Part 1 of a 4-Part Series on Effective Remote Business Communications
It was the early 1800s when Christopher North first penned the phrase, “His Majesty’s dominions, on which the sun never sets,” which he later revised to the more user-friendly and more quoted, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” North, of course, was referring to the influence and power wielded by the King of England during its peak of world control.
Today, you don’t have to be part of a multi-continent kingdom to appreciate the need to manage and communicate from a distance. You may not be part of the “sun never sets” crowd, but that doesn’t mean your company doesn’t have the challenges of communicating and collaborating across time zones, countries, and even continents.
Let’s take a look at the four primary methods businesses use to communicate from a distance:
- Scheduled live meetings—Accomplished via a web conferencing tool or simply a phone call
- Scheduled reports or emails— Summarizing activities planned or completed and often due on a certain day every week or month
- The impromptu outreach—by phone or email
- The relationship-building or retention outreach—by phone or email
In this blog, I will focus on what has become a cornerstone of communication for remote managers, and especially sales managers—the scheduled live meeting or call.
Of all the types of distance-communication methods, the scheduled meeting is the most straightforward. It is what most people think of when talking about working remotely or managing remote employees. A scheduled call or web conference doesn’t surprise anyone; it’s on your calendar, and it is often recurring.
Ironically, scheduled live calls are exactly the kind of remote communications that people complain about the most. Why? The reason that everybody loathes the “Monday Morning ____________ Call” is simple: it is almost always a recurring event, making those meetings prone to wasting time. During most recurring calls, especially team calls, the participants often zone out or dismiss what is being said entirely. There are often arguments about the validity of reports and what was and was not communicated in earlier meetings. In essence, there are multiple versions of the truth.
But for a manager to be effective, they must understand that the wasted time will ultimately discredit the meeting and undermine all the good intentions of two-way communication.
When done right, a regularly-scheduled live meeting or call can be a remote manager’s or remote worker’s ally. The best calls are kept short, focused, and direct. It is not a time for social catch-up, personal announcements, or even company announcements, for that matter. The scheduled recurring meeting needs to stay on track, stay on topic, and stay as scheduled.
Here is an example of an agenda of a recurring meeting and can serve as a practical outline for the “Monday Morning Sales Forecast” meeting.
- Start on time.
- Take attendance. Attendance doesn’t have to suck time. The person is either present or not, so don’t waste time asking, “Where’s Jimmy?” Make an impromptu phone call or email (#3) to deal with Jimmy’s tardiness or absence.
- Refer to your report. Put all eyes on your Sales Forecast, Pipeline, and Attainment Report and validate with each rep that they agree or disagree with it. Do not ask reps why they disagree with the report or why they are performing below expectations. Make a note either way and move on.
- Offer help. Ask if anyone needs help with any active deals and then make a note and contact them offline.
- Acknowledge. Congratulate those that are ahead of the quota.
- Close on time.
The secret to successful scheduled live meetings or calls is to stick to the agenda, respect people’s time, and, most of all, a single version of the truth.
Keeping your Sales Forecast call, or any recurring call or meeting, on-topic and true to its agenda will pay dividends. As much as you may want to socialize, you will discredit the meeting if you do. When done correctly, the call should take no more than 40 minutes for a team of eight to ten people. When I worked for a Global 500 company, I participated in a 14-member Forecast and Commit call. It took place every Thursday evening at 4:00 p.m. EST. Without fail, it always started on time, it was friendly, and it stayed on topic. The call always ended between 4:50 and 4:55—not a minute later. Coaching, training, and executive assistance came at another time via an impromptu phone call or email or a scheduled one-on-one.
To learn more about developing and using a Sales Forecast, Pipeline, and Attainment Report for your business, book a personal consultation with a member of our Executive Sales and Marketing team here.