Jola Cloud Solutions' Blog

LESSONS FROM LOCKDOWN - RECRUITING

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 01-Jul-2020 12:46:31

In the last 12 weeks we have recruited 6 new staff. None of us had ever hired someone without physically meeting them before.

FOR BUSINESSES

1. YOU CAN MAKE YOUR PROCESS MORE RIGOUROUS

Too many trips to your office can put candidates off. Conversely the more we see them, the more likely they are to reveal their true selves. You can use multiple Teams calls and they don’t all have to be an hour long to justify the travel time. Just make sure you prepare well and avoid repeating questions.

2. RECORD THE INTERVIEW

This enables you to take fewer notes, focus on the candidate and include others in the review process. Ever interviewed a candidate from an agency and within 10 minutes you know it’s not a fit? Help your agency filter better by watching videos of their CV interviews.

3. TAKE VERBAL PRE-OFFER REFERENCES

References are especially important if you can’t physically meet someone. Nowadays written references are practically useless. Ask candidates for phone numbers of recent bosses and their permission to call them. If they think highly of the person, they will take your call so as to not harm their chances. Describe the job and ask them why they think 'X' is suited to the role and what training will be required.

 

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Topics: Business

What has the channel learnt from lockdown?

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 17-Jun-2020 10:43:53

Lockdown has been a testing time for many channel businesses, but is there anything we can learn from it?

We can work from anywhere with a good internet connection

We were ready to work from home ‘en masse’ as our phone systems, software and files were in the cloud and we were already using collaborative software, such as Microsoft Teams. Moving to a work-from-home model did not present many challenges, as many of us were already spending part of our week working remotely. Employees were able to answer calls and tickets from their kitchen tables and make offices in box rooms very easily. We were able to order and deliver additional equipment, such as headsets and office chairs to the homes of our employees.

We embraced technology

Even though we had the technology, face-to-face meetings were always preferable, and meetings booked rather than webinars or video calls. This all changed during lock-down. It is now acceptable to video call colleagues at home and arrange video conference calls and webinars with customers. We are now much more accepting of background noise and interruptions than we were pre-lock down, as we have a better understanding of the challenges our employees and customers are facing.

We got creative

With many projects being put on hold and events cancelled, we needed to rethink our sales and marketing strategies. Many of us enhanced our online offering, making it easier for our customers to place orders online. We re-thought our marketing messages and our sales strategies and began building relationships online using LinkedIn, Twitter and IM. As we couldn’t interact face-to-face, we had more time to comment on blogs, like posts, answer LinkedIn messages and get around to those projects we had been putting off. We changed our recruitment policies and hired new people without ever meeting them face-to-face.

We listened

We listened to our staff and the challenges they were facing balancing work with their homelives and created support programmes. We arranged quizzes and online socials. We rolled out access to online workouts and confidential help lines and encouraged regular breaks and flexible working. We provided vouchers to access the latest films for free and discount vouchers for online shopping.

We tried to help

We have access to technology to allow people to communicate and were watching on the news how doctors were struggling to see patients, students were unable to study from home and family members were worrying about relatives in care homes. We contacted our local surgeries, schools and care homes and offered to help. As an industry we were able to quickly provide the technology to solve these problems.

We have more listening and learning to do to allow us to diversify and grow our businesses. The crisis will end, and we will look back on this period and the lessons learnt. Those that adapted quickly and prepared for future may turn out to be the most successful.

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Topics: Business

Preparing to work in the office

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 10-Jun-2020 15:56:47

For the last few weeks many of us have been working from home. What do we need to consider now to ensure a safe office environment for our employees in the near future?

If it aint broke….

If your team is working successfully from home, there may be no need to move back into the office for the moment. With many schoolchildren still at home, it would be difficult for many working parents to return to the office at this time. At some point in the future however, employees may need to return to the office, so it is worth considering these points.

Step 1 – Ensuring the health of your workforce

Communicate the latest government guidelines to ensure that anyone with symptoms or anyone that has been in contact with a person testing positive for COVID 19, self-isolates for 14 days. Do you wish to issue each employee with a PPE pack containing essential items such as hand sanitiser, single-use masks, single-use gloves, blue roll, laptop and screen cleaning spray and surface cleansing spray?

