Kelsy Ketchum

Improve productivity, boost sales: 3 foolproof methods

Of course everyone in the sales department wants to increase productivity, but how?

Consider all the things that can get in the way of salespeople actually selling:

  • poor planning and scheduling
  • confusing communication from top to bottom of the organization
  • pressure to exceed targets
  • inconsistent coaching and training practices
  • unnecessary paperwork
  • changing sales activities priorities
  • distractions from our always-on world

Assess time spent

The first step in figuring out how to streamline, delegate and minimize is to know how salespeople currently spend their time.

Most salespeople think they spend their time wisely – and their logs probably reflect that. But many of us are guilty of exaggerating time spent on activities such as cold calls, presentations and visits. Then we minimize the time spent on activities such as Web searches and check-ins with current customers who don’t need to be checked on.

If you want to make better use of time, encourage salespeople to be honest and realistic when they log their time.

Know what to do about it

With an assessment, you’ll see your sales productivity reality. But how can you go about improving it? Take a look at these three strategies.

1. Measure differently

It’s easy to measure sales – quota goals, revenue, deal size. They’re solid indicators of success. Measuring selling is harder.

To boost sales productivity, you want to track and reward productivity gains and results. Add metrics such as call rate, win rate, sales cycle length, conversion rate and number of touches to conversion. Reward for those metrics, too. Community dashboards help everyone see trends and can serve as motivators, since co-workers will be able to see each person’s numbers.

2. Simplify the workflow

Nearly half of salespeople say they spend up to 20 hours a week on manual processes to report leads, sales and other activities that are vital to closing deals, a Spotio study found. Some salespeople spend half of their time just reporting actual selling time!

You want to hold salespeople accountable for their time. But too much paperwork – even when it’s automated – makes salespeople prisoners to process. Eliminate as much manual lead and funnel management as possible. Add more check points, as opposed to detailed questions, to automated systems.

Keep in mind: Automation and technology tools won’t fix all the productivity issues. Tools only help when salespeople are trained to use them properly, rewarded for using them and face consequences for not using the tools.

3. Simplify the system

In an effort to maximize efficiency, many organizations amp up technology. They give salespeople tools for video, chat, email tracking, document sharing, presenting, forecasting, scoring, etc. Just managing those can hamper productivity!

With so many unrelated tools to focus on, salespeople often get slowed down trying to align them. Bring as many tools as possible under one roof – a CRM system, a multi-use app, even something as basic as a house-built, cloud-based system that runs the Microsoft suite programs. What’s important is information, account databases and metrics are centralized, easy to access and simple to understand.

Focusing on simplicity and streamlining processes can be the key to improving sales productivity and making sure your salespeople are using their time in the best ways possible.

Legal hurdles to avoid when creating remote work policies

Today, working from home is a highly valued perk at many companies.

As a result, many organizations are implementing work-from-home-benefits for employees to attract and retain top talent, and to stay competitive.

But when crafting policies about these benefits, remember: Without a legally sound remote work policy, your efforts to improve working conditions can unexpectedly create big legal problems.

Crafting sound policy

Not only will sound work-from-home policies keep employees on track while working offsite, but they’ll help avoid potential legal problems that can arise from remote work.

Here are five legal hurdles you’ll want to look out for when drafting a remote work policy.

1. FLSA violations. One of the most obvious problems with remote employees is tracking the hours they’re actually working.

If your workers are salaried and exempt from overtime, this isn’t a big deal: they’ll get paid the same regardless of how many hours they put in at home. But if your employees are paid by the hour and are eligible for overtime, FLSA violations could be one punch of the time clock away.

Even if you itell your employees to not exceed 40 hours a week, they still have to be paid overtime if they do. And keeping tabs on their activity is significantly more difficult when they’re out of the office.

But there are ways you can keep them on track. At the start of each remote day, ask what the employee will be working on, with whom, and what hours they’re active.

Another good idea is setting hours when no employee should be checking email or logging onto their computers, or doing any other common, work-related activities.

2Discrimination/Disability-related issues. Remote workers can easily become “out of sight, out of mind” employees, which can have serious consequences.

Example: Your remote workers are primarily women caring for their children and disabled employees who need to work from home as their ADA accommodation.

If you don’t offer these remote workers the same support and opportunities for advancement as your in-office workers, you could be faced with sex discrimination and disability discrimination lawsuits.

To avoid this, your policy should discuss remote workers’ right to training, promotions and visibility.

3. Work environment obligations. Just because an employee isn’t working in the office doesn’t mean an employer isn’t responsible for their health and safety.

Before granting an employee permission to work from home, an employer should determine remote workers’ environments are suitable for getting the job done and don’t pose any undue risk.

If an employee gets hurt on the job, even if they aren’t in the office, the employer could still face legal consequences.

4. Data security concerns. When employees start doing business outside the office and on mobile devices, a whole host of new security concerns pop up.

To help control potential breaches, it’s best to restrict remote employees’ ability to print or download confidential documents. Remind them not to share their login credentials with anyone else, and limit remote access to company systems.

