As businesses continue to adapt to new working conditions in the wake of COVID-19, effectively managing remote sales teams is now more critical than ever.
It wasn’t that long ago that businesses didn’t have to deal with remote workers if they didn’t want to. All that changed in early 2020, at the onset of a global pandemic. Now, many businesses find themselves dealing with the challenge of managing remote sales teams, even if they weren’t prepared to do so before.
While this may seem like a daunting task, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that managing remote sales teams is not only doable, but it can still produce the same great results you saw before COVID-19.
Of course, as with most things, it helps to know some tips and tricks for making remote work successful. Here are some of the most important things to try if managing remote sales teams has proven difficult for your company thus far.
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The 9 magical keys to managing remote sales teams successfully
1. Establish trust
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of remote management, it’s important for managers to begin establishing trust with employees. Especially if remote work is new to the organization, some employees may go into it with a fear that their managers don’t have faith in them to be focused and engaged. Curb this concern by laying out the trust from the beginning—tell your team directly that you believe in them and the work they can do and then back that up by treating business as usual and avoiding micromanagement. If someone does seem to be struggling, address it early before it becomes a problem.
2. Promote communication and provide relevant tools
One fundamental way to build trust when managing remote sales teams is to make sure that you have good lines of communication open with your employees. In addition to regular emails, software like Slack can help your team stay in touch during remote work. Video conferencing software like Zoom or Google Hangouts is also useful in fostering healthy communication amongst remote teams. Take the lead on this—set regular check-ins with individual team members and be sure to give weekly or bi-weekly updates, at the very least, on the state of the business.
3. Hold bi-weekly town halls
As part of your communication plan, schedule bi-weekly all-staff meetings to get everyone in one place to learn about current and upcoming initiatives and business issues. Virtual meetings work just as well as in-person meetings for this. To make the most out of these meetings, turn on the chat function and be sure that people have a chance to ask questions or give feedback to the whole group.
If your business is too big for this kind of regular meeting, try smaller breakouts run by executives or high-level employees to make sure everyone is on the same page. A presentation deck can also help keep the team on track and minimize going off-topic.
4. Establish processes
Outlining transparent processes from the beginning of your remote sales journey will help employees focus and engage with their daily tasks. You can do this simply with a shared document that details the steps necessary for any given workstream. The shared document can be referred to during bi-weekly, all-hands meetings, as well as during individual one-to-ones to help make sure that employees are aware of the processes and sticking to them.
5. Hold teams accountable
Accountability is an essential part of managing remote sales teams. As a manager, you’ll want to give employees all they need to succeed, but at the end of the day, they’ll need to answer for what they’ve done or where they’re struggling. Implement a buddy system, train lower management on accountability practices, or utilize software like Monday.com or Asana to help manage projects and keep your team on schedule.
6. Promote virtual team-building
One thing that’s the same about managing remote sales teams or those that are in-person is that managers still need to make time for team-building activities. According to Hubspot, 35% of remote workers report feeling lonely or isolated at least a few times per week. Take some of the burdens off with things like virtual happy hours, team huddles that aren’t necessarily about work, contests, and more. Especially while most of the workforce is home, engaging people on a personal level is more important than ever in helping reduce burnout or loneliness.
7. Revamp the rules
Traditionally, sales has been a primarily-face-to-face business. All that’s changed with remote work. Naturally, your sales playbook should adapt to the new circumstances. Managing remote sales teams with processes designed for in-person interactions may not work in a remote team environment. Create processes and procedures that reflect the virtual nature of today’s business world to best enable employees to be successful in their new circumstances.
8. Invest in remote resources
Even though this is a tough time financially for most businesses, you may find managing remote sales teams easier if you find a budget for software to help foster communication and productivity. We already mentioned Slack earlier, which can be extremely useful with its capabilities for separate channels and integrations with software like G-Suite and project management tools like Asana. Still, there are plenty of other resources out there that can help ease the burden of remote work and keep your teams in tune.
9. Establish or join virtual networks
Finally, getting input from others going through the challenges of managing remote sales teams is a great way to discover what’s working and what’s not. Join professional networks, attend virtual gatherings and webinars, and let people know that you’re eager to connect. Networking is vital for both managers (to help them manage) and employees (to help them feel connected). It’s an easy thing to forget about in all of this, but it remains a critical part of any business, and especially sales, no matter where your teams are located.
Flexibility is more important than ever in running a successful sales team. And as challenging as things may seem right now, all these tips will help you build stronger relationships and prepare for the future.
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