How to Have More Effective Communication During Remote Work
Mary Elizabeth Hammond
“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell
This year, millions have been forced to stay home and turn to remote work to stop the spread of COVID-19. With this distance being thrown into our everyday lives, communication methods have had to be adjusted to fit the new normal of 2020. This has led to a digital transformation as well as communication frustrations in the workplace. Gone are the days of popping your head into someone’s office or congregating around the water cooler. It’s become clear that remote work is not a passing fad, but will be around long term. As John Powell has suggested, effective communication takes intentionality. While you are distanced from your team and potential customers, what are the most effective communication methods?
The Communication Challenges Remote Work Has Presented
As we’ve turned from working in a traditional office to a home office—what’s changed? According to a survey of nearly 2,500 remote workers done by Buffer, communication was ranked as one of the top three challenges of remote work. Meetings have become the only time to have interaction with coworkers. Over 77% of managers have confessed to having difficulty leading a remote team.
Microsoft recently conducted a survey of its workforce and communication habits since remote work started earlier this year. They found that their meeting time has increased by 10% overall. They also found that their communications on IMs have increased during lunch hours, evening hours, and even on the weekends indicating that employees are blurring the line between work and personal time. There are no longer clear boundaries.
For sales reps, remote work means remote selling. They no longer have the advantage of face to face interactions with potential customers. They are facing an out of sight, out of mind mentality. Digital and remote selling require new strategies from reps for success. The buyer’s journey has become more digital and more independent than ever.
With all of these changes, how are people communicating? And more importantly, how are they communicating effectively? We surveyed over 700 sales professionals about their communication during remote work. Here is what we found:
Digital Communication Tools That Are Working
When asked which tools they have utilized most since working remotely, 96.11% of sales professionals ranked email highest. Video conferencing software was ranked as the second most utilized tool as a top choice for 89.57% of those polled. Communications via phone was a close third choice as 89.15% chose it as their first choice.
Email is one of the oldest forms of digital communication, and yet still the most commonly used. It is a tried and true method that most people are comfortable with. Not everyone may be on Slack or Teams, but they likely have an email address.
- Video Conferencing
Video conferencing has become an almost daily ritual for most. Zoom daily users reached 200 million in March 2020 after seeing only 10 million in December 2019.
- Phone (Including Online Voice Calls)
Whether you are cold calling or having an online call with a customer, a phone call is an irreplaceable communication method in the world of sales. As you are attempting to connect with potential clients, many are more comfortable with a phone call than a video call.
How to Make Your Communication Efforts More Effective
For communication efforts to be effective, you’ll need more than just the right tools—you’ll need the right methods as well. Here are a few ways you can invite better communication with your team and customers no matter where you are working from:
- Outline Expectations
In an interview with Forbes, Brian Zotti of SVP Service and Operations at Contek Consulting in San Francisco advised, “Create a communication playbook that outlines the who, what, when, and how the team can expect to interact.” For long term effective communication, it’s important to outline what that looks like. Stating communication expectations and opening the door to clear communication as a leader will set an example for your team to follow.
- Check-In Regularly
It can be easy for remote workers to feel isolated. Go out of your way to check in on employees, coworkers, and customers to avoid disconnection. Opening up those lines of communication both socially and professionally will go a long way. For more tips on opening up communication within your remote team, check out this article.
- Reach Out With the Right Method at the Right Time
Knowing who, when, and how to communicate with customers and potential customers gives sales reps a major advantage. Playbooks by XANT uses buyer profiles to recommend to reps the most effective methods and times to communicate with a specific lead, increasing the likelihood of a response. Try it out to ensure communication is most effective between reps and leads.
Though there is more distance between your team and your customers, you can still connect with them. Utilizing tools like Playbooks and effective communication strategies can help you not only adjust to the new normal but thrive in it.