Remember how 10 years ago companies’ workflow looked like? Not to mention organizations’ culture before the XXI century, when every employee had their personal stand and all the work could be done almost only from the office. No one would even dream of a conception of a home office.
Work organization is constantly changing, and so are the responsibilities of the managers, who tie theirs and employees’ tasks together. As more and more companies are open to implementing new solutions, the remote jobs market is rapidly growing. Especially during the last months working from home is having a moment, and it becomes trendy to have a flexible occupation.
That opens new opportunities but also poses a challenge for the managers.
The global phenomenon of remote work in numbers
Employers tend to change their attitude towards the amount of time, which is required to be spent in the office. They put more emphasis on the final result of the tasks and keeping KPIs, but leave their employees the freedom to choose their preferable workspace. Some job positions offer an option to take a few days a month to work from home, or even do everything remotely.
80% of US workers wouldn’t choose a job which doesn’t offer flexible working options. According to the same research, lately, a whopping 83% of businesses have introduced such policy or are planning to do so. To visualise how powerful this trend is, let’s just say that the number of people who work from home has increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017. We don’t have to add how much the demand for the remote work has increased due to the events of 2020 - and it’s predicted that by 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers.
What makes remote sales teams successful?
We won’t try to sweep you off your feet and say that you can make a successful sales team of just anyone after implementing a few tricks. Also, not everyone works effectively when doing their job out of the office. But if you hired employees who have this potential, it’s your task to make the most of it. What exact skills and qualifications should a prospering salesperson have?
#1 Independence & awareness of their productivity schedule
Being well organized is always key to any work. It’s hard to imagine a salesperson who forgets about his appointment with a client or loses contact with one, due to the omnipresent chaos.
Salespeople who work from home have to be aware of the hours when they are the most productive and, as far as it’s possible, plan their tasks according to their workflow. Besides your check-ups, your team members have to be disciplined enough not to slip the time through their fingers.
It can help to have a shared capacity planning tool. That way, everyone can see who's working on what, and when things are happening. It encourages transparency, accountability, and keeps everyone on track.
#2 Being up for a challenge
Working with people who are dedicated to their job automatically takes cooperation into another level. Being a salesperson requires constant improvement of the soft skills and selling techniques to reach the goals. Even if you organized high-quality workshops, people who do their tasks just to “get the work done” wouldn’t appreciate your efforts and wouldn’t learn much from it. The need for personal development is what makes some employees stand out of the crowd.
#3 Ability to focus and cut off from potential distractors
Although you can often hear that there are more distractors outside the office, the research shows that 75% of remote workers think the opposite. Key is to find employees whose working pattern matches conditions of the remote job. The ability to cut off from what’s happening at home during their working hours is crucial to have good performance. After all, it affects the final results of a whole sales team. So if your employees can’t stop thinking about house responsibilities, or their dog takes most of their attention, maybe that’s the sign that you shouldn’t hire them. Think of implementing a short trial period after recruiting new team members, to avoid such handicaps.
5 practices for a remote sales team management
Managing people who live in the different parts of the country, or even the world, is a hard nut to crack. Being a leader of a remote sales team means going beyond the classic approach to the topic. Here are 5 things to take into account when managing from a distance.
#1 Schedule weekly meetings to talk about your teams’ work
There are multiple benefits of organizing team meetings. They add transparency to the work of the whole team, so that members know what exactly they have to do and what are the tasks for the others. What’s more, it’s a great moment to share tricks and techniques which some of the workers use to successfully boost their sales. Discuss their results and your plans, compare expectations with their performance to show them what can be leveraged and what is praiseworthy.
Also, even though you aren’t in one room, you can get feedback about your teams’ impressions concerning the workflow and enable them to take part in the decisive process. It’s crucial for maintaining the company’s values and culture, which they might not feel when working from home.
#2 Set the time when you’re all available to contact
Remote work gives an opportunity to work with truly talented people from all over the world. If they live in different countries, your company also gains reps in other time zones - but that can be a double-edged sword. Although it’s an added value for the business, managing people who start their day when you’re already on your lunch break might be problematic. To overcome it, during the first video conference, set a specific time interval when each member of the team can contact you or one another and be sure that they will get a quick response.
#3 Get to know each other besides the work to make the contact less formal and more fluent
An employee that’s contributed to their job and shares company’s values tends to work better than others. 69% of the surveyed say that they would work harder if they were more appreciated. What’s more, 79% of American workers say company culture is an important job satisfaction factor. Keeping your team engaged also requires commitment from your side.
Although there are people who prefer to use formal language towards their co-workers, lots of others like to have a more friendly approach. Ask your team if they would like to make a video call just to have a chit-chat with a cup of coffee, where you could get to know each other better and unwind. 19% of remote employees report loneliness as their biggest challenge, and, because a meeting in person might be impossible, a video chat could do the work.
