A 5 Step Framework on How to Manage your Remote Sales Team

(Last Updated On: October 30, 2020)

Every sales team has one decisive goal.

Earn revenue.

It’s all fine and dandy as a sales manager when you’re all in the same location next to each other and you can rely on face to face interaction to take leads down the funnel and close deals.

But what if circumstances dictate that your team needs to go remote?

With people no longer in the same building….

Communication goes for a toss.

Your team starts to feel isolated, deprived of all the random hallway ‘Hi’s and watercooler moments that lay the groundwork for healthy camaraderie.

The trust that you had in each other and the team spirit that you painstakingly built..

With people far away and scattered, all that’s starting to wilt.

And if it starts to tell on your numbers, you cant even sit next to your team and have a mature discussion on what’s going on.

In such drastically changed circumstances, how do you, as a manager, ensure that your remote sales team hits its weekly and monthly sales targets?

Fret not, companies such as Automattic, Buffer, Arkency, and Gitlab have been at the remote game with considerable success.

And you can do the same.

By the end of this blog, you’ll be acquainted with the 5 must-have ingredients of managing remote sales that will ensure that you not just survive but thrive as a distributed team.

The 5 Steps to Managing a Remote Sales Team

1. Set up Processes

Great sales is an outcome of having great processes in place. 

A sales process will ensure that you have a well-defined and repeatable group of activities that you can perform to reach a certain target like the number of deals closed, $ value generated, etc.

When working remotely having a good process in place is really important because the team is scattered and out of sight.

Having an effective and repeatable process in place will ensure that salespeople need to follow the exact same process and get the same intended outcomes without you being able to guide them face to face. You can also make use of a workflow software that empowers your team to work more efficiently while minimizing error. 

But, how do you set these processes?

Following these points will help you set a good process in place for your remote sales team to be successful.

a) Maintaining records in the CRM

In a remote environment, it is more critical than ever to maintain a record of all sales activities such as the number of active accounts, deal size,  deal source, deal closures, and follow-ups in a suitable CRM. 

Being steadfast in logging activities in CRM becomes indispensable since

  • Having all the data in the CRM gives a holistic view of the engagement with the leads
  • It allows the manager to review each opportunity and ensure that each deal is progressing towards a close.
  •  It also lets the sales manager measure the important metrics such as the revenue generated, leads in the sales pipeline, etc

b) Document steps

Document your sales process using process automation tools.

Documenting your process is essential to increase workflow efficiency and productivity.

Once you have, how do you make sure that each of your team has implemented your process to keep leads moving down the pipeline?

By using sales engagement tools.

A Sales Engagement Platform like Klenty helps in having a clear engagement strategy for deals across the entire pipeline.

Additionally, you can also stay on top of each sales reps performance. You can easily measure all the input parameters like the number of emails sent, calls made, deals negotiated, etc.

With these insights, you will be able to identify areas for improvement. 

c) A regular cadence of reviews and metrics

Having identified where your salespeople are required to up their game, you need to communicate this effectively with your sales team. Therefore, you can:

  • Schedule a strict cadence of 1v1 meetings where you can take a virtual stroll through each of your remote worker’s daily work routines.
  • Have periodic reviews focusing on overall sales metrics using communication tools like Zoom, Hangouts, or Skype.

d) Clear Handoffs and SLAs

Having a clear system in place for issuing handoffs and Service Level Agreements in Sales is essential in a remote environment since your team is scattered. 

Sales is a collaborative process, and your remote workers need a reliable and effective means of working in tandem.

SDRs, for instance, need to regularly pass on leads to Account Executives after qualifying them and coordinate with them to move leads down the pipeline towards closure.

‘Accidents happen at intersections’

Therefore, it is crucial to have clear and process-driven handoffs at each stage especially in a remote environment.

2. Learning and Coaching

With consumer behavior, products, technology, and competitors changing all the time, salespeople need to constantly learn and upgrade their skills. 

To do that you need to possess an eternal learner’s mindset in order to stay ahead of the game.

As a manager, you can facilitate this by designing ways to enable learning that leads to an observable elevation in sales effectiveness.

Some of the important points to keep in mind in order to ensure constant learning are-

a) Weaving in passive and active learning tools

The remote workforce is mainly stuck with passive learning tools such as videos, courses, lectures and presentations on sales activities and principles.

