Cultivating culture without the office

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Prior to the pandemic, Drift’s office was more than just a place to work. The company’s executives relied on physical spaces to reinforce a deliberate culture, attitude, and way of working. This was especially true for its sales org.

“When you're constantly around the people you work with, it creates an underlying vibrance or tonality in the office,” wrote Drift’s then-CRO Josh Allen. “If something’s not quite right, it’s easy to spot, because it sticks out.”

And it went further than culture. The Drift sales org relied on its office to power ongoing learning and development. Reps overheard conversations and absorbed ideas. It was helpful for managers, too. If they overheard a mistake or spotted an area for improvement, it was easy to grab a quick drive-by chat or impromptu coaching session.

So when Allen heard they were shutting the office, he was concerned. It felt like he was about to lose all Drift’s carefully crafted culture overnight.

But as Allen discovered, losing an office doesn’t mean you automatically lose your culture. By thinking about replicating in-office experiences and intentionally creating new touchpoints between colleagues, he recreated Drift’s culture across hundreds of home offices.

Design intentional touchpoints

The most significant difference between an in-office role and a remote role is interpersonal interaction. In an office, you’re surrounded by dozens of colleagues, contractors, and others. In this setting, communication is easy. You can pull a chair over to someone’s desk for a quick meeting or catch them in the corridor for an informal chat. For sales leaders, immediate access is an exceptional management tool.

“When you can walk by [a rep’s] desk and clock their body language, attitude, and energy — and when you can interact with them in person — it’s easier to keep your finger on the pulse,” wrote Allen. “But in times like these, when you’re miles away and all you see is their Slack status, you need to create new, intentional touchpoints.”

To increase his remote interaction with his colleagues, Allen implemented a range of new virtual touchpoints. Alongside regular one-to-ones, he’d grab employees for impromptu catch-ups. They’d hop onto a Zoom call, discuss the day, and address any issues that popped up. It was his way of replicating the floor-walk feeling he got in the office. 

But Allen recognizes that every interaction can’t be about work. In fact, he suggests that it shouldn’t be. In the office, you chat with colleagues about their weekend plans, sports results, or the latest Netflix show. It’s difficult to do that virtually — unless you intentionally carve out the time.

“Alongside regular one-on-ones, some of Drift’s sales leaders are doing happy hours, spontaneous lunches, and virtual coffee breaks,” wrote Allen. “They’re intentionally creating new touchpoints that mimic office interactions and replicate their social benefits.”

Create learning rituals

Remote teams can’t learn via osmosis. They don’t overhear meetings and sales calls. They can’t chime in with suggestions. As sales leaders, you have to build new remote learning opportunities to fill this void.

Weekly kickoffs and syncs provide opportunities for peers to share ideas, experiments, and approaches.

But it’s not just reps who benefit from training. The best sales leaders are constantly searching for new learning opportunities.

“I meet with 20 to 40 members of our team to talk through a specific topic, discuss new strategies, and practice techniques,” wrote Allen. “We call it Coach’s Corner. Recently, we discussed tone — how do you have a conversation with somebody while also presenting business value?”

Beyond rituals, teams need the right tooling to empower people to own their own training. That’s where revenue intelligence comes in. These tools harvest buyer behavior data and crunch it using AI to identify trends. By analyzing data from all your reps, revenue intelligence tools streamline the learning process, cutting out gut checks to jump straight to concrete conclusions.

Your Field Sales Playbook For 2021+