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Managing sales teams remotely: 6 ways to keep your reps closing

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Last updated
December 11, 2020

And you thought managing a sales team in the office was hard.

Let’s face it: leading a remote sales team is challenging. As a manager, you have less visibility, less direct contact with your team, and less control over the processes and workflows they’re using.

Or, do you?

During 2020, many sales managers reluctantly adapted to remote sales because of the pandemic. But before that, many other sales managers were leading remote sales teams successfully and happily.

While remote may seem like a disadvantage because you have less immediate and easy contact with your reps, a well-managed remote sales team can be just as productive and successful as an in-office team — if not more.

So, how can you manage your sales team remotely?

In this chapter of the remote sales guide, we’re going to discuss:

  • What makes remote sales operations different from in-office sales?
  • How to manage sales teams remotely: 6 ways to upkeep a virtual sales process
  • 4 pro tips for managing remote sales reps

What makes remote sales operations different from in-office sales?

Remote sales is highly reliant on apps and online processes, much more so than in-office sales. Sales managers leading remote sales teams must keep their processes and workflows tight and accessible to the team. Team communication must be prioritized, with clear agendas and goals to make meetings more efficient.

While in-office sales management can be more spontaneous, remote leaders must work harder to have the same visibility of what their reps are doing.

But having a clear process in place for sales and communication is just the start: these processes require constant upkeep to function smoothly. Constantly evaluating the right tools to build a sales stack that empowers your team to perform their best is part of your job.

So, how can you perform upkeep as a remote sales manager?

How to manage sales teams remotely: 6 ways to upkeep a virtual sales process

Setting up your process is essential: keeping it going is the real challenge of managing a virtual sales team.

Here are six ways you can level-up your visibility as a remote sales manager and maintain processes that work for your team:

1. Set clear performance goals for the team

In the last chapter, we mentioned that setting clear expectations is essential for a remote sales team. One very important aspect of this is to set performance goals for your team.

Of course, sales quota goals are still important, but remote sales teams should have goals that get them closer to their quota by achieving more of the sales activities that lead to closed deals.

To match your goals to quota, work backwards in your sales process: How many closed deals does each rep need to meet quota? What percentage of meetings turn into closed deals? How many cold calls do reps need to make in order to book a meeting? Once you figure these things out, for example, you could set a goal number of cold calls per day or per week for each rep.

To keep track of these key activities, set up a sales leaderboard and watch as reps develop healthy competition while completing essential sales activities.

Pro tip: In Close CRM, a sales leaderboard is automatically set up on your Activity Overview dashboard. You can customize the leaderboard based on the activities you want to track, such as the number of outbound calls, call duration, meetings held, SMS or email sent, response rates, and more.

2. Define the stages and activities of your virtual sales process

While all sales teams should have their sales process well-defined, this is especially important in a remote setting.

When your sales team is dispersed, they can’t always pop in to ask you a quick question. Productivity in a remote setting is paramount, so having clear, written processes is essential. When a proven sales process is applied consistently by the whole team, the results can be even better than you might expect.

Generally, the stages of a successful sales process look something like this:

  • Prospecting
  • Researching
  • Connecting
  • Presenting
  • Addressing objections
  • Closing
  • Delivering
  • Following up

Of course, you’ll need to define this process according to your particular circumstances and customers.

Next, define the key activities that move prospects from one stage to the next.

For example, when connecting with prospects for the first time, do your reps see more success with cold emails or cold calls? Is there a sales pitch script that works better with certain types of prospects? Do prospects from a certain industry respond better to a product demo than to a sales presentation? What kind of follow-ups get better response rates?

When you test these activities and see the results, you’ll be able to build a better framework for your sales reps to follow. That way, they’ll know exactly what they need to do to close deals whether they’ve been on the team for years or just started last month.

3. Decide on the remote sales KPIs that impact the success of your team

Tracking the right KPIs allows you to have better visibility into the health of your sales process and your team.