Step 2 – Maintaining social distancing guidelines

You may need to look at your office plan. Are your desks 2 meters apart? Do you have adequate dividers? Do you need floor or wall signage to remind employees of the safe distance? Signs on the doors to remind people not to hold them open for others.

Step 3 – Maintaining a COVID free environment

You may need to look at your cleaning schedule to ensure regular cleaning of communal areas and ensure individuals each clean their desks, screens, keyboard, mice, trackpads, kettles, fridges, light switches, door handles etc. You may need to provide sanitisation stations where cleaning sprays and blue paper are provided for single-use wipe downs.

Step 4 – Socially Distanced Meetings

Can you continue to hold meetings virtually? If not think about limiting the number of people in a meeting room to ensure the 2-meter rule and consider wearing masks.

Step 5 – Socially Distanced Breaks

Consider break out areas and toilets. You may need additional signage, cleaning stations and processes to ensure surfaced are wiped clean before and after usage and that employees remain 2 meters apart. I know it sounds a lot, but you may need to ban tea rounds and ensure each person only uses their own cup, spoon and milk. If your whole team is touching the kettle and the milk bottle, there is an increased risk. Same issue with the bins, unless they are pedal bins.

Step 6 – New Rules

You may consider introducing new policies such as staggered arrival times and break times to reduce the amount of people in communal areas, such as the car park and break out rooms at the same time. You will need to ensure no sharing of IT equipment or stationery, so that everyone is allocated their own. You may need to add a sign to the microwave to ensure it is wiped down before and after use and ensure people use their own plates, knives, forks and cutlery. Most importantly you must ensure that you have a good stock of handwash and cleaning equipment to ensure staff can work effectively in their own bubble in a clean and healthy environment.

Most companies will conduct a risk assessment and implement policies and communicate them to all staff before embarking on a return to work project.

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Topics: Business

Selling into Major Accounts

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 20-May-2020 13:12:14

Salespeople selling into Major Accounts seem to be in a league of their own. They have great business acumen and converse easily at CX level. They tailor their own sales strategies, custom-built for each Major Account. They acquire a deep understanding of the accounts they hope to close. They understand the market in which they operate, their competitors and key customers. They also build close relationships with key decision makers and influencers over time, often socially. They become a trusted resource and offer help and support in situations that don’t benefit them directly, such as sharing recommendations for useful resources. As relationships strengthen, they are able to influence key decision makers and start a commercial relationship that is mutually beneficial.

The Sales Strategy

Salespeople selling into major accounts are very good at extracting the right information, from the right people at the right time, during the sales cycle. They analyse the information gathered and decide what needs to be done and how to do it. This often involves other departments, such as development if products need to be tweaked to meet the needs of a major prospect.

The importance of networking

Major accounts salespeople often have a large network of industry peers, reflected in their social media connections and popularity at industry events. They understand relationships between contacts in key accounts, suppliers, competitors and customers and are not afraid to leverage resources. They understand the value of supporting each other and building advocates.  They ensure everyone in the buying cycle is aware of the good news story, highlighting problems to be solved. They are very pro-active, excellent at overcoming obstacles and passionate about negotiation. They push for a decision and are aware of potential competition. They can demonstrate measurable results and show why signing with them is a good investment.

In a nutshell

The best Major Account salespeople tailor their selling strategy to match each step in the client’s decision-making process. They understand the financial levers of an organisation. Whilst the product department and sales teams of a target prospect may be primarily concerned with product, the CEO and CFO work at a different level. To properly understand their drivers, the Major Accounts salesperson, must be able to read and understand profit and loss and balance sheet.

They understand the psychology of the buyer and know how to overcome objections and reassure doubts. They look to gain entry to Major Accounts through many windows of opportunity. They always follow up warm introductions and offer useful information. They know how to take on the competition and win. They handle negotiations effectively and offer ongoing support to ensure they win future opportunities and keep the competition out of their accounts.

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Topics: Business

Targeting Major Accounts

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 20-May-2020 13:00:02

As business owners, we all have accounts we would love to land, but how many of us have a strategic plan and timeframe to close them? Without a focussed strategy to attract and convert these accounts, they are unlikely to close of their own accord.

