Business guide to Coronavirus

How to manage your remote sales team

Salespeople are not always found in office cubicles. You’re likely to see them out visiting and connecting with customers.

Sales can be pretty much done anywhere in the world, and if your salespeople travel more for work or are scattered across the globe, then you have a remote sales team – and chances are, these are at least some of the challenges of managing one!

The major challenge is that communication isn’t that simple, and misunderstandings are common. When problems arise, it’s not as simple as walking across the office to resolve it face-to-face. So how can you make sure your remote sales team is closing enough deals and can also collaborate effectively across the organisation?

Fortunately, technology makes remote work more accessible, which means working across multiple countries and time zones – but working remotely can lead to a feeling of isolation and disengagement from the team. 

In this article, we share five strategies for successfully managing a remote sales team:

1. Ensure there is a process in place

Processes are by far the most important thing you can possibly implement when managing a remote sales team. 

Having a process means there is structure and direction for getting work done, especially when remote sales teams are spread across time zones. For example, you can have procedures on lead generation, how to do a demo and close a deal.  

But having procedures in place in one thing – how can we ensure people follow them? You can use tools like Basecamp and Trello. It has features where you can save templates, map your processes as project templates and add recurring tasks. You can have templates for procedures such as sending a cold email, creating a proposal or presenting a demo.

When all these activities are visible at a glance in a project management tool, it means you don’t have to go through the pain of micromanaging your team.

2. Manage productivity and sales activities

You could just give your salespeople some targets and ask them to deliver it. But most sales managers know that it is simply not enough. It is essential to understand the progress and keep track of their activities. There are several ways to go about it:

  • Manage the time usage: Your salespeople must be allocating the right amount of effort on the right opportunities. There’s no point in getting distracted and spending excessive time on leads that are too small or have a low probability of conversion. There are many time tracker tools available such as Toggl. Importantly, a time tracker helps teams maintain consistency. 
  • Use a CRM: Getting your salespeople to keep recording their sales activities in a CRM is really important in a remote team.

3. Build trust with your team

Trust is built up in a team over time and sometimes even longer with a remote team. Sales teams can be in a very competitive environment. It’s not uncommon to see individual accomplishments given more recognition than the overall teamwork effort. This can lead to tension, internal conflicts, unhealthy competition and mistrust.

This is a bad state to be in for any team, but in a remote setting, this can cause serious setbacks.

As the sales manager, what you can do is:

  • Promote teamwork: A team is unlikely to collaborate or help each other if they don’t trust each other. As the manager, you should take active steps to promote effective teamwork among your remote employees such as give the right mix of individual vs. team recognition and receive regular feedback
  • Communicate more: One of the primary barriers to trust in a distributed team is lack of non-verbal communication. A way around this is to over-communicate. Send updates regularly, respond to messages promptly, and be available at important times. Encourage your team members to not only communicate with you more frequently but also amongst themselves. Get onto a video call through Microsoft Teams, Skype or Slack rather than have a back and forth conversation over email or chat.

4. Promote employee engagement

Low employee engagement is detrimental to your bottom line. In remote teams, where human contact is minimal, it’s easy for engagement to slip. That’s why you need to take proactive steps to motivate people and mitigate factors that frustrate your employees. Here’s are some ways: 

  • Reduce frustrations: When you‘re trying to improve employee engagement, start by making it easier for people to do their jobs. For instance, one of the activities that salespeople dislike is generating leads. Work with the marketing team to help create more leads for the sales team.
  • Share wins and provide support: Hold regular video calls to share wins to help motivate the team. We tend to draw our motivation from others. The more accomplishments you share, the more enthused each salesperson will feel empowered to share big wins. Regular meetings not only stimulate people, but they are also great for brainstorming about strategies or complex sales challenges. Don’t let people face those challenges on their own. Create an atmosphere where people can find help and support whenever they need.
  • The watercooler banter: Since remote workers lack the usual watercooler moments, encourage discussions on chat tools like Slack around everyday topics, like the latest Netflix episode on a popular series or a major event in your city.

5. Set clear expectations on team members

In a remote team, where communication is a challenge, it’s easy to have misunderstandings and for things to slip through the cracks. This is why it is important to set clear expectations with each remote sales employee in your team too. Follow it up by making sure those expectations are defined as tasks in a project management tool. 

This ensures that every team member is clear about the overall goals, priorities and targets of the group. Equally, it is essential to let your team know that you are willing to get on a call to clarify any doubts. Your team members should feel comfortable reaching out for assistance or additional support when needed.

Over to you

A remote sales team gives you the advantage of building a diversified sales presence. Encourage smooth and timely communication and collaboration between team members, create efficient processes, set accurate goals, build trust and be available when needed. That’s all you need to see your teams’ performance skyrocket.

 

My Business is on hand with a range of resources to help businesses navigate this difficult time, with practical advice and information to help you develop strategies to maintain and sustain. Visit our resource hub to find out more.

Catherine Ngo

Senior Editor and Content Writer – My Business

Catherine is passionate about unravelling the latest news and insights to help entrepreneurs, small business owners and employers.

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