My job is to ensure every customer gets the most value out of Salesforce, but my passion is establishing and building trust. As the Chief Adoption Officer, I spend more than half my time meeting with customers all around the world. It’s that face-to-face interaction that helps me help them.
On any given day, I’m landing in a new city with a packed schedule, shuffling from plane to car to client meeting to hotel and then back the other way. That all changed overnight.
As worries over the coronavirus escalated, out of an abundance of caution, Salesforce asked many of us to start working from home. I went from knowing where I was going to be every single day for the next four months to scrambling to set up my next meeting… over video.
So what should sales leaders do to deepen our connection with customers during a time when digital communication becomes the form of communication? What do we tell our teams when they’re cooped up at home? And how do we be there for our people without physically being there?
Below are a few practices I’ve implemented these past few weeks to maintain strong customer relationships and build new ones, even while I’m not out on the road. I hope that by sharing, you too will be able to strengthen your bonds during these trying times.
1. Listen to your team
Let’s be realistic. Your team members aren’t going to be thinking about how they can help their customers if they’re worried about what’s happening at home.
First and foremost, focus on building an inclusive, empathetic culture from the top down. Your team is watching to see how you react. Show them you care. Open up a team call or one-on-one with a personal story and invite them to share their own. Then probe deeper: How can I help? What boundaries can I respect? What are the things we should all agree on as a team?
One of the first things I did at home was organize a call twice a week with my team just to talk. This led us to create a Quip doc, where we could collect our thoughts and share what we’ve learned. You can also try inviting people to virtual happy hour. You’d be surprised to find how nice it feels – even when it’s just 15 minutes in front of a webcam.
At Salesforce, we’re helping our employees redefine their work through a variety of tools and channels – but no matter what technology you have at your disposal, every leader can be empathetic and listen. That creates team members who are ready to do the same.
2. Listen to your customers
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is a time for deep listening. It’s important now more than ever. Remind your teams to really hear what their customers are concerned about and to show that they’re really there for them.
How do you do this? Set up a virtual coffee. Talk about what they’re facing. Brainstorm how to work together. Propose ideas that could solve their problems now.
One customer recently told us they needed an emergency preparedness portal to communicate with their customers. Our team turned around a prototype in two days. That customer may or may not ultimately sign a deal with us, but they’ll remember we helped them when they needed it most.
While many things feel uncertain right now, people still need to do business. Contracts are still being written. And pain points still need to be solved. Listen to your customers with empathy, and you’ll end up creating true value for them.
3. Be mindful of customers’ time
Building relationships is a fundamental part of sales and customer success. Of course, treating a prospect to dinner isn’t possible right now.
Sometimes, the best way to show respect is to be mindful of your customers’ time. Don’t let small talk overstay its welcome. Keep agendas tight and focused so your customers can get back to their work and home priorities.
If a customer made time to meet with you, treat the meeting start time like a covenant. Take careful notes, send follow-ups, and, again, focus on how you can help.
4. Learn together
Quite frankly, I don’t have all the answers. But here’s one thing that’s true no matter the situation: We are stronger when we work together, when we double down on our relationships and our community (or Ohana, as we like to call it at Salesforce).
This month, in response to the coronavirus, we hosted our very first online only World Tour, an event that normally brings our customers physically together for a day of learning and networking. We had 10 days to pivot.
When we were transparent with our customers about the switch to digital, we received an outpouring of support.
“Some amazing content all day at #SalesforceTour in Sydney. I loved the sessions with @BillieJeanKing and @pipms. Great thought leadership shown by @Salesforce & how to pivot to an online experience without losing any of the engagement & impact.” – @PeterJChalmers
While we were dealing with our new virtual reality, so were our customers. Together, we came out the other side – better than ever.
How are you managing customer relationships while working remotely? I’d love to see what you and your teams have come up with. Reach out to us on @salesforce and share what you’ve learned.
And if you’re looking for more inspiration on how to work remotely, check out this Trailhead module on virtual collaboration.