Sales leaders have struggled with managing remote sales teams even before the pandemic. Today, with an increasing number of organizations moving partially or fully remote, the need to put practices in place to manage remote sales teams is even more critical.
Using technology, like CRM, video conferencing, social networks, etc., plays a massive role in helping sales organizations adjust to the new working norm and helping their teams reach and exceed goals.
We asked our TAB community to share their tips on managing remote sales teams, and they all agreed that sales managers need to adopt an entirely new skill set to effectively coach, manage and lead remote sales teams.
#1. Incorporate coaching into their management style.
Selling changed forever in the spring of 2020, and the transition to virtual interaction empowered buyers more than at any time in recent history.
Order-takers and pushy salespeople were rendered worthless. Only that tiny percentage of highly disciplined, highly consultative salespeople are now able to grow sales and maintain margins in the new reality.
Remote Sales Managers require an entirely new skillset. To be effective, successful managers must increase the frequency of their debriefing sessions with each salesperson and implement a transparent, structured coaching process leading to specific, measurable commitments and actions following each session.
Managers who lead using this methodology will thrive, and those who lack high-level coaching skills will have a tough time keeping up.
The Alternative Board, Austin, TX
#2. Maintain accountability.
How should you manage a remote sales team? In a word, "Accountability."
The virtual workplace is challenging enough for business, but a sales organization may face the most challenging situations. This is because sales is a numbers game.
Sales Funnel Management is a matter of prospecting to find the right leads to fill the funnel and then properly vetting, communicating, bidding, negotiating, and closing them to meet the quota. Doing this right takes constant nurturing of your funnel/leads. Without accountability, this process will inevitably wane.
So what does a virtual sales leader do to drive accountability among his remote sales team? There's no magic here, just a slight twist on all the same accountability factors utilized in person.
• Funnel Reviews – It has been argued that a Zoom funnel review is more effective than in-person because of screen-sharing the live online database rather than a static paper snapshot of the same.
• Regular Communications – You may not see your salespeople at the water cooler anymore, but texting is a pretty good alternative for getting updates on the big/hot deals. Some sales organizations also meet on Zoom for coffee every morning (this could be done weekly or bi-weekly, if more appropriate) to compare notes and provide regular updates.
• Good KPIs – Do you have the appropriate Key Performance Indicators in place that measure the actual sales progress of your salespeople and the organization as a whole? If you do, are these measures updated and tracked daily or weekly, or whatever is the appropriate interval? Be sure to track some leading indicators of future sales.
• Remediation and Celebration – Accountability is only effective with real consequences. Are you celebrating the successes? Are you engaging those struggling to troubleshoot and improve? In the extreme, are you removing the deadwood to make room for the next superstar in sales?
With the basics in place, most Sales Organizations will thrive and even develop a self-sustaining culture of success that makes them easier and even enjoyable to manage!
The Alternative Board, North Texas
#3. Foster team engagement.
The challenge for leaders is ensuring team engagement, making sure team members feel supported, and meeting their strategic targets. Here are some tips:
• Calendar weekly direct-report team speed check-ins. I like them to be no more than 45 minutes. Each member gives a brief highlight— updates from the past week, the most critical task for this week, any challenges they are facing this week, and encourages teammates to alert each other if they believe they can help.
There is no time for discussion now but encourage team members to let each other know if they have ideas that could help with after the meeting. Get a different team member to take simple notes, including who volunteered to help, and share with the team if some members are not present.
• Follow up with monthly 1-on-1 meetings. You can use these meetings with your direct reports to tackle a problem and plan future strategies.
• Maximize the use of technology. Use technology such as your CRM dashboards and group chat to track production and celebrate wins.
TAB Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and South San Fernando Valley
#4. Share metrics and keep communication lines open.
One of the best ways to manage a remote sales team is through metrics. Create a simple spreadsheet to be turned in weekly, including the number of calls made by which media, the outcome of each call, amount of time prospecting, number of meetings, number of orders, amount of orders, or whatever metrics make sense in your company. You can measure activity numerically.
In addition, there should be room for comments, suggestions, and help needed. The goal is to make sure all salespeople succeed, and good communication has no substitute. Salespeople will perform best when they feel supported and are excited about what they are selling and for whom. Management should do their part in being supportive as well.
#5. Make team engagement a crucial part of the company culture.
Successfully managing a remote sales team or any team within any organization comes down to one critical element —having a culture in your business that engages people.
How can you engage remote workers? Here are a few tips to make it easier:
1. Communicate frequently: The reduction in frequent, meaningful feedback is the most common disadvantage to remote work. You can resolve that by scheduling regular (and short) check-ins with your remote team, both individually and as a group.
2. Tools & Resources: Ensure your remote employees have access to the same tools their on-sight counterparts have. If that means moving applications to the cloud, do it. Nothing disengages employees faster than making a job more complicated than it has to be.
3. Recognition: Recognition for a job well done sometimes happens in the hallway or break room, but remote employees miss that opportunity. This includes service anniversaries and birthdays too. Schedule recurring recognition calls for your remote team and never, ever miss that call.
No matter what you choose to do, make it part of your routine, daily business interactions. Your remote employees will appreciate it, and it builds the kind of culture that people want to be a part of.
TAB Eastern KS