Sprinkling in active learning tools such as virtual debates, discussions, problem-solving brainstorms etc on chatrooms and online communication platforms can liven up the learning rate of your salespeople while keeping them on their toes. 

b) Deliberate training time

Consistent and measurable learning happens only through planned Deliberate Training Times spent on purposeful skill development.

How to enable periodic upgrades of your salespeople’s knowledge in a remote situation?

Plan virtual weekly/ monthly sit-downs with your team, and discuss 1 Knowledge Point per session which can directly or indirectly help them sell better.

c) Constant product understanding

The product/ service that you are selling isn’t staying still.

It’s going to constantly evolve.

As a salesperson, it is important to stay abreast of product features, updates, and modifications in order to tailor your sales strategy and messaging accordingly.

However, in a remote situation, it’s no longer possible to just walk across the room and talk to product developers or the service team about what you are selling.

Therefore a regular sequence of meetings with members from other teams is essential for remote salespeople where they can periodically update their understanding of the product.

Such planned inter-team interactions can happen through online communication tools like Zoom, Slack or Hangouts.

d) Peer learning sessions

Sometimes, the greatest sales learning experience can come from shadowing top senior salespersons, and in having open conversations with them as to tips and tricks regarding the sales processes such as handling objections, closing deals, calls, and writing emails that they follow.

This invaluable osmosis of field knowledge can go missing when you take your team remote.

How best to recreate this unquantifiable yet necessary process?

Organize peer learning online meetings between your experienced and upcoming salespeople, where your newer recruits can pick the brains of their senior counterparts.

e) Promoting self-learner’s mindset 

In a remote team, you can no longer just look across the room, have a quick face-to-face chat, and make them understand the value of unlearning mistakes and relearning concepts.

You rely on your individuals to commit to educating themselves regularly. 

But what you can do as a manager is to promote self-learning and inspire your remote team through encouraging a culture of learning and growth.

Call out those employees who show a very high learning orientation and come forward on their own to improve their skill set. Highlight their growth mindset and refusal to limit themselves.

Better yet? Set an example.

Show your employees that you continue to be a Student of Sales yourself by posting your own efforts to stay updated in the field, be it through peer discussions, courses, books or articles.

For example, you could take up a sales course on platforms such as Coursera, read books such as Predictable Revenue and summarize your learnings in a bid to inspire similar actions from your teammates.

3. A Culture of High Performance and Discipline

Sales= revenue

With the growth of the company relying upon the revenue brought by your team, salespeople are often judged on a binary basis- meet quota or bust.

This means that keeping your sales team on super-performance mode is a must.

A challenge even under normal circumstances, the sales manager’s role in maintaining sales productivity in a distributed team becomes two-pronged- 

  • Eliciting performance from each salesperson
  • Ensuring discipline 

The following points are actionable steps to ensure the productivity of your remote sales team.

a) Setting smart sales targets

Clear daily, weekly and monthly goals are the cornerstone of the motivation of your sales team to perform.

These mile markers could be monthly revenue growth, improving the opportunity win rate, the target percentage increase in ARR, etc.

The practice of setting precise, achievable goals becomes critical in the context of a distributed sales team to instill drive and direction to their activities.

Discussing the progress of your sales targets is best accomplished through effective virtual sales meetings on video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Hangouts, GoToMeeting or Skype.

b) Discipline around timings

One might think that with everyone working remotely, cases of employees slacking off might occur, but usually, the opposite is true.

While working from home, the lines of logging in and out become blurred, employees no longer adhere to the concept of work timings and consequently augment their workday.

Worse- while their workday extends, since they no longer have time limitations posing an intrinsic motivation to be efficient, their work hours extend but their productivity may actually dip.

This leads to remote salespeople feeling overworked and frustrated with their jobs.

The action that needs to be taken here is to get people to do what they were doing in an office environment- sign in and sign out on your virtual messaging and communication platform.

Encourage your employees to become efficient during the working hours which would allow them to peacefully pursue other aspects of their lives during the remaining time.

4. Trust and Collaboration

Trust is the glue that holds each team member together.

Trust is taken for granted in an office space where your sales team rubs shoulders on a day to day basis.

But when you’re no longer in the same room, distributed all over the place?

People are out of sight, which means trust can, painfully, slip out of the mind.

People are less willing and more reluctant to work together, spelling doom for team goals.