5. Worksite closures. Something else you’ll want spelled out in your policy is what remote worker are supposed to do when the company or worksite is closed, for instance, from a weather event or power outage.

If some employees end up working when the company isn’t open, those employees are most likely owed wages. Clarify what’s expected of remote workers in this situation.

Watch out! 82% of companies face payment fraud

Payment fraud just spiked to a new high, which means making sure company money stays where it belongs is more work for your finance team than ever before. A staggering 82% of companies said they were affected last year, according to the 2019 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey.

It’s a given you encourage your team to stay vigilant and take measures to prevent fraud. But with the odds looking even scarier now, additional action may be necessary.

What your team should do

Here are the key highlights from the AFP report and advice on how your team can better address these security concerns:

1. Email fraud on the increase. Business email compromise (BEC) scams have been on the rise for a while now. But for the first time, the amount of monetary loss increased, too: 80% of companies were hit, and 54% of those incurred real financial loss from those attacks.

You likely already train your team to spot BEC scams before any money’s transferred. But fraudsters’ efforts are getting more advanced and employees are still being duped.

So, in case anyone at your company does fall victim, ensure your company has a step-by-step plan ready. That may include contacting your bank, insurance company, local law enforcement, etc. It also doesn’t hurt to review your insurance policy to verify it fully addresses these cases.

2. Targeting “safer” payments. Thanks to faster payments and new advancements, it’s easy to see why so many companies love Automated Clearing House (ACH). Unfortunately, bad actors have noticed this, too.

ACH fraud increased significantly last year. Specifically, the percentage of companies that encountered ACH credit fraud jumped to 20% (from 13%), and those who experienced ACH debit fraud rose to 33% (from 28%). In addition, 25% of companies haven’t gotten advice from their banks on mitigating ACH risks.

That being said, your team must prioritize working and communicating with your banking partners to avoid fraud, especially as ACH changes and advancements continue. You can also check out a variety of fraud prevention resources straight from NACHA.

3. More controls equal better business. The growth of new technology has pros and cons. On the one hand, it can give your finance team new ways to protect payments. On the other hand, it helps fraudsters find fresh, creative ways to try and trick your team.

So, how can you best use technology to your advantage? When companies have a “variety of protective measures,” bad actors get frustrated and will likely move on to other, easier targets, AFP points out.

Look to add extra layers of security to your computers and payments process anywhere you can – from basics like two-factor authentication and password security to more robust automation.

4 ‘soft skills’ every leader needs to retain employees

There are tons of recommendations for how to improve employee retention, but none of them will work if your leaders aren’t effective communicators – especially in a one-on-one environment.

The key to engaging and retaining good people relies on soft skills that don’t always come easy.

Here are five leadership skills to practice that can help you retain good employees.

Soft skill 1: Listening

Good communication depends more on a person’s ability to listen than on his or her ability to speak.

Anyone can hear and repeat back information. Good leaders listen so they can process the information.

Follow these tips to better listening:

  • Keep yourself clear. When employees, colleagues, clients or customers need their managers, it’s important to give them undivided attention by talking privately at an arranged time with no distractions (e-mail, phones, paperwork).
  • Take notes. This serves two purposes: It helps leaders remember what’s been said and keeps track of the most important facts and emotions. Taking notes also shows people you care and are listening wholeheartedly.
  • Hold your tongue. Avoid interrupting speakers, especially in one-on-one conversations. Let others get through the facts and emotions. Often, just spilling their guts is enough to make them feel better – and you’re a hero for listening and not saying a word!
  • Be open to opinions. Leaders sometimes don’t agree with what employees, co-workers, clients and customers say – and stop listening because they’re focusing on their rebuttal. Instead, they should continue to listen and note their points when it’s their turn to talk.

Soft skill 2: Communicating

Communicating well is the cornerstone of good relationships. Whether leaders are talking to employees or colleagues, writing e-mails, training or speaking in front of a group, these communication essentials will help:

  • Create a commonality. Leaders should share information about themselves that they have in common with workers (for instance, a hobby, past experience in work or life, an interest in events or sports, etc.). It makes them more approachable.
  • Be courteous. People will listen, and things will get done if managers communicate with courtesy instead of commands.
  • Clarify. When the topic is important, it’s vital for managers to make sure they’re understood. Ask if anyone has questions, and make sure to answer thoroughly.
  • Show confidence. Back up statements with facts. Leaders should avoid tentative language such as might, maybe and possibly.

Soft skill 3: Delivering bad news

Nearly every leader has to deliver bad news sometimes, and it’s never easy.

Doing it carefully will help managers go down in company history as a well-liked professional.

Here’s how to deliver bad news so it’s a little easier on the people affected by it:

  • Make it fast. Delivering the news as quickly as possible gives people a chance to plan their next move. But avoid delivering bad news at the end of the work week so the news doesn’t fester with people for days.
  • Visit or call. Deliver bad news personally to show your care about how the news will affect people. Delivering bad news via e-mail or a memo suggests leaders are distancing themselves from the situation.
  • Take responsibility. Leaders don’t want to blame themselves, their bosses or the company if they aren’t to blame. But if you had a hand in what happened, acknowledge your part in the situation without being defensive.
  • Respond. Give employees, co-workers, clients or customers a chance to discuss how the bad news affects them. Offer suggestions on how to deal with the situation.

