Few things in life require as much planning as welcoming a new child into your family. While the process is loaded with excitement and pure joy, getting ready to be away from work for weeks or months at a time can be nerve-wrecking, especially for professionals as busy and hands-on as sales professionals.
While it won’t be easy, it can be easier with a little direction. And once everything is checked off your to-do list, you’re free to spend your time doing what matters most: bonding with and caring for your baby. In this post, we’re going to share helpful steps and tips for sales reps on how to prepare for maternity leave.
Maternity Leave In The U.S.: What You Need To Know
Working mothers are an incredibly important part of our workforce, accounting for nearly one-third of all employed women. Approximately 70% of women report taking some kind of leave following pregnancy.
Because there’s no federally mandated parental leave program in the United States – and because the length of time individuals need to recover and feel ready to return is deeply personal – the amount of time taken after giving birth varies widely. But overall, the average maternity leave in the United States is about 10 weeks.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) sets the rules for taking time off and returning to work in the United States. FMLA guarantees workers up to 12 unpaid workweeks in a 12-month period to care for a newborn. It also protects workers by dictating that you can’t be replaced or overlooked for raises or promotions while you’re gone.
To qualify for FMLA, you must have worked for your employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work for a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles. You can find comprehensive info on FMLA stipulations and benefits at the U.S. Department of Labor website.
Preparing For Maternity Leave: Steps For Sales Professionals
Expecting parents in the workplace know there’s a lot more to preparing for maternity leave than shopping, finishing the nursery, and preparing a birth plan. These steps can help you plan out a smooth transition.
Talk To Your Manager About Your Maternity Plans
It’s normal to want to keep news of a pregnancy to yourself until you reach a certain milestone or comfort level. For many women, that point is the start of their second trimester.
Just ensure you communicate your maternity plan to your supervisor on a timeline that allows them to adjust for your absence.
Your manager will need to know:
- When your leave will begin
- How long you plan to be gone
- What date you will be back
- Status of all your current customers/accounts
- Name and contact info for customers
- Password and login details for important accounts
Get Familiar With FMLA And Complete All Requirements
Read up on FMLA and understand your rights. Maternity leave and short-term disability laws vary from state to state, and you may need to do some research.
Your HR rep will be your primary resource to guide you through what steps you need to take, and any necessary paperwork. If your company doesn’t have a formal process in place for employees who need to take FMLA, and your rep may need to do a little homework to understand how to accommodate you.
Give yourself a head start on this conversation by educating yourself on what you are entitled to.
Write A Plan
Write a comprehensive plan that outlines your day-to-day responsibilities and write a standard operating procedure so the people covering for you can easily take over.
Your plan should include a list of your accounts and a thorough breakdown of your sales pipeline. Note what stage of the sales process prospects are in. You will eventually need to confirm with your sales leader on which colleagues will take over which accounts, and how commission will be split, depending on how far along a client is.
Align With Your Colleagues
Once your manager has determined who will be taking over your accounts, set up time to sit down with them. Share any notes, reports, and intelligence they will need to take on your customers with confidence.
Educate them on your customer’s business and products, as well as their preferences and company culture. This will help prevent any anxiety your colleague has about stepping into the new relationship, and you will rest easier knowing your accounts are in good hands.
It can be beneficial to sit down and go into your sales funnel tracking software together and show them your notes.
Schedule Facetime With Customers
One key to a smooth transition is to give customers plenty of notice that your leave is coming, and that a new sales rep will be stepping in. It’s helpful to start building that relationship while you are still available to answer questions and provide guidance.
Once your team is aligned on your transition plan, carve out some time to schedule face-to-face meetings with all of your clients and introduce them to their temporary point person.
The customer’s primary concern is that there will be a drop in support while you are out. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that you have taken the time to ensure that your leave won’t impact their service.
Schedule Follow-Up Using Sales Automation Tools
Utilize your CRM and sales automation tools to hold on to warm leads and prevent opportunities from falling through the cracks. Set up a sales cadence with messages scheduled to go out before, during, and after your leave, ensuring you have team members in place to engage with customers as needed. Make sure you have comprehensive notes in your CRM so anyone jumping in can quickly skim and get up to speed.
If your team uses Map My Customers, your sales leader can customize the Weekly Scorecard feature to receive regular updates on your pipeline during your leave.
Put Subscriptions On Hold
Many paid subscriptions and services offer the ability to pause or reduce your payments during a leave of absence. Make a list of any paid monthly accounts or subscriptions you won’t be using and contact the provider to put them on hold.
This can include trade publications, industry associations, sales software tools like Map My Customers, or even personal subscription boxes like meal delivery programs. If you have a professional subscription through work that doesn’t allow you to pause payments, consider if one of your colleagues could benefit from it while you’re away.
Prepare Your Maternity Leave Out of Office Messages
Have your “away” messages ready to go on your email account and voicemail. Your messages should clearly state that you’re out of office, and whether you will be checking or responding to emails. Make sure you include the name and contact info for your backup.
Here are examples of email and voicemail away messages you can steal. Remember, it’s completely up to you whether or not you say why you are going to be out. If you work at a company that offers a software service or product, you may also wish to include contact info for your technical support team.
Example Email Message:
Hello, thank you for your message.
I will be out of the office on parental leave until [date].
If you have any questions or concerns that need immediate attention, please contact [contact name] at [email address]. They will be happy to assist you.
All the best,
Example Voicemail Message:
Hello, you have reached [name] at [company].
I am currently on parental leave until [date].
If you need assistance, please contact [contact name] at [phone number].
Take Your Maternity Leave From A Sales Position With Confidence
A strong plan can make preparing for maternity leave a little less stressful, leaving your team functioning efficiently and letting you focus on your baby. Good luck, and congratulations!