Managing a remote sales team used to be a situation faced only by sales leaders at large multinational corporations. All that changed with the wide availability of high speed internet and video conferencing.
Today, more and more sales managers and sales leaders are charged with leading geographically dispersed teams. While virtual teams can provide huge benefits, managing a distributed team can be challenging.
Some of the challenges of managing remote sales teams include:
- Ramping up new hires
- Maintaining communication
- Establishing strong collaboration
- Holding salespeople accountable
- Building trust and rapport
- Maintaining employee engagement
Here’s how to rise to the challenge and drive your virtual sales force to higher performance.
Without a shared office environment or coworking space, communication between sales managers and sales reps can suffer.
Set the tone from the start by communicating expectations with your remote employees early and often. Focus not only on the results you expect the team to deliver, but also on the specific tasks, skills, and behaviors they must perform to achieve those results.
Provide Necessary Tools and Training
It can be a challenge to get your new sales hires up to speed when they’re not working closely with you and the other sales team members. Be sure you are prioritizing the onboarding process and providing your new sales reps with the necessary tools and training to be effective.
Establish a Communication Rhythm
When working remotely, it can be easy to let too much time slip by without communicating with individual sale reps–especially high performers and those who seem to be self-sufficient. This is a bad habit, as it limits your team’s growth and can cause you to miss warning signs of discontent, low employee engagement, or declining productivity.
Establish a regular schedule of sales team meetings, and structure the meetings so that your reps know what to expect and what they’re responsible for bringing to the table. Follow this sales meeting agenda to get more done in less time (and be sure to schedule meetings that work across multiple time zones.)
In addition to team meetings, establish a regular one-to-one coaching rhythm with individual salespeople to stay on top of how they’re doing and help keep them motivated to reach their short and long-term goals.
Nurture Team Spirit
Virtual teams can often feel less like a team and more like individuals off doing their own thing. It’s worth the effort to combat this tendency, as a cohesive team will be more collaborative and productive – working like a well-oiled machine to achieve your sales goals.
Try to host team building activities with face-to-face interaction at least once or twice a year at a central location. (Your Annual Sales Meeting is key for building team spirit and collaboration.) It’s also helpful to hold regular video sessions with the entire team.
You can take a rotation of assigning each rep a subject to research or share best practices on. This helps build a culture of knowledge sharing, and can make your meetings feel more engaging and less like a lecture.
Break the Routine
A regular rhythm is a good thing for sales leaders to keep in mind when managing a remote team, but so is breaking out of the routine.
Take some time every week to make low-pressure phone calls to some of your salespeople, just to check in and see how they’re doing. This takes place of chatting in the break room, and will help you build a trusting relationship and keep a pulse on how they’re doing.
Try not to get into the habit of being stiff or overly formal with your remote teams. Cracking jokes and being real with your people from time to time will go a long way toward building trust and rapport.
If possible, make a point to visit each location periodically for valuable face-to-face meetings with each salesperson.
Use Your Analytics
Great sales analytics can be a remote manager’s best friend.
Use your analytics tools to review each salesperson’s performance before each call, so you know where to focus your attention. Be sure to review what they’re doing well, as well as where they need improvement.
Employ the Right Technologies
When managing remote sales teams, the right collaborative technologies are critical.
Email and phone conversations can be an integral part of communication, but make sure you also have platforms for casual team conversations (Slack and Google Hangouts are great options.)
Video conferencing is the next best thing when face-to-face meetings aren’t a possibility. Video allows everyone working remotely to tune into each other’s non-verbal communication cues, improving rapport and establishing clearer communication. (Skype and Zoom are great options.)
Know Each Rep’s Communication Style
Everyone has a communication style that they prefer and respond best to. Get to know your team’s individual preferences, and then adapt your approach to match.
A comprehensive, Whole Person assessment gives you insight into each of your team members’ behaviors, motivators, and communication style. That insight can be a game changer for sales managers and can be especially helpful for leaders managing remote sales teams.
Check out what one of our clients has to say about using the Brooks Talent Index assessment tool:
Learn more about Brooks Talent Index and request a free assessment here.
NOTE: Our sales training tools are designed to make your life easier. Use them to your advantage.
Essential Elements of a World-Class Sales Coaching Program
“Recent study shows that while close to 90% of organizations provide some sort of coaching to their salespeople, 65% of those programs are considered ineffective.” The Brooks Group recently teamed up with Training Industry, Inc., a research organization focused on getting to the bottom of current best-practices in sales team effectiveness.