How do you go about targeting major accounts?

Firstly, you need clear parameters to help you create a defined list of major accounts to target. Start by thinking about who consumes large quantities of your core product. Who do they buy this from now? What issues could they have with it? How can your product solve these issues? How easy is it for them to change supplier? Once you have your list, you need a strategy to attract and convert them, and a team dedicated to the project.

Tactics

All the usual marketing tactics are at your disposal, but they need to be used in a much more targeted manner. Email marketing campaigns may be conducted in other forms, such as LinkedIn messaging. Press releases and case studies communicated via social media, rather than industry publications. SEO is just as important when dealing with a smaller list of companies. Think through your key words and wrap content around them. Events are very important to ensure multiple peer conversations. With major accounts, you are often looking to influence a wider circle of decision makers and need to be visible at the exact time a decision is being taken, or better still, be the catalyst resulting in a favourable change. Contacts in common are just as critical as referrals and good case studies.

Your Team

Your team needs to be made up of both marketing and sales professionals with specific remits and tasks. There needs to be a task co-ordinator, who ensures the tactics are carried out and reported upon. For example, the Marketing Director may set the strategy and devise the tactics. They may be supported by the marketing team for data list building, social monitoring, content creation and engagement tracking. The marketing team will also need to engage the sales team and hand over tasks in order to gather further information about the account, as well as help engineer a targeted approach.

Closing

Major accounts can take over a year to close, therefore making sure you are investing your time in the right accounts is paramount. Understanding their customers, win rates, supplier relationships and new supplier onboarding processes, will help you to target the most likely to close and generate good revenues.

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Topics: Business

A Practical Guide to working from home

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 29-Apr-2020 12:52:30

When we started Jola we worked from home for a few years before we grew big enough to have an office. I had a three-month old baby with me at home. Now our entire team is working from home, many with young children, and managing to hit KPIs and drive growth in a very strange time. We have put together a guide to working from home, based on our own experience and hope it will help others.

Self-care

First and foremost, look after yourself. Having a good routine, getting enough sleep, eating well and taking regular breaks are very important to maintain momentum and productivity throughout the day. You may not be in the office, but may still be taking video calls, so be aware of what you look like and your background. Try to start and finish at your usual times to prevent work sneaking into your down-time.

Focus

Having a ‘to do’ list has never been more important. Planning your day to ensure a good balance between inbound and outbound activity is important, especially for sales and marketing. Some of us can transfer our daily routine from the office to home, especially if we have our office phone systems set up the same way and still have access to all our systems in the cloud. For others like external sales, their routines have changed completely. They are busy booking video calls and webinars instead of site visits and have more time to spend developing existing partners and researching new ones.

Balance

Many of us are working from home with young children and are embarrassed when they pop into video calls asking for a snack. We all have to balance our work with our homelife, many of us are teaching a range of new subjects and coming up with ‘fun’ learning activities that we are hopeful will amuse our children, whilst we are on important calls. Putting that person at ease by showing empathy and sharing our own stories, can really help to overcome this and help build relationships.

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Topics: Business

How to sell during a crisis

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 08-Apr-2020 11:30:17

Sales teams around the world are asking the same question at the moment. As a supplier to the UK voice and data channel, we wanted to share our thoughts with our partners.

Firstly, it is not sensible to project ‘business as usual’, as the reality is that the environment for salespeople has changed dramatically. We are all working from home, meetings are now virtual and group video chats are now a regular thing. Business owners are worrying about customers not being able to pay their bills, and we are all trying to get our head around the new government initiatives. Salespeople need to be aware of the changed priorities and adapt their approach.

Focus on helping

What do your partners/customers need right now? Understand requirements and where possible implement measures to help. It is important that the channel work together right now, as SMEs and resellers going bust will affect us all.

Adapt your approach

If you can no longer arrange meetings with customers, consider alternatives, video conferencing, training webinars, opportunity webinars. Sharing success stories in our industry is very powerful, as it is driven by entrepreneurs, who are able to change with the market. Use LinkedIn, review your profile, do your online research into what companies do, their financials, sectors they serve and problems you can uniquely solve. Consider your approach, how you draft your connection request, and what you then go on to share.

