In no other time in recent history has the topic of mental health been more at the forefront of public conversation. And this is no surprise, coming out of a pandemic that sent the whole world home, the resulting isolation fast developing into a sense of fear, stress, anxiety, uncertainty and loneliness that are all serious risk factors when it comes to mental health.
Add to this that the protective factors were way down, such as social connection, access to physical exercise, daily routine and secure employment.It’s not surprising people have taken strain.
Although the pandemic is mostly over, at least the high-crisis part of it, the anxiety and depression it sparked do not go away as easily. In any case, it is common to experience a mental health challenge in life, from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and PTSD. US figures say up to half of people will experience some form of challenge to mental health in their lives.
What is surprising is the level of stigma in society. Stigma is a negative and downright unfair social attitude to a person or group, often placing shame on them too. Interestingly, stigma often comes from a lack of understanding or fear.
The real problem comes when people delay seeking treatment out of fear of this stigma, and their condition gets worse.Many people fear being labeled ‘crazy’ for simply seeking help from a therapist. This stigma causes unnecessary suffering and prevents people from getting the help they need.
The question is: how can we at Boomerang SA help to break this stigma and ensure that people who need therapeutic help can get this help sooner rather than later. Then, how do we address the fact that many people need support and understanding at work?
When it comes to stigma, information is key.This month we are inviting our consultant life coach to give talks in the office that demystify mental health issues and offer a more humane and inclusive attitude to the challenges so many people face.
We intend to extend these workshops to leaders to equip them to make it easier for people to come forward when they are experiencing difficulties. What then becomes vital is an extensive referral network, as well as to able to guide people into more affordable therapy options. Often, cost for private care can be prohibitive but there are support groups for many conditions that are free.
At Boomerang we believe in lowering the barrier to entry for health care, and a wellness programme is included in our employee health insurance policy framework. The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) gives 24-hour care in the form of on-call doctors, as well as telephonic counseling on personal issues such as family problems, stress management and work-related concerns.
These services are geared for short-term intervention and assessment, and the EAP counselor will refer to external sources where need be. In addition, there is a 24/7 trauma line to help our employees cope should there be a crisis.
The EAP even extends to basic legal, financial and debt restructuring guidance, all elements that can negatively affect a person’s state of mind if left unaddressed.
At Boomerang our first and most important customers are our employees, who are the heart and soul of our business. We recognize that stigma is an unnecessary hindrance to getting real help for real people, and we are always on the lookout to do all we can to provide just that.
A motivated, efficient, and high-performing sales team is where the rubber hits the road in business. Punting the right product and monitoring with all the right technology means little unless you have the right sales team, and they stay on their game.
After all, sales productivity and performance are the leading edge of most businesses; the bottom line is that sales efficiency determines, well, the bottom line. The challenge is to increase sales efficiency and performance, yet word on the street is that it’s not so simple.
The figures from an annual study done by The Bridge Group attest to this sentiment. In 2012, 44% of organisations surveyed found that increasing sales productivity was the toughest hurdle they faced. By 2017, that number was up to 49%. Let’s take a closer look at this problem and see also why outsourcing sales tasks goes a long way to solving it.
If we drill down into the data a little, we find that productivity, recruiting the right people and getting them skilled up are chief concerns. Let’s start with sales productivity, loosely defined as generating more revenue with fewer resources (time and money). In other words, the more a sales rep sells, with as little cost to company as possible, the more valuable that sales rep is.
On average, an in-house salesperson only spends about a third of their time actually selling, with the rest of their time being taken up by admin tasks, meeting and other non-revenue generating activities. In a business that incorporates sales, marketing, production, and admin under one roof, it’s easy for that to happen. In an outsourcing centre, that’s not the case. The primary focus is on selling, and a telemarketer’s time is reserved for this function.
Be that as it may, there are tried-and-tested ways to up performance, from using the right tools to keeping your sales force happy.
The right tools: By definition, a tool is something that makes life easier. In sales, CRM platforms come into their own here, as they address the time-saving notion that any process that can be automated, should be automated. With redundant and admin tasks out of the way, there is more time to dig into the direct sales toolbox and implement those with a proven track record. Sales tools help to keep track of data, organise it, and sell more.
Mapping a consistent sales process: When salespeople can follow concrete steps, worked out from the evidence of what has worked previously, it frees them up to connect with the prospective customer. This requires that a sales process be analysed, tactics be developed, and a roadmap drawn up. Of course, reviewing this plan periodically and remaining flexible with regard to evaluating new tactics, especially those proposed by the team, is the way to keep it current.
On-point tracking: If you know where you are and where you’d like to get to, it sets a starting point as well as a psychologically motivating stretch goal for your team. Consistently measured, metrics such as contact, lead and close rates, not to mention the all-important conversion rate, can not only identify places that need improvement, but can also set your team up for success in the friendly jostle for top spot on the performance ladder.
Reliable routines: Salespeople are a busy lot, and the key is getting things done. Out in the field, that presents a challenge as each salesperson must create their own schedule incorporating follow-ups, emails and travel plans. In a contact centre the schedule is formulated once by a manager, and is applied across all agents, saving considerable time and money.
Daily goals and motivating for success: Nothing motivates like success, so when achievable goals are set, reached and, importantly, recognised and celebrated, the inner motivation to do better and more is instantly sparked. In the team sport atmosphere of a contact centre, this benefit really comes into play.
Slick communication: Keeping in touch with salespeople, discussing solutions to hurdles and efficiency, is a major yet vital task of any sales manager. Team meetings and one-on-ones are the go-to here, facilitating feedback from sales agents as to what’s working and what could be done better. In the contact centre environment, a dedicated campaign manager has this as a core function.
Recruiting sales stars: The salesperson is a particular breed – unselfconscious, never discouraged, humble yet able to subtly dominate in a conversation – and the evidence suggests that personality plays a big role in determining success. So much so, that a specialised onboarding process is a considerable determinant of team success. Selecting the right candidates can be challenging for a business that has so much other stuff to do. At a contact centre it’s an entirely different situation as the experienced HR manager has long developed an eye for the sales stars, is an old hand at sorting out the wheat from the chaff as it were.
Scalability: There will be times when demand increases exponentially, as has happened with certain products and service into the pandemic. To maximise on this kind of windfall, when it comes, a sales force needs to be able to upscale and fast. Problem is, that comes with huge downside risk when the increased demand peters out. Scalability is a main reason that businesses choose a BPO partner, who assumes that risk. The upside is that, as a business, you can rest assured that if the gold rush comes, you are brilliantly positioned to capitalise on it.
Align the marketing and sales teams: The theory is that while the marketing crew makes a punt for an area where it thinks the most promising leads are, the sales team goes after those leads and converts them to revenue. In response, sales discover in real-time which leads are actually the best, and it’s marketing’s job to attract more of those leads. It’s like one hand washing the other, and what better way to maximise this partnership than to make sure that both parties are working well together. In a contact centre environment like Boomerang, we have built-in feedback processes that make sure information passes seamlessly between sales and marketing and vice versa.
There is no doubt that managing a sales team is a full-time occupation that not only requires technological as well as people skills, but also a finger on the pulse of trends and new sales tactics. In a business with other areas of focus, such as admin and production, it can be an onerous task. But it is a task overlooked at the firm’s peril.
This is one reason many businesses have already or are looking to outsourcing their sales process, in the knowledge that their BPO firm of choice, like Boomerang SA, specialises in all the contingencies of managing a flourishing sales team. At Boomerang, this is what we do, and we’re really good at it.