Here are some sales KPIs you should be tracking:

  • Sales activities per rep: This tells you how active each rep is, as well as which activities they’re seeing more success with. (Psst… You can track and compare rep activity easily with the Activity Comparison Report in Close CRM.)
  • Pipeline conversion rates: Tracking this helps you perform a sales pipeline analysis, and tells you if your pipeline is healthy. Any fluctuations to these numbers is an early alert that something is wrong with your process.
  • Sales by contact method: Knowing how your prospects prefer to be contacted helps you define which activities are most valuable for your team.
  • Average conversion time: When you see how long it takes from the moment of contact to closing the deal, you can test to improve this metric or catch problems in your process before they really slow down the sales cycle.
  • Sales by lead source: If you see a higher number of sales from a particular lead source, you can direct your team to focus their energy on a certain lead generation method.

These are just a few of the KPIs you could be tracking for your remote sales team. Find the metrics that have the most impact on your bottom line, and set up tracking so you can keep an eye on your process and your team, even from a distance.

4. Give your sales team better visibility into buyer activity and responses

Especially during these turbulent times, the sentiment, priorities and needs of the customer continue to shift. So, how do your sellers know what customers really want today?

Getting better visibility into buyer activity for both yourself and your team is essential to presenting your offering effectively.

So, what are buyers doing? Keep track of website activity with a sales dashboard. Understand which landing pages are getting more activity, and pull topics and arguments from these pages to help your sales team sell more effectively with their sales scripts and email templates.

Also, encourage your team to discuss buyer responses to different tactics or messages. In your daily stand-up meeting with the sales team, have one member of the team talk about a call they had the previous day, whether good or bad, and generate discussion around buyer responses and sales objections.

You could also encourage discussion in a specific Slack channel where reps can relate the reactions they are receiving as they call.

This can help you as a manager see where your scripts and templates may need to be adjusted and will help the rest of the sales team have their prospects’ current needs in mind as they sell.

5. Help your remote sales team focus their efforts

When your sales team is focused, they are productive.

But, how can you make sure they’re focused when you’re not with them in the office?

When leading a remote team, it’s your responsibility to help reps sell effectively to the right people. One way managers can do this is by helping reps prioritize the right leads.

Set up a lead scoring system based on specific attributes and actions that tells reps which leads they need to contact first in their list. Basically, this means assigning a point value to the qualities and activities of your prospects.

It might look something like this:

Action Score
Clicks through newsletter +20
Visits pricing page +30
Attends webinar +15
Signs up for a trial +45
No-show for demo -20
Never opens newsletter -25

Another way to keep your team focused on the right deals is by regularly cleaning up the data you have stored in your CRM.

For example, is your pipeline cluttered with leads that never moved forward in the sales process and deals that fell through before closing? While following up with these people is an important part of winning new business, you don’t want these old leads filling up your pipeline and taking away focus from new, hot leads.

Managing remote sales reps involves keeping that data clean so they can focus on selling, not sorting.

Pro tip: Want to save old leads for future follow-ups? Create a separate follow-up pipeline and add older leads there. This keeps your main pipeline clear for new deals, while at the same time setting up a specific process to win back these lost leads. In Close CRM, you can set up multiple pipelines and customize the stages to your specific process. Sign up for a 14-day trial now to see how it works.

6. Train based on a solid foundation that builds autonomy

Too many sales managers still like to train based on the ‘sales tactic of the week’ method.

But if you’re training on general sales ideas or theoretically effective tactics, how do you know your training will actually be effective?

Instead, remote sales training should be built around a foundation of processes and best practices that have been proven to work over time. You want to master the fundamentals, focus on the timeless principles.

In one interview, Chad Sanderson from ValueSelling Associates talked about how several events in recent history have changed the face of business, including but not limited to the current pandemic.

“In order to navigate these turbulent times,” he said, “We need a touchstone, we need a framework. If you’re training your team on a framework, it gives you the ability to say, ‘This framework has weathered more than just this particular moment in time, and I can focus on practicing on this foundation. So, while the hurricane of change is blowing outside, I know my foundation is solid and I’m going to be able to perform consistently.’ By giving them that framework, you give them something that is solid and predictable regardless of what else is going on.”

Train based on a solid foundation of proven sales processes, and you’ll give your team the ability to work autonomously in a remote setting, no matter what the world situation may be.