Soft skill 4: Saying no

Leaders have to say no to people and ideas, or they’d never get anything done. However, it’s best to give a no answer in a way that doesn’t make the person with the request feel rejected.

Here’s how:

  • Empathize. When leaders and managers can’t do what people want or can’t give employees permission to do something, they need to let them know they understand the situation.
  • Clarify. Leaders should explain why they have to refuse the request.
  • Offer something. It’s best for leaders to end the denial on a positive note by telling people how they’re willing to help.

Lax cybersecurity could endanger your business: 3 steps to protect your assets

Your workplace likely prides itself on its positive culture.

Maybe employees are allowed to work from home some days, or work devices can be used outside the office.

But beware: If that’s the case, your organization may be facing serious risks that often go overlooked when it comes to cybersecurity policies and training.

No place like home?

Many employees don’t adhere to common security practices when they’re not at work. After all, you’re not around to tell them the dangers or police their network usage.

And those risks are present no matter where employees are, making your company susceptible to breaches and attacks.

The best way to protect your organization is to expand the cybersecurity training you offer employees.

Address both work and home devices, and include info on subjects like shared home networks and public Wi-Fi access.

Flexibility in the work environment is a positive benefit, but it also brings potential dangers.

Explaining those dangers to employees, along with teaching them how to protect themselves, is key for your organization’s security.

Revamp your office culture! 10 ways to get workers engaged on a budget

What manager wouldn’t love to walk into the office each morning to a group of eager employees ready to take on the day?

But the reality is … that just doesn’t happen.

Distracted and disengaged

One of the main reasons your workers are sleepwalking through the day: They’re unengaged! A 2018 Gallup survey reveals only 15% of employees consider themselves engaged in their work.

Benefits of engagement

Apart from improving the office environment, engaged employees make good business sense. Satisfied employees create a higher quality of work. Not to mention the happier the employees, the less likely they are to look for a new job – and everyone wants to hold onto their top talent.

But many organizations don’t have the funds to take big swings, like sending employees to an overseas retreat or adding expensive perks.

While transforming every employee’s attitude can seem overwhelming, improving engagement doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. A lot of small, low-cost initiatives can add up to make a huge difference.

Effortless engagement

There are several areas you can focus on for maximum engagement. Implementing a few of these simple ideas in each category will set you on the path toward increased productivity.

Communication

  1. Encourage staff to speak up. Your employees have good ideas, but may not be willing to speak up about them. Their hesitation usually comes from a fear of criticism. To fix this, make it known all ideas are welcome, and promote an open-door policy. Fostering a safe space for communication will have employees rushing to offer suggestions.
  2. Clarify goals and responsibilities. It’s hard for employees to be engaged if they’re confused about their role or expectations. Every time a new project comes up, take the time to thoroughly explain all the details and answer questions – the result is always worth your while. And while you’re fostering an open environment for ideas, make it clear that you’re always available for questions and concerns as well.

Recognition

  1. Reward employees only for a job well done. Recognizing when your employees perform well is always a good idea, but it’s important to be careful not to overdo it. Dishing out constant praise can have the opposite effect, causing employees to get too comfortable and slack off. By reserving rewards for the best work only, employees will strive to achieve a higher standard.
  2. Celebrate birthdays and accomplishments. One time to overdo it with the celebrating? Birthdays and milestones. Employees will feel like you care if you take the time to wish them a happy birthday or congratulate them on a new baby.

Fun and Socialization

  1. Organize games and happy hours. Show your employees you want them to have fun in the office and get friendly with their co-workers with group events. Plan a happy hour at the end of a particularly busy week and let your staff unwind. Or, carve some time out of the day for everyone to de-stress by playing cards or a board game.
  2. Bring in food and treats. Planning a potluck lunch every now and then or surprising staff with donuts or ice cream is an easy way to promote socialization and brighten everyone’s day.
  3. Make your workspace unique. Dull, gray cubes and plain white walls don’t do much to inspire creativity. Try giving your office a little facelift. Even adding things like pops of color, artwork and plants can impact on morale.

Professional development

  1. Perfect the onboarding process. There’s no such thing as too much assistance during a new hire’s first few months. It may seem like overkill, but the more involved you are during a new hire’s onboarding process, the more likely they are to stay long term.
  2. Let employees use natural talents. Everyone on your team has an area where they really shine, so let them use their strengths! Nothing tanks engagement more than assigning employees tasks they aren’t comfortable with. Match up projects with people’s natural talents, and they’ll be happy to tackle them.
  3. Be a mentor. Employees are going to encounter plenty of personal and professional challenges throughout their careers. Let them know you’re there for them! Carve out time to check in and let your people know you’re available to just listen or dole out advice.