The availability of digital communications and cloud-based software makes remote working easier, more productive than ever before and a popular alternative in many industries. Buffer’s latest State of Remote Work annual report provides insights into remote working, indicating that it is more than just a trend. As the location of where we work is now not as restricted as before, we have the benefit of flexibility – being able to work from where we choose and when we choose.
Businesses need to be mindful, however, ensuring thoughtful planning and investment in remote working operations.
When considering sales teams, we are presented with a set of unique challenges. Despite the benefits of utilising remote salespeople, such as saving costs and time in travelling, the natural competitiveness and comradeship consistent across sales teams will appear to be absent when working remotely.
Here are 6 strategies to help you successfully manage your remote sales team:
- Establish and communicate clear expectations
Salespeople by nature need targets for self-motivation and to be results-driven. Employee engagement increases when managers set clear expectations – sales reps know that they must work towards and maintain a specific standard.
An effective sales manager should discuss ideal performance objectives and expectations, specific tasks and desired goals during 1-1 calls, encouraging remote sales staff to meet higher performance targets. Conveying expectations to the team also ensures that employees are held accountable and management can respond quickly, providing support and motivation. To benefit from working together, the team needs to know the purpose behind their goals and expectations.
- Encourage engagement and build trust
Managers must pay attention to their sales team’s needs but at the same time, deter from micromanaging their staff. Showing that you trust your reps in making their own judgements, gives them a sense of autonomy and, hence, not feel micromanaged.
Simultaneously, regular communication builds trust between the manger and remote team members. Weekly calls enable remote employees to catch up, generate ideas and share success stories.
When the focus is on individual goals, it’s harder to build trust in the team and more so when members work remotely. When there’s a lack of trust, people tend not to help others, especially if they think it will not be returned. But trust takes time to develop and even more so when some team members spend more time out of the office.
- Encourage collaboration
As there is limited face-to-face communication, it’s essential to establish trust and rapport by facilitating opportunities for remote employees to professionally and socially interact with the team. Although they are not office-based, remote sales reps are part of the sales team and should not be excluded.
By interacting with other team members, individuals can share information, stories, experiences and insights. Encouraging positive professional and social interaction through annual meeting and events enables productivity and helps build healthy relationships between office and remote workers. It’s good practice to schedule not only one-to-one calls with each individual rep but to also have conversations with the whole team and involve everyone.
Sales leaders need to make connecting with remote reps a priority. Therefore, it’s important to foster a culture of collaboration and engagement. Collaboration is key to productivity – apps and platforms allow each team member to work together effectively. Even going one step further by encouraging collaboration with other departments, for instance, helps sales team members align with relevant strategic goals and campaigns.
- Provide your team with the right tools
The provision of cloud-based software and file sharing allows for remote collaboration. To successfully manage a remote sales team, you need ensure that the team is provided with the necessary tools – accessible on all the reps’ devices, e.g. CRM for reps to maintain and update lead, prospect and existing client information. Reps should be encouraged to update as often as they can to ensure data is accurate and up to date and mangers should be able to check on progress.
Keeping in touch regularly throughout the day via chat tools means that reps feel connected and part of the team.
- Implement clear and simple processes
Processes are vital. Where clear and simple processes have been implemented, remote teams are easier to manage.
Documented processes, for example, for prospecting, making initial contact, following up, creating proposals and sign-off, allow reps to work in a structured way, knowing how to respond in certain scenarios, thereby reducing the need for support.
- Ongoing coaching
Investing in sales staff development through skills coaching improves their selling techniques. As a result, they will reward you with increased leads and opportunities and be more willing to give more to the organisation in return.
Unfortunately, remote team members may not feel as motivated as their on-site colleagues because they don’t benefit from the same training available to office-based sales staff. They could potentially feel detached from the team and company. However, visits to the office can help relieve such sentiments through organised office training sessions, giving them that much-needed face-to-face interaction – learning alongside their team members.
Although you don’t see your remote sales team every day, the key is to stay connected with your reps by maintaining open channels of communication, building trust, encouraging them to follow processes, setting specific goals and providing the right sales tools for them to carry out their jobs effectively. Proactive and supportive leadership will achieve the best engagement and performance out of your sales team, ensuring success from wherever they are based.
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