The last year has resulted in remote work becoming the new normal for many professionals, and salespeople are being tasked with meeting and exceeding their targets while making a swift transition to working from home.
Successful sales work is possible outside of a traditional company office. As a sales manager, it is important to lead your remote team with the intention of helping them reach their goals while adjusting to a new way of working.
Depending on how your team is used to working, you may need to make some changes to your management approach to set your team up for success.
Remote Sales Management Challenges
Working remotely can be challenging for sales teams, and for managers who are used to working with employees face-to-face, there can be some uncertainty around how to support employees in a remote setting. Some challenges remote sales managers face include:
Knowing when to turn off: Feeling pressured to be accessible or working at all times.
Keeping employees engaged: Ensuring team members feel supported and productive when working from afar.
Barriers to collaboration: In the absence of face-to-face interaction and close proximity, creating opportunities to collaborate can feel few and far between. Many remote workers say that communicating with colleagues is one of the biggest challenges they face when working remotely. For employees who are used to speaking face-to-face with their manager and colleagues to ask a question or get feedback on a problem, working remotely can be especially challenging.
1. Establish clear communication channels
To lead a successful remote team, strong communication should be a top priority. When sales people are used to being able to visit their manager or a colleague’s desk to exchange information, digital tools can create accessibility in the absence of proximity.
This is not to say employees should be accessible at all times (in fact, we don’t recommend taking that approach). It does mean all members of your team need to know how to get hold of you as their manager, or one another as colleagues, through the appropriate channels at the appropriate times.
For example, your team may want to use email to send you messages that don’t need an immediate response. A chat tool such as Slack can be used for sending brief messages that need an immediate response, or for appropriate social conversations. And video conferencing software such as Zoom can be used for one-on-one meetings and calls that provide the face-to-face element phone calls lack.
When it comes to communicating with remote team members, it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate. If you see a message come through that you aren’t able to get to right away, let the sender know you saw it and will address it when you complete your current task.
Establishing clear communication norms with your sales team so they know the best way to get hold of you and one another via the proper channels.
2. Create consistent routines and schedules.
Consistent schedules and routines are essential for managing effective remote sales reps. If you don’t have regularly scheduled one-on-one’s, deal reviews, and coffee chats, it will be hard to ensure that your remote team members are getting the time and attention they need. I recommend setting a regular schedule for these events to keep in communication.
As your team shifts to remote working, look at your current meeting frequency, and determine what check-ins and reviews need to be modified to accommodate your new work setup. Be as consistent as possible to provide support to reps when needed.
3. Set measurable goals and KPIs.
Do your team know exactly what performance metrics they are being measured on? Do your current organisational goals reflect the business climate and your new organisational structure? If not, now is the time to get crystal clear on the metrics and KPIs your team should be measuring.
4. Make time for remote team-building.
Loneliness and a sense of disconnect from colleagues is a true concern for remote workers. In fact, 20% of full time remote workers report feeling lonely daily, and 35% of full-time remote workers say they feel lonely two to three days per week.
Help create opportunities for your sales team to connect and get to know one another. This can include setting up optional virtual watercooler meetings, virtual co-working time using video conferencing software, or even adding ice-breakers or engaging activities to your standing meetings.
5. Look for creative opportunities to build relationships.
Building trust with your employees is essential for success. Employees who trust their managers have less stress, more energy, and record fewer sick days than those who don’t.
Making sure you always keep the boundaries and work styles of both you and the employee in mind, look for opportunities to continue building trust with your team even when you aren’t working side-by-side.
6. Focus on remote-specific sales enablement strategies.
Part of being an effective manager is ensuring your employees have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Now is a good time to ensure you have a solid sales enablement plan in place.
Catalogue and optimise sales content — Make sure your team have access to the information they need when they need it. For remote teams, this often means having a clear electronic asset management system.
Utilise video for training purposes — Although a sales person can’t come to your desk with their laptop to get help with a CRM function, they can share their screen with you on a video call to quickly resolve their question or learn a new skill.
Refine the sales process — Review your current sales process to ensure there isn’t any unnecessary friction for your reps. It is worthwhile to periodically walk through the steps a sales person took to close a recent deal and to work with them to identify areas of simplification.
7. Empower your team to find their individual workflows.
If you want your team to be successful while working remotely, empower them to own their success and to work how they see fit to reach their goals.
Remote sales teams can also benefit from sharing best practices among reps as they discover new tools and tactics that can be helpful for their colleagues as well. Though working remotely can be a major shift for some sales teams, with some flexibility and willingness to adapt, they can still reach their goals.
Managing remote teams brings its own set of challenges. Maybe we can help you overcome them.
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