I started remote work even before COVID forced a lot of people to do so. Although productivity and convenience counts as an advantage, the question here will be, “how to manage a sales team remotely with efficiency?”
More so, the idea of remote work can seem daunting to those who’ve had more traditional, in-office job experiences. This skepticism is understandable.
A recent report by Buffer & AngelList on the ‘state of remote 2020’ highlights some of the biggest challenges faced with working remotely, namely, struggles in collaboration and communication, loneliness, distractions at home, among many others (refer chart below).
And a remote sales team may not be far from their concerns – as a sales manager; you may wonder what your employee is doing when you can’t track them in person, and your sales rep might be worried about challenges such as communicating with the team or how to get access to sales docs.
So in this article, I’m going to share with you how remote sales teams can improve their productivity and what strategies to follow to succeed.
Implement a process
Most of us fear that working remotely is going to derail our current sales process since teams don’t get to work closely with each other.
A few years ago, when Yahoo announced its decision to bring its teleworking yahooers back to the office, here’s what Jim Kreller, then VP of sales operations at BrightTag had to say:
“In many sales organizations there is a lot of tribal knowledge — people in the organization who are Subject Matter Experts on how certain software works, what can we do, what can’t we do, — that’s in people’s heads and laptops. It’s very useful to have your people in the office where they can access the collective brain of the organization readily and easily,” he says.
As you can see here, Jim explains the importance of sales knowledge and its role in a sales team. That’s why it’s crucial to document these pieces of information.
You could include bite-size training or knowledge sharing resources that are easy to digest. With this, most of the redundant and “what’s next” questions can be tackled by your sales team without the intervention of a senior manager.
Worried, your team members are in the comfort of their home and are prone to a lot of distractions? Well, you’re not alone! Richard Laermer, owner of a New York-based PR firm, ran an experiment on his team, allowing them to work remotely every single Friday.
He states that the results backfired as his employees slowed communications and treated it as a day-off.
“For starters, I found that too many employees treated their work-from-home day as paid time off. They rolled their eyes when managers tried to reach them in the middle of the day. Response times slowed considerably.” – Source: nbcnews.com
While you can’t control your team members stealing a couple of minutes to play solitaire or indulging in a bit of Netflix, you can set up an accountability system.
If this is an issue you’re struggling with, here are three ways to foster accountability:
Get aligned on expectation and goals
Firstly, establish your expectations for each sales rep and as a team by setting a clear message of what’s expected of them. It ensures every member is clear about the overall goals and targets of the group.
Set clear consequences and rewards
With clear expectations set, the next step is to address any signs of complacency within the team. It is important for team members to understand that meeting sales goal is imperative and isn’t optional. At the same time, it’s also mandatory that you hold weekly meetings to recognize their achievements so other team members can draw motivation from it.
Make sales activity transparent
Once a week, all team members can post an update on what leads they would be following up next week and what targets they have already achieved. This helps everyone to be on the same page as well as keep everyone accountable.
Stay connected through videos with customers & prospects
Customer-facing is the eyes and ears of any sales team – whether or not you’re working remotely or from an office. It’s, therefore, more important than ever that your remote teams are responsive to existing customers and prospects.
This was another concern for Richard Laermer, owner of a New York-based PR firm.
“There was a critical moment when I asked someone to come by our midtown office on one of her working-from-home days. I needed her to meet with a client who was coming by ,but she said she was unavailable because she was going to be in the Hamptons.”
While beaches and dazzling sunsets have our hearts, here’s a win-win situation for both the parties – Videos! In this fast-paced work environment, there are a lot of technology options for video chat: Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, to name a few.
Now your team can stay connected with anyone, anytime and from anywhere in the world using video. So the next time, you find a relaxing woman/man working on their laptop while on the beach, don’t be surprised.
And what’s more? The power of videos is not just limited to video conference calls.
