, and effort are a different matter.) 

Step 10- set aside 1 hour a day for 1:1s.
Reach out to each rep every other day to talk by phone. This is a stressful time, be there for your team. I’m hearing reports of tops reps, being under particularly acute stress. Some reps thrive on the sales floor environment and a low key home office is certainly not that. 

Get ready to talk about their needs (sick leave,mental health days, childcare, eldercare, and even bereavement time) and how you can help them succeed. And if you can’t help, at least listen.

Step 11- coach your managers.
Honestly, much of what I’ve written above applies equally to reps and first-line managers. They need executive support and direction. And they need it now.

For many, this will be their first recession. For all of us, this is our first social distancing + childcare issues + eldercare concerns + global demand shock. Be there for them now more than ever.

What you do over the next 20 days will have a huge impact on your company, your culture, and most importantly your people. Be safe, be smart, and be kind out there.

We'll be updating this as things develop. Please comment with other steps and we'll add to the post.

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