Remote work is not a new concept. Telecommuting was first introduced to the business world in 1973, in response to an OPEC oil embargo and ensuing energy crisis in the US. While the policy has steadily gained traction ever since, it wasn’t until 2020 that companies adopted remote work wholesale. As the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone into their homes, businesses relied on this work setup to continue operations and ensure their employees’ safety.
Fast-forward to the present day: according to Buffer’s 2022 report, almost half of companies today operate in a fully-remote environment. An additional 16% of organizations also reported implementing a hybrid work structure. While the boom may have started as a temporary solution to pandemic restrictions, it seems that virtual work is here to stay post-Covid. More and more businesses have begun to realize the benefits remote work brings, such as improved employee flexibility and reduced operational costs.
Whether you have already made the leap to remote work or are in the process of converting your sales team to do so, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Running a remote sales team brings a different set of challenges than the standard in-person workday. By adjusting for these differences, however, you can get your team up to speed quick—and perform better than ever before! Check out these tips on how to manage your remote sales team effectively.
1. Hire people you trust
Trust is the cornerstone of effective teamwork. If team leaders don’t trust their members, collaborative efforts suffer. Instead, team leaders might turn to micromanaging their teammates, which reduces employee morale and contributes to attrition.
Remote work settings, where face-to-face interactions are few and far between, can exacerbate this problem further. Remote employees, by nature of the setup, are conditioned to work independently. Managers must trust them to resolve issues and make decisions on their own.
How do you find trustworthy remote sales employees? There are a few key attributes that can signal a quality prospect. When looking for remote sales personnel, look for individuals who:
- Practice good interpersonal communication. Remote sales representatives must be able to clearly communicate with customers, colleagues, and supervisors. Look for someone who can articulate their concerns clearly and isn’t afraid to ask questions.
- Understand remote work etiquette. They acknowledge time differences and set boundaries regarding when to message coworkers. They respect their team members’ schedules by showing up on time for meetings and replying promptly when messaged during official work hours.
- Show initiative. Virtual workers must proactively align their day-to-day tasks with the team’s goals. But they also shouldn’t shy away from voicing opinions and suggestions that may help boost overall sales performance.
- Always follow through. Aside from showing initiative, a trustworthy remote worker also makes good on their promises. They carry tasks to completion and work on projects without managers having to urge them.
- Hold themselves accountable. Remote sales agents must take responsibility for the quality of their output and overall performance. They hold themselves accountable for billable hours by ensuring that their output justifies the amount of time they spend on a task.
Staffing your team with trustworthy individuals from the start can save you the trouble of training them to work properly later.
2. Set clear objectives
Your remote sales team – or any team for that matter –can only move in unison and hit targets if they know what is expected of them. This is why setting measurable goals and objectives is critical. To get the best performance from your team, you must clearly specify what it is you want them to achieve.
Start by creating a framework by which to define your team goals. From there, you can start setting objectives regarding different aspects of your sales operations. These objectives might involve product targets, the capacity of your sales team, customer retention efforts, or lead generation endeavors. Once you’ve laid out your objectives, create an action plan. This can also serve as your basis for measuring goals and assessing progress later on.
3. Communicate regularly
Communication is essential with any team, but takes on outsize importance in a remote setting. Of course, it also ends up being one of the biggest challenges of telecommuting. As companies embrace asynchronous work hours and virtual messaging, response times lag and it’s sometimes hard to follow up. In turn, this lack of regular communication causes trust gaps within a team which can hinder effective collaboration.
However, with a bit of creativity, one might discover that remote work models actually offer more opportunity for team communication. Implementing a few general practices can help the whole team feel more integrated than ever before.
- Intentionally schedule synchronous meetings. Remote sales representatives need to touch base from time to time. The remote capabilities of video or phone conferencing allow your team to do this without everyone booking time to appear in the same location.
- Set asynchronous communication protocols. For remote sales teams working in different time zones, it is good practice to specify when employees are expected online. Also set clear expectations regarding which communication channels to use, and how fast you expect them to reply.
- Remember to have one-on-one meetings. Not all work concerns are meant for the group call. Managers should remember to schedule frequent one-on-one meetings with their team members.
