And you thought managing a sales team in the office was hard.
Let’s face it: leading & managing 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?
In 2020, many sales managers reluctantly adapted to remote sales because of the pandemic. But before that, many sales managers were leading remote sales teams successfully.
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?
What is a Virtual Sales Team?
A virtual sales team is one composed of remote workers who conduct their business largely over telephone-based and online communication, such as video calls. The work environment of such salespeople is usually their home, although work-sharing spaces or in-person sales calls may comprise some of their activities.
This is different from in-office sales in a few ways, including the lack of in-person meetings or watercooler talk. However, since so much of sales takes place over the phone or through email anyway, it’s not as different as people may think.
Remote Selling vs In-Office Sales: Differences in Management
Remote selling certainly has a different flavor than sales that occur out of the office. To wit:
Communication between in-office and remote sales relies heavily on technology. Sales managers must be intentional about communicating with remote workers regularly to build trust and keep the communication lines open.
Tools and Processes
Remote sales relies heavily 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. You can use technology, such as a CRM or project management platform, to keep an eye on reps, but don’t over do it. Part of building a successful remote team is trusting your reps to do their jobs and being there to offer support when needed.
It’s easier to set expectations for in-person, face-to-face work than it is for remote work. You’re right there to oversee it, after all.
In a remote environment, you don’t have that day-to-day interaction to create a bond and cement expectations, so you’ll have to communicate them in other ways. Ensure all parties are on the same page when it comes to tracking goals, KPIs, and general behavior.
Benefits of Using a Remote Sales Team
Remote sales team management – whether that comprises your entire sales team or just part of it – has some serious benefits you ought to know about. Here are some of the most important:
Managing a remote sales team definitely saves you money. You don’t have nearly the same office space requirements to pay for; and plus, people can engage in remote selling from anywhere, giving you the opportunity to hire reps in lower cost-of-living areas, where their salaries are accordingly lower as well.
Opportunity for Regional Expansion
Bringing on remote reps enables them to sell in their own local areas. You can cultivate sales leaders in cities large and small, across the country or even the globe. Remote employees know their areas better than anyone, and can make a huge dent in your sales goals even if they aren’t full-time workers.
With remote sales management, reps can use their time more wisely. There’s less watercooler talk and chitchat, meaning they can increase the number of leads and deals they handle at a time.
Challenges of Remote Sales
While the challenges of managing a remote sales team are real, you can overcome them with the right approach.
Maintaining Communication & Transparency
Because you’re not all in one place, it can feel difficult for a manager to know how much sales reps have on their plate. Are they overworked? Underutilized? Are they feeling frustrated by a lack of leads? Drowning in them? The solution here is maintaining frequent and transparent communication so your reps can share how they feel and what they need.
Remote workers tend to work longer hours–even if its not required. They don’t always know when to stop working, and can get burnt out easily. Help them find the work-life balance they need by setting clear expectations for when they can consider themselves “off-duty,” whether that means email, phone calls, or any other sales activity.
Building a Team Environment
Building trust and keeping remote salespeople engaged is always a challenge, because the rapport of the office isn’t there to support those goals. However, in-person sales activities aren’t necessarily any more successful than remote work, as long as your team knows where to go to find help and camaraderie. Make sure you provide that through frequent team events, online and off.
10 Pro Tips for Managing and Motivating a Remote Sales Team
Setting up your management process is essential, but keeping it going is the real challenge of managing a virtual sales team.
Here are ten remote sales strategies to level up your visibility as a remote sales manager and motivate your team to stay engaged and keep selling.
1. Set Clear Expectations for Performance
Setting clear expectations is essential for a remote sales team. One 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 move them closer to their quota by completing 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 this out, 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.
2. Track Sales KPIs and Share Progress With 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 hitting sales goals and influencing your bottom line, and set up tracking so you can keep an eye on your process and your salespeople, even from a distance.
3. Provide a Clearly Defined Virtual Sales Process
While all sales teams should have a well-defined sales process, it’s 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:
- Addressing objections
- 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 of know-how 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.
4. Use the Right Tools to Empower Your Remote Sales Team
Working in a remote environment isn’t for the faint of heart—luckily, most sales reps are far from faint-hearted.
Still, without in-person banter amongst their peers, reps can miss out on tips and tricks that others on the team are using successfully. As a manager, it becomes your job to help them pick up on those tricks, remotely. Here’s two ways to do that:
Use Sales Dashboards to Show What Messaging Works
The sentiment, priorities, and needs of your customers shift over time. So, how do your sellers know what customers really want today?
Well, they can keep track of website activity with a sales dashboard. Understand which landing pages are getting more interaction, and pull topics and arguments from these pages to help your sales team sell more effectively with their sales scripts and email templates.
Encourage your team to discuss buyer responses to different tactics or messages. In your daily stand-up meeting, have one member of the team talk about a call they had the previous day, and generate discussion around buyer responses and sales objections.
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.
Leverage Lead-Scoring Dashboards Show Who to Prioritize
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:
Another way to keep your team focused on the right deals is by regularly cleaning up the data you have stored in your CRM. Our advice? Create a separate follow-ups pipeline and save old leads there. This helps keep your main pipeline clear for new deals, while at the same time setting up a specific process to win back those lost leads.
5. Leverage Automated Software Tools
Sales automation tactics are very important, including email drips and SMS messaging, automated processes, reporting, and so on. These automatic efforts free up time for the sales rep to focus on high-quality leads at the end of the sales cycle, rather than chasing down every new and unqualified lead as it comes in.
Sales enablement of this kind can come in many forms, such as predictive dialing or email sequences, but the bottom line is the same: they save remote teams a lot of time compared to traditional sales calls.
Other automated sales tools – such as Zoom for video conferencing, or Slack for team communication – can also help remote teams succeed.
6. Offer Training As Needed
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 and 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. Additional tips include:
- Pay attention to time zones when setting up trainings, to make sure your attendees can actually attend.
- Record video conferencing and webinars so they can be viewed again later, and make sure your software providers offer this feature.
- As in all sales, don’t just tell; show. Specifically model how to conduct sales calls virtually.
7. Prioritize Communication, Transparency, & Trust
Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand, whether we’re talking about team meetings or sales calls.
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, on a real-time basis.
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.”
8. 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.
9. 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 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.
10. Celebrate Each Milestone and Win
If you ever worked sales in an office, it’s hard to miss the mini-celebrations that happen when a deal closes or a quota is hit.
But, just because you’re managing a remote sales team doesn’t mean those celebrations need to end.
While 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.
How to Strategically Grow Your Remote Sales Team
Not quite sure how to get started growing your remote sales team? No problem, we’ve got you covered with a few of our favorite tips:
- Structure interview questions that focus on virtual or remote sales experience.
- Provide onboarding and training with specific emphasis on virtual sales.
- Invest in cloud-based, widely accessible resources that help sales professionals achieve their goals.
- Clearly set your expectations for out-of-office work conduct, software use, and new sales goals.
- Encourage interaction via many forms of media, from phone and video, to social media, to in-person meetings or mixers.
Ready to see major improvements in your remote productivity, success and profits? It’s time for a solution.
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.
For now, take heart: remote sales management is certainly challenging, and it’s no picnic to set up your virtual sales teams for the first time. But your salespeople’s productivity will likely rise, your overhead will dip, and your company as a whole will be the better for it.
So why wait? Give your remote sales team the tools they need to succeed with Close, the CRM built by and for remote sales teams.