KEEPING IT REAL: The Human Factor and Digital Sales

Over the past couple of months, we’ve used this space to discuss the ins and outs of strategic planning in the digital age. We’ve talked about optimizing your readiness for success on this new playing field, and the new and updated metrics you may need to embrace to accurately evaluate your performance.

We’ve talked a lot about technology resources, virtual communication tools, and number crunching.

But what about our most important resource—people?

We can master the technical tools we need to operate in a new era that’s seen face time replaced by Facetime…but human interaction is still at the core of everything we do. And integrating an understanding of that into our new business models, and giving it top priority, is essential.

This task not only applies to your customers but your team. The paradigm shift to a remote workforce was pushed into high gear by the pandemic, but won’t be going away any time soon.

If you haven’t spent some time working on your digital team building and supervisory skills, you’d better get started. It’s a new ballgame, and many of your previous go-to strategies don’t work anymore.

If you relied on break room chats to keep up to date on projects, new ideas, and all-around camaraderie, you need to find ways to compensate for that digitally. Zoom happy hours, digital watch parties, and just more chat time to check in on how your team members are doing in this new age are very important.

Managing employee accountability in a remote situation is something that has long given supervisors heartburn. Whether you’re the manager or the manag-ee, hopefully, the past few months have given you time to get better at this and revise your workflow accordingly, but if not, get help! Coaching is available, and don’t be embarrassed to ask your colleagues what’s worked for them.

Accountability and measurable performance standards are key to strategic planning, and your new way of doing business needs to support this. Don’t throw your goal-setting system out the window—adjust and adapt, and make sure your team knows this is a critically important part of the process.   

Recruiting and succession planning in the virtual age is also an entirely new animal and worth a whole blog unto itself. But for now, I’ll just say, keep an eye on your team. Not everyone is cut out for work in the digital world, and it may prove difficult for some of your crew, especially your long-time employees. Take steps to make sure everyone gets the training they need, and a fair opportunity to succeed.

But it’s altogether possible that some of them may choose to move on. If this is the case, make sure you recruit and review potential new hires with an eye on the new skill sets required. (Here’s a tip—if your virtual candidate answers your first interview question while on “mute,” that could be a red flag.)

And give a good look at millennial and Gen-Z candidates—this may be the perfect time to bring some fresh energy and 21st-century perspective into your organization.

Finally, in these challenging times—(aren’t you SICK of that phrase?)—celebrating our successes is more important than ever. When your team is working away in their home offices, rebooting shaky Wi-Fi systems and fending off roving toddlers, you need to fully acknowledge and cheer their victories when their efforts pay off.

There are lots of “virtual donuts” you can bring to a celebration—online vouchers and coupons for assorted goodies (even REAL donuts!), funny videos to share, and heartfelt thanks from the managers and leaders who sometimes tend to disappear in the digital zone. Make sure the whole team is on board and engaged.  

Even snail mail has a place here—cards and small gifts arriving in their mailbox are definitely appreciated in times of lockdown. But most importantly, don’t forget to include “gratitude” in your strategic plan. It’s the oil that keeps your company’s motor running smoothly, keeping all the parts lined up and in sync.

When our connections to the outside world are limited to a laptop screen and a smartphone, it’s easy to forget that we’re working with real people, who are going through these weird days just the same as we are. Keep the human factor front and center in your strategic planning, and you’ll have a key ingredient for renewed growth and success in 2021.