- Make time for virtual coffee breaks. Casual communication is important too! Set aside time for “virtual coffee breaks,” where teams can unwind and simply get to know each other better. This can help cultivate the social cohesion that an in-person office brings.
- Have online water coolers. If asynchronous communication is more your speed due to busy schedules, create an online “water cooler chat room” instead. This allows team members to join in on casual conversations in their free time.
4. Stick to a schedule
The remote work movement has disrupted work-life balance for professionals worldwide. Without a physical office and daily commute, many employees find it harder to pinpoint when work stops and personal time begins. Surveys from Los Angeles-based firm Robert Half have found that 45% of employees claim to work longer hours since telecommuting. Meanwhile, 69% of employees have experienced burnout due to remote work, which can lead to employee disengagement and other serious problems.
To avoid this, consider implementing some general best practices for your workplace:
- Negotiate fixed working hours for each employee
- Communicate schedule changes ahead of time, so no team member has to adjust their work hours at the last minute
- Block out time for breaks during the workday
- Coordinate client appointments as a team to ensure they are scheduled appropriately
- Make it part of your culture to say goodbye when you’re done for the day, so everyone knows you’re off the clock
- Turn off notifications once you have officially logged off
Setting clear boundaries allows managers to curb instances of overworking and foster healthier work environments.
5. Build your knowledge base
Information-sharing among colleagues may be as easy as going on a call or talking through chat. However, in a sales operation with specific and complicated processes, these modes of communication are not enough. You also need to build a comprehensive knowledge base for your remote sales representatives.
This knowledge base may include FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and a detailing of the company’s standard operating procedures. These resources offer a single source of truth for your employees, eliminating the need to relay information on siloed communication channels.
As a result, you can simplify employee onboarding and monitor quality according to set standards, ensuring dependable output from your team. If your remote team members work asynchronously, this also offers fast access to information without relying on a response from supervisors or coworkers.
6. Provide access to the right tools
As talented as your sales representatives may be, they still need the right tools to perform their jobs as efficiently as possible. However, you might find that a remote work environment comes with different needs than the traditional solutions in a physical office.
Remote sales teams often use their personal devices for day-to-day tasks, so it’s important to invest in multi-platform tools that they can access anywhere. They will also require additional collaboration and communication tools, compared to their office-bound counterparts.
If you are planning on building your tech supplies, here are some platforms to consider investing in:
- Video conferencing platforms. These facilitate virtual face-to-face time among employees, keeping communication flowing even while working remotely.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM platforms make it easy for sales teams to keep tabs on customer information, ensuring a seamless experience for customers.
- Sales management software. This software enables teams to lay down sales pipelines and automate workflows unifying information in one central hub. If you can get your CRM and sales tool in one, even better.
- Project management tool. Project management solutions help teams keep tabs on active, pending and completed tasks, making it easy to track who is working on what.
- File sharing system. This helps your team keep important sales documents in one searchable, accessible, and secure database.
- Time tracker. A tool to track work time helps keep employees accountable for their tasks, and simplifies the calculation of billable hours later on.
- Human resource (HR) portal. A cloud-based HR portal can help your employees with tasks like filing for leave, collecting tax documentation, or checking salary status.
These tools will help optimize the remote sales teams’ workflow. However, keep in mind that software solutions are not necessarily all interchangeable. Shop around and assess the different platforms’ capabilities so you can choose the right software for your needs.
Set your remote sales agents up for success
The remote work movement has proved revolutionary for many businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees are more productive, while also enjoying the freedom to schedule around their lives. Consequently, this has led to high-quality outputs and fast turnaround times for businesses.
However, before you can reap the benefits of telecommuting, you need to build a virtual work environment that capitalizes on these new opportunities. These tips and suggestions – from building communication protocols to implementing internal standards – are only a handful of the many changes to consider to your work structure.
In addition to organizational rearrangements, consider investing in reliable remote sales tools like Skynamo. Skynamo offers a comprehensive, 360° view of your sales activity. Equipped with the tool’s collaborative features, you and your remote sales representatives can keep on the same page at all times. The platform also provides robust analytic reporting features, offering insights into sales performance so you can make data-driven business decisions.
Reach out to Skynamo today and let’s set your team up for success!