4 pro tips for managing remote sales reps

With your processes in place and your reps ready to get started, how can you successfully manage remote sales reps and keep them motivated to keep selling?

Here are 4 pro tips to manage and motivate a remote sales team:

1. Build an atmosphere of accountability

One of the best ways to avoid the trap of micro-managing your remote sales team is to generate a spirit of accountability on your team. This kind of atmosphere motivates sales reps to keep working because they feel personally accountable for the results they see.

Here are some ideas on how to do it:

  • Task your reps with creating agendas for 1:1s: Or in the least, encourage them to add items to the list of things to discuss.
  • Encourage reps to take initiative with new methods and processes: Ask your team for advice and ideas, then have them test their own ideas and prove their theories.
  • Have reps own their performance goals: When you set performance goals, as mentioned above, have each rep take responsibility for tracking and planning to reach those goals.
  • Create a safe space to ask for help: Nobody has all the answers. Make sure your reps feel safe and comfortable enough to ask for help within the team. For example, you could create a specific channel in Slack where reps can ask questions about deals in their pipeline and get feedback and advice from you or others on the sales team.
  • Allow each rep to find their best workflow at home: Personal circumstances differ for each rep, so allow each one to be accountable for their WFH schedule. Whenever possible, allow flexibility so each one can care for their family’s needs alongside their workload.

2. Give your team as much transparency as possible

Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand.

If you want your remote sales reps to trust you as a manager and trust the company as a whole, it’s important for them to have a transparent view of what’s happening in sales and with the company.

For example, when you set up dashboards for key sales KPIs, make sure your reps have access to that data. If you’re using Close’s Activity Comparison Report, encourage reps to take a look at each other’s performance in different areas and talk to each other to improve the aspects they’re struggling with.

Of course, during a crisis, the need for transparency is even more acute. In our book, Leading Sales Teams Through Crisis, corporate leadership advisor Niamh O’Keefe mentioned this:

“In a crisis, people want more reassurance and information than usual. Be more transparent than usual, communicate more than usual.”

3. Conduct regular 1:1s with each team member

Regular 1:1 sales meetings with each of your reps must be a consistent part of your schedule, not just a measure you resort to when you notice a problem.

Talk to your reps and pick a day and time during the week that works for them. Then, set this as a recurring event in your calendar. With Google Calendar, you can give invitees access to adjust the event, and leave the door open to adjust this meeting if the rep is on a call or has another urgent task.

Having regular face time with each team member allows you to check in on their work, but also on their emotional health. Create specific agendas that both you and the rep can add to or adjust, but also allow some time just to chat. These meetings will help you build trust with your team, keep tabs on the health of their work situation, and see when it may be time for you to step in and help.

4. Celebrate goals attained and milestones reached

If you ever worked sales in an office, it’s easy to miss the mini-celebrations that went on when a deal was closed or a milestone was reached.

But, just because you’re managing a remote sales team doesn’t mean those celebrations need to end.

While we admit it’s not quite the same, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate your team’s accomplishments in a remote setting.

For example, why not celebrate deals closed with a GIF in the sales team’s Slack channel? Or, prepare fun gifts for reps to receive when they hit their quarterly goals, like a few months to their favorite subscription boxes, such as Book of the Month, Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, or BarkBox.

Celebrating milestones and goal achievements helps keep your team motivated and united even when working remotely.

Lead your remote team towards productivity and success

Motivating and managing a remote sales team isn’t a walk in the park, but it can be done successfully. In fact, many remote sales teams are just as effective as in-house teams: it’s all about how you manage your reps.

But now that you’ve built the foundation for an effective sales process, how can you coach and enable them to perform their work more effectively?

Check out Chapter 3 to see real, expert advice on coaching and enabling a remote sales team. →

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Cloosiv's lean sales team became paralyzed by process as their prospect pipeline and client list matured.
Learn how to define your key requirements for remote sales reps, hire for culture fit.
Learn how to define your key requirements for remote sales reps, hire for culture fit.
Cloosiv's lean sales team became paralyzed by process as their prospect pipeline and client list matured.
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Cloosiv's lean sales team became paralyzed by process as their prospect pipeline and client list matured.
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