#4 Try to organize online workshops to leverage your teams’ skills and knowledge
To have a team that can boost your company’s sales, you have to invest in training them, and the distance shouldn’t be a barrier. As you probably know from your experience, to become better, you have to constantly improve the selling techniques and broaden your knowledge.
You can do it in two ways. First: by connecting with them when people in your office also have a workshop, so that everyone could benefit no matter where they live. The second option is making classes especially for them, which could engage them more. Some best webinar software platforms provide useful features, such as the possibility of drawing on the shared presentation and creating surveys in real-time. After such workshops, you can set special KPIs and targets to keep them up for a challenge.
#5 Keep an eye on agents’ work but don’t make them feel surrounded
No one likes when parents are overprotective. The same situation is with the boss, who’s always checking what you’re doing like in the Big Brother. In the industry jargon it’s called micromanagement, and that’s definitely something you want to avoid. Try to check your employees more at the beginning, but give them a possibility to become more independent as time goes by. Look who needs more attention and who does perfectly fine with less supervision.
Set clear terms of work evaluation, which will be well known within your team, and which you will check periodically. By simple grading scheme, your employees would exactly know what to do, and they would feel that you trust their abilities. Give them valuable feedback and be present.
Don’t leave out the potential of tools and automation
Automation is a global phenomenon, and it’s hard to deny its usefulness. Working with dedicated tools is also inevitable when working remotely. To manage your team and be sure that everything is under control, choose software systems, which can become an omnichannel platform for your co-workers. When the operational and technical foundation is good, it helps remote workforces stay productive and focus on these aspects of work that truly matter. It also adds transparency to the actions of each team member.
Also, if you want to manage your sales team better than the others, look at the problems they’re facing and think of the solution before an issue occurs at your place. For example, this study shows that brainstorming is the most challenging type of meeting when it comes to working from a distance. Tools might help you overcome that problem and thus - make cooperation more fluent.
A must-have: smooth communication
Concerning the 5 aspects of remote work, which we wrote about upwards, let’s think of the tools that can help with implementing them. As communication is key for understanding one another within a team, as well as the client, you have to think of several things. With the growth of the SaaS market, new collaborative tools and technologies are released and constantly upgraded to fit your needs.
Choose a few tools to use from an array of options to make your communication concise. Try to pick those which can be integrated to create complex system within one tool. That can help to avoid wasting time on switching between apps and thus prevent potential data loss. So investing in a platform on which your sales team would operate and save information about a customer or lead might be a game-changer. There is plenty of customer service software systems, which can handle all the important things for salespeople. You should also consider going for a digital asset management so everyone in your team can access necessary materials, even if they work remotely.
As all your meetings would take place online, choose a tool that would schedule them, send notifications to your team, and automatically redirect you from a calendar to the video meeting. If you’re looking for one that ticks all the boxes, Harmonizely does that, and has a few more useful features. Manage yours and your team’s time wisely and make sure that no one would miss the meeting - no matter if that’s a call from workmates or an appointment with a client. Here you can read more about integrations, which can change a simple tool into a comprehensive system which can manage-it-all.
You should also take into account that employee engagement is extremely important these days. What does it mean, actually? You need to take care of their well-being, in all possible aspects. It's easy to feel demotivated.
Factors that demotivate employees are also associated with vague orders of the superior, the lack of clearly defined duties. Consequently, the new person acts chaotic for the first few weeks. She sets herself tasks to be performed, which do not always match the employer's expectations. It wastes time, energy and money. He's behind with responsibilities, can't cope, but can't really figure out why.
Employee demotivation will also gradually increase if the boss is not in the habit of giving feedback. However, it is not just about praise. Knowing what is being done well and what needs to be corrected is valuable. It is important that all information is communicated in a consistent and systematic manner and that it is constructive. Harsh criticism aimed at a person, and not at his specific offense, affects the lack of willingness to work and reduces the motivation to act.
Factors that motivate and demotivate employees are a complex set, so the boss who wants to have a team involved in the company's life should look at the matter as a whole. A good salary and benefits package will be useless if the atmosphere in the team is still tense, there is no efficient communication and the company is simply working badly.
To make sure that your employees are not only motivated, but also happy, think about "small wins" every day and show them that you appreciate their effort. You may think of e.g. investing in some resources such as high-quality audiobooks to boost your employees' morale and take care of their self-development.
Dedication - a key to a successful team management
Building a strong team that drives significant performance requires more attention when done remotely. You have to take care of aspects, which aren’t that relevant while having partners in-house. Organizing additional workshops or even integration for the members isn’t as intuitive, as in normal work scheme. Nevertheless, if you are inspirational and authentic in the way you work and put effort into investing in your employees, the results will be extraordinary.
Although managing a remote sales team is challenging, it might be rewarding if done properly. As a leader, you learn how to overcome time, cultural and workflow barriers at the same time. By using new tools and learning new technologies, you can constantly leverage your skills and thus add value to your position on the job market. Also, if you need expert guidance, finding business mentors is just a click away.