If new prospects are delaying decisions because of uncertainty, consider focussing sales teams on cross-sell and up-sell to existing customers.

Many resellers are new to mobile and mobile data, where constant innovation has thrown up several areas of opportunity. Is this the time to look at your customer base and identify openings for unlimited data products, mobile broadband and 4G back-up?

Retain contact

If you usually visit a customer once a month at site, consider moving these meetings online. Do the same with your training events and convert them to webinars. Continue your pro-active calling campaigns, checking in with key clients and prospects.

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Topics: Business

Marketing During a Global Crisis

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 08-Apr-2020 11:11:46

Many partners have asked how they can continue their marketing strategy during a crisis. We have put together some thoughts.

Audience

The first thing to consider is your audience. How have your customers and your prospects been affected by the current crisis? Has their behaviour changed? Do you need to adjust your strategy and messaging? The last thing you want to be is unsympathetic or worse still, opportunistic. Now is a good time to consider your actions and how this may affect your brand today and after the crisis has ended.

Campaign Planning

Review your messages and the timing of their delivery. Is it still appropriate in the current climate? The key to good marketing is getting the right message to the right people at the right time. If your customers are working out how to implement new government guidelines or have been forced to close, now may not be the right time to get their attention. If you haven’t checked your copy, you may cause lasting damage to your brand name.

Reviewing Spend

In a deteriorating economic situation, non-essential spend is often put on hold. In some sectors however, additional investment is required to fund campaigns to promote new online services.

Communication

Now is the time to keep in touch with your customers to let them know how you can support them and the wider community. Companies who can adapt to the new environment and help to meet demand without being opportunistic, are most likely to thrive post crisis.

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Topics: Business

Adapting your approach

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 01-Apr-2020 13:33:55

With many employees now working from home, how do we adjust our strategy to keep the business running and support the country?

Communication

Keeping in touch, has never been more important. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Office UC have been great for conference calls and group projects.

Sending relevant messages to your employees and customers is good practice. It is reassuring for both employees and customers to know how you are reacting to support their changing needs.

Changing behaviours

External sales teams are used to spending a lot of time on the road visiting customers. Can they book video meetings instead? Can they run webinars to help on-board and train new customers? Can they help by ensuring partners have enough product, to meet demand?

Marketing teams can help by changing face-to-face events to webinars. We need to re-think our strategy, understand the changing needs of our customers and rise to the new challenges. We need to consider the supply chain and the installation of core services. What do our customers need during this time? Can we get this to them?

Pro-active support

Keeping open communications with employees and customers, we are able to react to challenges and help come up with solutions. For example, writing online guides to help customers resolve key issues with routers and software used for homeworking.

Some businesses have been forced to close during this period and may struggle to pay their suppliers in the short-term. Can we help by changing contract terms or by implementing payment plans? Industries such as healthcare need support to cope with new challenges faced in hospitals and care homes. Supermarkets need robust networks to ensure tills continue to operate and electronic payments do not fail. Can we as an industry help?

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Topics: Business

Awards and Accolades

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 06-Mar-2020 11:42:50

How much do they influence your buyer behaviour?

It’s awards season again and marketing departments in the channel are busy writing awards entries, booking tables and planning outfits for the big night. Before jumping in, it is first worth considering what you are entering and why?

Awards evenings are expensive when you factor in table costs, drinks, accommodation and travel. Many marketing departments need to justify the costs with outcomes, such as the additional coverage from being shortlisted and the potential benefits from winning.

In competitive markets, wholesale service providers need to differentiate their offering. MSPs, IoTSPs and resellers are all looking for unique products that differentiate themselves, that are easy to sell and help them to grow their business. How much do awards influence this?

It is difficult to estimate. In my experience at Griffin and at Jola winning relevant awards has helped to raise the company profile, introduced the company to new potential partners and in some small way has helped to influence the decision of the resellers to partner with us. It’s not the logo on the website that has swung it, more the right products, at the right price, at the right time, managed by the right people and platforms. The right awards, just like the right case study, testimonial, introduction and recommendation at the right time can make all the difference.

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Topics: Business

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