With telecommuting on the rise, understanding and managing a remote sales team is a critical skill for managers.
Managing a remote sales team is a relatively new challenge for most business leaders. In our global business environment, a remote sales team structure is almost inevitable for many companies.
But how do you manage a remote sales team? It’s is easier than you might think. Remote employees want the same things as on-site employees. Consider all the perks you offer the second group and you’re well on your way to knowing what you need to do for your remote team.
Ten things you can do now as a manager to create or improve your current structure for your remote sales team
1. Clear and open communication
Across the board, those who’ve found success with remote structures say the number one thing is clear and open communication. Emily LaRusch, CEO and Founder of Back Office Betties, LLC, says, “Communication is key when working remotely. It’s easy to feel cut-off from the company…I schedule weekly meetings with each department to review accomplishments, goals, and challenges as a team. Even though they’re remote, these structured and short meetings serve to keep team members connected.”
2. Make your interactions more personal
If your remote employees think that you’re micromanaging, they’ll likely disengage and begin to perform under par. That’s why it’s important to make most of your check-ins informal unless they’re scheduled. Most of it comes down to language. Instead of saying, “Hey, Joe, how’s that pitch deck coming?” you can say, “Hey, Joe, just wanted to see how you’re doing today. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you.”
3. Set regular meetings
As part of open communication, your remote sales team will likely benefit from regular meetings not only as a team, but as individuals. Have a thirty-minute 1:1 meeting with each team member once every two weeks, or even every week if your team is small. Put these meetings on a recurring basis on your employees’ calendars.
An important word of advice: Never cancel these meetings! They are often the easiest thing to cut from a busy calendar, but doing so tells your sales team that other business is more important than they are. If you *must* cancel, make sure to reschedule within a day or two. Making time goes a long way.
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4. Set goals, not just targets
Targets are a necessary thing in sales, but many remote managers rely on them too much for measuring success. In addition to targets, set goals with each of your employees and track them throughout the quarter, semester, or year. This builds a greater bond and also helps you see where they have strengths and where they have room to grow.
5. Meet in person
As often as you can, meet in person with a remote sales team. If that means four times a year, so be it, but remember how valuable this can be. Meeting people face-to-face turns them back into people, not machines on the other end of an e-mail.
6. Use technology
CRMs and team collaboration technology both benefit remote teams. CRMs connect team members to one another to help collaborate on client relationship issues and lead generation, among other things, all of which are necessary for success.
Project management tools like Asana and Slack can also help your teams communicate more efficiently and stay up-to-date on what everyone is doing. They provide for regular conversations that last throughout the day (and sometimes into the night).
7. Share contributions publicly
Celebrate the victories of your remote employees by announcing them publicly to others in the company, perhaps during a weekly meeting. It’s a simple way to show appreciation while making them feel like part of the team they never see.
8. Include in company activities
You can’t always include remotes in company lunches and things like that, but if it’s a big event, there are ways to make them feel a part of the organization. If your business holds a holiday party, for example, set aside some budget to send your remote employees to dinner with their partners or something like that. It’s a simple acknowledgement that you wish they could be with you. (And when possible, fly them in for an office event!)
9. Offer career advancement
Some studies have suggested that what Millenials want most out of a job are career opportunities. When possible, offer promotions or create new roles that can still be remote so that distant employees don’t feel like their careers are stagnant and start looking somewhere else.
10. Trust your people
By the end of 2015, Dell, the computer giant, made half of their global staff remote. How? Primarily through trust. Dell HR Director, Mohammed Chahdi, says, ““We must continually show team members that we trust them to organize their work in a way that meets both their personal and professional priorities.”
Trust your remote sales team, and they will likely respond in kind.
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