However, there are certain key factors that a manager can keep in mind to promote trust and keep the team machine running smoothly. They are-

a) Team spirit

A healthy team spirit is needed to enable your team to not just crush sales quotas but enjoy doing it together. 

Team spirit can develop organically when all of you are in the same room/ building, and everyone can get used to each other, work, learn, and eat together.

But all that’s out of the window when your group is remote. 

How do you create team spirit between remote people in order to make them comfortable with each other?

The first step is constant communication between the team members.

Communication is the wheel on which your remote carriage moves forward.

Encourage your team to use apps like Slack, Hangouts and Zoom to initiate regular group standup calls, and team meetings where goals can be discussed and each person can communicate their daily and weekly agendas like the number of deals, lead movement down the funnel, etc.  

b) Human touch

Let’s face it, your sales group was used to meeting, eating, laughing, and working with each other.

They probably had their own individual networks of friendships and professional linkages which meshed together as a steady support system when their morale was low.

Now, with all the work pressure and volume of sales intact in a remote environment but with none of the human touch, your salespeople will tend to feel lonely, cut off, and distant from their team.

This is going to directly impact numbers, especially in a climate like sales, if the morale goes down.

How?

Your employees may become robotic in their calls, moving their thought process merely towards deal closures without actively trying to understand and resolve customer pain points for instance.

How to counteract this?

Restore the human touch.

Understand that they may be missing the cafeteria moments. The best way to recreate such an informal setting is to organize regular non-work discussions in social communication platforms. 

On apps like Slack, for instance, it is possible to create a completely new channel for off-work topics of interest such as sports, movies, books, etc. 

5. Fun at work

It is important to note that when your salespeople are scattered all over the world, feelings of isolation and loneliness can dampen morale, making work feel like drudgery.

Remote employees often report feeling depressed due to their disconnect from the rest of the company.

Naturally, as a sales manager, you’d be very concerned about the mental health of your employees, but also its repercussions on their sales performance.

To prevent these issues from cropping up; digital detoxification through enabling fun at work may be just what the doctor ordered for your sales rockstars.

a) Celebrating wins

As mentioned earlier, employees feeling invisible when remote is death to their sales performance and even their interest in being your employee.

The best way to offset this is to celebrate every one of their wins, small or big.

A sales rep producing a steep rise in numbers? Loudly acknowledge them.

Someone consistently hitting their expected deal volume? Recognize their indispensability in your company’s growth.

See a brilliant call ferrying a lead down the funnel? An expert closure of a deal? An empathetic approach from an AE converting a customer to a promoter? 

Tell them, and the team how you value their skill and effort.

If you know your reps are doing what’s expected of them, or better, despite being thrown into remote circumstances with no monitoring possible…

 Communicate to them that they’re doing a great job. 

 It may make all the difference to their feeling of appreciation and accomplishment at the remote workplace.

b) Gamification

Employees require both rewards and consequences to continue improving and maintain a healthy relationship with work.

One way to do that is to introduce a dash of competitiveness between employees through gamification.

It can be as simple as announcing a reward to the ‘First to XYZ deals’.

The addition of healthy and balanced conflicts may be just the shot of adrenaline your remote team needs to boost morale and productivity in sales.

c) Rituals

Another key to upping your team’s happiness as remote members is to ensure that the rituals you follow at the workplace are transferred to your remote work as well.

The remote route- an upward trend

Managing remote sales, in short,  can become highly effective if these following 5 pointers can be kept in mind:

  1. Processes- Maintain robust records in the CRM, use a Sales Engagement tool like Klenty for reviews, and enable a system for smooth handoffs of tasks.
  2. Learning and Coaching- Ignite the culture of constant learning in your group through your own example, promoting self-learning initiatives, encouraging product discussions, peer-to-peer and senior-to-junior knowledge transfer. 
  3. High Performance and Discipline- Productivity is a function of performance and consistency through discipline. Achieve performance through setting smart goals, monitoring the lead-to-deal journey that salespeople guide prospects through, and ensuring the process is repeated consistently through discipline. 
  4. Trust and Collaboration- Stay cognizant of the need for remote salespeople’s need to build trust in order to function as a unit. Achieve trust through building team spirit via constant communication and restoring the human touch.
  5. Fun@work- Break up the monotony, isolation, and invisibility of remote work through sprinkling in a dash of warm appreciation for contributions, small or big, while adding a healthy handful of happy rituals and games to break the virtual ice and lighten the team atmosphere surrounding remote work.

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