It’s been more than six weeks since I’ve been in the same room as my team. While for some teams that’s normal, for me it’s certainly not. Of all the scenarios and contingency plans we’ve thought through, a global pandemic was not one of them. It can already be difficult to focus at work and given all that is going on in our life today, work may not be the #1 priority. Below are some tips to make that part your life more focused and engaged with your team while we’re all remote.
Even if Front isn’t for you, I hope some of these tips help you out the way they have for my team. We’re lucky. The product we sell has always been incredibly useful for managing customer communication — but little did I know (until now) it has been crucial for maintaining productivity and delivering impact while working from home.
A lot of companies are in deep water from a revenue perspective. No software — however powerful — is going to change the market reality. But a lot of companies still have a fighting chance to make their goals. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to plenty of people who are feeling paralyzed by the “new normal.” We all need to forgive ourselves for feeling less productive than we might have a few months ago. But if there’s a way you can clear some of the operational and logistical hurdles for your distributed team, you’ve got to try, right?
So here’s a list of six specific ways Front has been keeping us aligned and connected to our customers despite working remotely — and it’s been a big stress-relief for me, personally.
1. Assigning clear owners to understand who’s responsible for what
We have a range of ways customers can contact us: emailing email@example.com, submitting a demo request, chatting on Drift, engaging in a trial, calling our team, social media inquiries, etc. If you’re all in one physical place, coordinating each channel can often be done on a whiteboard or in a morning stand-up. But for my team, we’re able to manage them all in one place in Front. With assignments, every message from every channel gets a clear owner, so we don’t have requests falling through the cracks and customers waiting on responses from our team.
We also have a sophisticated rules engine that helps us work efficiently across all communications channels and make it clear who owns what. One rule I absolutely love is when an AE creates a “deal support request” that escalates to our Solutions Engineering team in Salesforce. We have a trigger that places that request in a shared inbox inside Front so we can collaborate on it. A virtual “deal room” to collaborate, discuss, and bring the right people into the conversation in architecting a solution.
2. Using plugins to get quick context from other apps
Like many teams, we rely on a lot of apps to get work done. We integrate them into Front so we can access that information directly alongside customer messages. We can reference our backend customer database to quickly understand pricing plans and other customer information. Our native bi-directional sync and integration with Salesforce is the key to my day to day. And we use Aircall, so we can call customers in a single click from Front. In my experience, contextswitching is where a lot of the friction comes from — and it’s only exacerbated working from home. These integrations bring everything into one place, so this helps eliminate the back and forth.
3. Commenting to loop each other in quickly
We’ve always used comments in Front a lot to collaborate, but now that we’re remote, we’re relying on them more than ever. Comments let us chat internally about emails, directly on the email thread. So if an AE has a question about a deal and wants to ask me for help, all they need to do is type @berger to share the message with me. I can instantly see the whole conversation thread and give guidance without my team having to explain a situation that’s happening in email over Slack. Also, clicking on the Salesforce plugin pulls up the relevant customer information so we have the right contextual information in one place. Comments keep the team moving quickly, so we’re not leaving customers and prospects hanging mid-conversation.
4. Sharing email drafts to write better responses
Sales involves a lot of writing. When we’re working on a message to a prospect, Front makes it super simple for me to coach the team through conversations and help write better responses. They can simply write a draft, share it with me or a sales manager, and we can edit it directly as if it were a Google Doc. It’s helped immensely with training, and it continues to be helpful now that we’re remote. Sharing drafts replaces the act of leaning over to a teammate at the desk next to you and asking, “Hey, what do you think of this reply?”
5. Hopping on Zoom from our inboxes
When I’m having a conversation with my team in comments in Front, sometimes it’s easiest to simply hop on a Zoom call and just chat it out. For that reason, our new Zoom integration has been a game-changer over the last few weeks. Now, I can insert a Zoom meeting link in one click, without having to navigate to my calendar or open up the Zoom app. No time wasted, it’s straight down to business.
6. Enabling “Out of Office” mode to prevent burnout
When you’re working at home, it’s tough to not blur the lines of your work life and your everyday life. I’ve heard from so many people that they’re losing their sense of time and boundaries. Having a physical space helps me unplug. When your body’s out of the office, it’s easy for your brain to be too. The good news is there are virtual tools that can help us set those boundaries so we don’t get burnt out. For the past couple months I’ve personally struggled with “unplugging,” as home has become the office. I am forcing myself to take a personal day to get some “zen” (h/t @steve hackney) and encouraging the whole sales org to do the same to ensure we’re taking care of ourselves.
Out of Office mode in Front has come in handy now to help everyone get some rest without worrying about dropping the ball. When you’re done working for the day, you can switch to Out of Office mode. Everyone can see that you’re not around, and any message that’s automatically assigned to you gets unassigned and sent to the team inbox so someone who’s working can handle it. This is extremely reassuring for me. You can even schedule a shift that does this automatically. Being disciplined and sticking to your structure will really help the whole team stay mentally healthy.
I’ve learned a ton while continually adjusting processes and workflows in the last few weeks, like many leaders are being forced to do. From “virtual office hours” to Friday “virtual happy hours,” I’ve always believed that alignment and team dynamics is an underrated characteristic of a productive team, but now that’s become clearer than ever — and I’m particularly grateful we’ve been able to maintain that through Front while working from home.
Written by Andrew Berger
Originally Published: 29 April 2020