With businesses competing for a limited size of sales opportunities that unfold in their target niche, live availability – whether you are on vacation or a personal emergency – need not be hindered by using recorded videos.
Video platform tools like Hippo video make prospecting easy, allowing its users to record, edit, and send video emails to prospects within a few minutes.
After all, no one has time to slog over a video while on vacation,right? 🙂
Further to this, screen sharing is another important factor that has become a necessity during sales prospecting. It makes the lives of remote sales teams a lot easier, making it convenient to explain the products and services to customers and prospects.
It is another great feature within Hippo videos that will come handy as it helps you to quickly record your screen and share it with others and also add in annotations such as arrows, labels, and notes, etc.
As a testament to the power of videos, Cisco predicted that by 2020, nearly 82% of internet traffic would be through video content. In addition to this, Google reported 72% of B2B buyers to watch videos on their path to purchase.
Coaching your sales team
One of the biggest concerns a sales manager has is training his team remotely.
Even sales reps find it hard to measure their performance and can go rogue during interactions with the customers as they may not be qualified to stay top-of-the-game.
Here is a piece I came across in an article from nbcnews.com on ‘how work from home is making you miserable’:
“When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right.”
To be a successful sales team, it takes more than just providing them with a manual expecting them to ace it. This is why repeated action and continuous practice is crucial for sales reps to become experts in the process.
“Research indicates that without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of the learning content is not retained within five weeks, much less applied. Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost.” – According to a white paper by Sales Performance International
So here are a few essential pointers you can follow:
Conduct one-on-one meetings with sales reps
– Hold regular one-on-one meetings as this constant communication gives insights into where your sales team is struggling, and accordingly, you can address any weaknesses that may require additional training.
Use your Customer Resource Management (CRM) system to examine their pipeline and look for opportunities that may not have a clear next-step or may be stalled in a stage.
Ask them questions like ‘Tell me about your leads” “How did those calls go?” “What are your customers’ business needs?” “What are your action plans?” And if you’re not getting clear, actionable items, there’s an opportunity for you to coach them by helping them identify how they could improve.
Create a learning library
Creating a learning library will make it easier for your sales team to refer through at their own pace. You can upload videos, webinars, talks from thought leaders. These will help them stay motivated and informed about the latest sales tactics.
Conduct mock sales calls
Encourage your sales reps to record practice sessions and email it to you using video platforms like Hippo video, which has Gmail and Outlook integrations. Also, playback some of the old recordings of successful and painful calls and let your team critique them together. It will help your sales team foster continuous growth.
Easy accessibility of content
Lastly, while working remotely, there will occur situations where you’ll want certain documents from your team members, but you’re forced to wait until they view your request, adding to your frustrations.
According to Buffer, 20% of employees remotely working feel lonely, which is the result of feeling disengaged from their team.
One of the most common sources of frustration and resulting isolation for remote workers is a lack of access to the materials or platforms needed to perform their roles. It can result in staff feeling ‘unimportant,’ or as though their needs aren’t valued. (Content source: Gallup)
Don’t waste precious time waiting for them to respond – use tools like Google suite, ,which helps you create one centralized location for all your document collaboration and file storage, which can be shared and accessed by everyone on the team.
Also, while prospecting, it is important that you teach your team members when to use the right piece of content at the right time. Apps like show pad will help your team analyze and track prospects’ level of interest in their content, based on which they can decide their follow-ups, making them self-reliant.
The final word
While managing a remote sales team is not a piece of cake, it’s possible by setting clear expectations from your team members, laying down guidelines and playbooks your team can refer to, creating a sense of accountability, embracing video technologies, and offering regular micro training.
Above all, communication is vital at every step of the way. Let your team know you’re one among them and be prompt in responding to their messages.
Encourage them to communicate with each other by creating groups in Slack to discuss everyday topics. After that, it’s up to you to trust the people you’ve hired, and you’ll surely see their performance skyrocket.
If you are looking for a tech stack for your sales team that can help each of them work remotely , check this list.