August 13, 2020

Stuck at home, Americans are finding that the home improvement projects they’ve been putting off aren’t as easy to ignore anymore. 

“You have more people sitting around thinking, ‘Maybe my yard doesn’t look as good as I thought it did,’” said Tiffany Bierschank, senior vice president of sales at HomeAdvisor. “They’re noticing there’s work to be done around the house.” 

HomeAdvisor, a marketplace for service professionals like painters, landscapers, contractors and more, has been scaling rapidly to meet the uptick in interest: According to the company, they’ve seen an 18 percent increase in project requests over the past three months. And while the company may be temporarily remote, Bierschank said they haven’t approached the situation as temporary.

Instead of waiting out the clock until they’re back in the office, teams across the board rallied around building new training programs to better accommodate the new growth.

“We’re not just hanging tight until we go back to the office — we’re thinking about the benefits of how we can make the best of being virtual,” Bierschank said. “There are so many things we’re able to do now that we didn’t think of or didn’t have the ability to do before.” 

Built In Chicago spoke with Bierschank to learn more about how she’s growing her team in a remote environment, how the company has embraced change and why she takes a proactive approach in preparing her team for what’s next — whether that’s a tough sales climate or a new career benchmark. 

 

What’s it like selling to people right now? Has HomeAdvisor made any product adjustments?

Bierschank: Right now, working in sales really requires a ton of empathy. We’ve made sure that we are talking to our clients in a way that shows we understand that the pandemic has affected their businesses, livelihoods, friends and routines. So we’re making sure that when we’re on the phone with them, we’re talking more about that side of things. 

We’ve changed a ton of our product offerings in order to allow more people to come into our network, and we’ve offered different discounts. Our other senior vice president of strategy came up with new ideas, discounts and limited-time offers that were so timely. We’ve been very forward with trying to get people in because we’ve got such high demand right now and there are small companies that are struggling — we want to help them.

We’re selling at an all-time high right now. We just have to make sure we’re adding enough heads so that we can satisfy the demand that’s coming through. 

 

Chicago HomeAdvisor working from home

 

Let’s talk more about the need for empathy. What does that look like on your team?

Everybody understands that they need to be empathetic, but we’re very proactive with training. I meet with my vice presidents at least three times a week and they, along with our managers, meet with their teams daily. I’d rather us all over-communicate — we’re now touching base with the people that work with us more frequently probably than we did before. 
 

We’re now touching base with the people that work with us more frequently probably than we did before.”


Even in the office, you just kind of assume that everything’s fine because the people are all there. But being able to take a more proactive approach by asking how people are doing and checking in has been huge — for our customers and for our internal team. 

 

Sales is such a people profession. How have you adapted that for a dispersed workforce?

We build so much of our culture inside the offices. To miss a huge chunk of that has been incredibly hard. People crave that human interaction. To address that, we’ve been really sensitive to that need and have really boosted how often we reach out to our team members. 

We make up the lack of in-person interaction in other ways. Now, for example, we do virtual happy hours. But they’re not just happy hours: During one, a VP of ours hired a magician, and everyone on the screen was really laughing and joking around. Another one of my other VPs got Meredith from “The Office” to drop into their Zoom meeting. 

We’ve been trying to look at it not as we miss seeing each other, which we do. But now, no matter where someone is, you can have them in your living room. We’ve been really trying to bolster that side of it and take advantage of how we can get more people in front of each other.

 

 

homeadvisor zoom happy hour

 

Since HomeAdvisor is growing, you’ve had to onboard a lot of newcomers. What’s the virtual training process been like?

I have never seen anything like the training team we have. They ditched the old ways of training that worked for us in the office and completely revamped the program. I’m talking about breakout rooms and happy hours and listening sessions to find out what’s frustrating. Our new hires have people with them when they’re on calls. If they need help, they have someone Slacking them in real-time. 
 

There are so many things we’re able to do now that we didn’t think of or didn’t have the ability to do before.”


Our last class that trained virtually is doing better than our average of the classes in January and February. It has been promising to see that number move in the way it did. And the training team is really starting to find their stride in how to help these new hires and accept that it’s all virtual. We’re not just hanging tight until we go back to the office — we’re thinking about the benefits of how we can make the best of being virtual. There are so many things we’re able to do now that we didn’t think of or didn’t have the ability to do before.

 

Developing Future Leaders

When she was a director, Bierschank designed a leadership development program in which employees learn a solid foundation of skills they can continue to grow independently with their managers. The program teaches participants how to motivate a team; hold reps accountable; coach and train a team; and transition from a teammate to a manager in a professional way. “We all take it very seriously. This is a course that employees are going to be able to utilize throughout the rest of their lives,” Bierschank said. 

 

homeadvisor remote work

 

What does career progression look like at HomeAdvisor these days?

Last week, I promoted three new vice presidents. We’re definitely still growing — we’re bringing on about 250 new sales reps every single month. Internal promotions make so much sense to me because at every level, leaders can actually empathize with the employees they’re now training, teaching and developing. 

I started as a rep making calls. When I talk to new hires, I’ll go into their classes and tell them that I absolutely understand and know what they’re going through. It gives me confidence in holding them accountable because I’ve done that job, along with all the directors. You wouldn’t think that humility played a large part in sales, but I think it’s one of the cornerstones of being able to be a successful salesperson.

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