Managing Sales Teams Remotely
One of the benefits of having a remote sales team is members can work from anywhere in the world and focus efforts on different regions of the market. While sales teams of the past have often been in-person only, many organizations have shifted to a hybrid setup (remote and in-person), and others will evolve into being entirely remote indefinitely. With these remote work transitions comes a change in how to manage teams successfully.
Sharing ideas in-person, having impromptu meetings, new sales training, and building rapport with members of the team requires a different approach when managing sales teams remotely. In order to maintain a high level of productivity, effectiveness, and connection among all sales members, it takes using the technology available to you in a way that fits the needs of your remote team members while meeting the goals you’ve set out to achieve. This starts with setting clear expectations, investing in tools and resources, and boosting relationship building through individual and group meetings.
Set Clear Expectations
Teams that are adapting to a remote environment for the first time may be unsure of how to proceed on how to sell virtually. It’s up to the manager to provide clear expectations across the board that outlines day-to-day operations regarding communication availability, sales productivity, task priority, and online professionalism.
Fortunately, working remotely means no commute, which leaves people time to head straight from their bed to their computer. However, it’s important to set the standard for your team with regards to expectations of when to be available online for meetings, demonstrations, or any other correspondence or tasks that call for adequate preparation time and what that looks like.
On the other hand, time expectations in a virtual setup also should be made clear regarding when sales team members are offline and unavailable. Knowing when the workday begins and ends can be challenging in a remote environment. To maintain a productive and motivated team, work on establishing a work-life balance, which includes set time to rest and recharge. This balance will help your remote sales team be able to achieve their best sales performance.
One of the main factors that can derail a team’s effort and sink morale is micromanagement. Managing a virtual sales team requires putting trust into your entire team to prioritize tasks and work toward goals on a weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly basis. Schedule regular check-ins with each team member to go over their individual goals and leave room for discussion and questions to focus on areas where they may be struggling.
Without the busyness of coworkers sharing the same physical office, it’s easier for some people to become distracted by home life, online fatigue, or any other number of factors that provide challenges when working from a virtual office. Leverage your CRM system to track and measure the quantity and quality of work being performed.
Part of setting clear expectations when managing a virtual sales team is not assuming everyone has the same idea of how online professionalism should appear. Lay out direct guidelines regarding how their setup and appearance should look whenever they’re on video.
This involves creating a distraction-free background. Rather than viewing the odds and ends of the shelves in a spare room, instruct your team to clear space for their video background or use one of the virtual screens available through telecommunication tools like Zoom or Google Meet. Additionally, while interruptions happen, particularly when children or pets are involved, work with your team to minimize these as much as possible by designating a time and/or space where these are less likely to occur.
Finally, the dress code tends to err on the casual side in the virtual world. To avoid a wardrobe misstep, have your team follow a similar standard for how they would dress in the office. Although what’s acceptable for a quick check-in is different from what’s appropriate for an online presentation with a client, let them know how formal or informal they’re allowed to dress.
Invest in Tools and Resources
Leading remote sales teams means relying on online tools and resources that allow your team to be their most productive and effective. These range from the type of telecommunication software you choose to the frequency of sales training and coaching resources and everything in between.
Hardware and Software Technology
First, make a checklist of items your sales team needs to communicate on a daily basis. This may include PCs, webcams, speakers, and headsets. Create an inventory list to document the equipment each sales team member is equipped with at home.
Next, decide on which technologies you’ll use across the board to ensure everyone has it downloaded in advance and is trained on how to use it. Choose platforms for how you’ll host meetings, where you’ll chat online, which methods of communication are acceptable and preferred, and how you’ll share documents with each other team members and clients.
Lastly, while you may have many of these already in place, consider if they offer the best features for working remotely. Schedule testing of the tools and programs to ensure a strong internet connection, hi-res imagery on the screen, and clear audio from the speakers. All of these play a part in making a good first impression.
Customer Relationship Management
Regardless of whether your sales team is large or small, it’s nearly impossible to follow the daily actions of each of them on a regular basis. Part of being able to understand individual and team progress is by using a CRM, which reflects the number of set appointments, closed deals, and client retention data to review during one-on-one and group virtual sales meetings.
Rather than having each person follow their own method, it’s important to use your CRM as a central hub to limit miscommunication or forgotten information. It gives necessary customer visibility that helps nurture business relationships, uncover new opportunities, and share tactics and information.
Use the system to evaluate KPIs as a way to track progress and offer tips for improvement whenever there’s a downward trend in any area. Course correcting comes much easier when you’re able to specifically identify problem areas and can predict seasons where sales may be slower. These types of actions are achieved through well-documented data.
Sales coaching is a way to keep everyone aligned on best practices even when working from different places. Create a schedule of sales coaching, webinars, and other resources that will support the growth of your team and guide them toward their goals. Based on the areas of improvement illustrated in your monthly or quarterly reports combined with feedback from your sales team, determine which type of learning environment will be most beneficial.
Following each coaching session, promote an ongoing discussion about what’s been learned and how to apply it. Establish reinforcement and accountability measures to achieve short-term improvements and strategize for long-term solutions.
Boost Relationship Building
Successfully managing sales teams remotely involves setting up the proper logistics, investing in the right tools, resources, and training, but also being ready to motivate your team on a constant basis, through the ebbs and flows of a sales cycle. This involves a mix of group virtual meetings and one-on-one mentorship.
Emails, chats, phone, and video check-ins are all ways to stay connected with your team and make sure they’re building good relationships with each other. They’re all a chance to identify communication styles that work best, both among your team and when working with clients. Not all methods are efficient or productive on the same level for everyone. Knowing which method will achieve the most favorable outcome is one of the best ways to improve your success rate within your organization.
Group Virtual Meetings
Collaborative communication is essential in leading remote sales teams. Meet with the team at least once a week to check-in, review data, field questions, and spearhead new ideas. Stick to a prepared meeting agenda that leaves enough time for discussion to allow everyone a chance to share their insight.
During the meetings, minimize distractions and require everyone to be on camera at all times. This ensures there’s engagement among the whole group rather than a few people absorbing the information and others half-listening to what’s being shared. The more involvement you have across the board, the better chance there is for creating strong relationships.
In addition to group goals, each sales member should have individual goals they want to achieve based on their experience and growth level. Set up frequently recurring one-on-one meetings to ensure they have what they need to perform their best and help them work through roadblocks that may be holding them back. It’s also a chance to work together on a career roadmap and make sure every team member feels fulfilled in their position and work.
Virtual Management Is Here to Stay
In general, management on any level is a constant evaluation and evolution of knowing what’s working and what’s not. Achieving your goals is much easier when you provide clear expectations, access to the proper tools and resources, and there’s a sense of camaraderie with open communication among the team as they work toward their individual and collective goals.
As the industry has shifted and new technology continues to emerge, managing sales teams remotely should be expected on at least some level. Having the core management pieces in place sets a strong foundation, which makes it easier to adapt in a way where everyone feels confident about their role and ability to sell.
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