Before COVID, the sales industry was already becoming increasingly remote. From 2013 to 2017, the number of outside sales reps selling remotely grew by 89%. Inevitably, even when offices reopen, many management teams will decide that allowing both inside and outside sales reps to work remotely is more cost-effective or is a better way to attract top hires.
I’ve led both inside and outside sales teams, and I’ve seen that working remotely can work – if it’s done right. I learned my lessons the hard way. When I created my first all-remote team several years ago, I hired my sales reps with the assumption that they had it all figured out; I had hired the best, so I figured that the numbers would soon prove me right.
I quickly learned that they didn’t, in fact, have it “all figured out.” The reason is that, no matter how great a salesperson is, working remotely has its drawbacks. For one, it’s harder for a salesperson’s skills to evolve without direct interaction from his or her peers. Businesses, competitors and solutions evolve real-time, which means if reps don’t evolve they will get left behind. Managing sales and product training for a remote sales team takes extra effort – something many sales leaders realize.
We also have to realize that reps who start their career on the inside often have a harder time transitioning to remote work life, which comes with new distractions. Many people had never worked a day remotely before this March.
But by focusing on these six tactics, a business leader can, in fact, build a highly skilled and capable remote team:
1. Set up consistent, recurring sales training
These could include regular product trainings, meetings with the marketing team, and presentations by managements or other relevant groups.
2. Require your sales reps to sit in on at least one meeting or call every week that another sales rep is holding
By seeing how others work, and what is effective or ineffective, they will pick up techniques and ideas that will help them develop new skills.
3. Take responsibility
If your remote salesperson is failing, don’t jump to assign blame. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do differently. Get feedback from your team. Don’t assume your team members will adapt and mature, unless you provide the right tools for them.
4. Bring your sales reps onsite for group meetings
Right now, we can do this virtually through Zoom or another platform, but in the future, you may want to start scheduling monthly or quarterly in-person meetings, depending on where your team is located. Right now, start by holding consistent weekly team meetings, at the same day and time every week.
5. Assign presentations
Presenting in front of their peers is a great way to hone their presentation and communication skills and to learn from each other. Create a hypothetical scenario and ask your reps to present solutions and give each other feedback. This is also a great way to come together as a team.
6. Hold regular one-on-one meetings
Give your remote sales reps as much consistent feedback as you can. This should be positive feedback and encouragement as well as constructive feedback. These one-on-one meetings are crucial for reps who you do not see face-to-face every day.
7. Look at key performance indicators (KPIs)
You should never make assessments of your reps that only take into account the number of deals closed. Consider all indicators. These could be the number of emails or calls a rep is making daily; the number of demos completed; the number of opportunities advancing per week; or renewal business meetings. These indicators give a manager insight into whether or not a rep is trailing or leading the team.
A good sales leader knows exactly how many total opportunities a team needs to hit their team number at the end of the month. For example, in order to achieve three closes within a team by the end of the month, each rep might need to net three opportunities a week, with the assumption that only a certain percent of these opportunities will lead to closed deals. If deals aren’t being made, looking at KPIs can be a good way to figure out why.
8. Give your sales reps the right tools
Don’t expect your remote teams to excel without great tools. Every rep needs a reliable phone, conference line, web demo software, and data tools. They need the right CRM system to track and manage leads. They need KPI reporting tools.
Hiring great people isn’t enough when you’re running a remote team. By considering these tactics, you’ll increase your chances of giving your great sales force the tools, opportunities and guidance they need to hone their skills and close more deals.
About the Author: As the Chief Executive Officer of Titanhouse, Mike Levy is responsible for the overall strategy as well as daily operations.
Prior to TitanHouse, Mike was the Chief Revenue Officer at RainKing Solutions where he was responsible for the client-facing business. As one of the original investors and members of the executive team, Mike helped build and guide RainKing from beta to two very successful PE exits. Prior to RainKing, Mike was a Vice President of Sales for Ipreo.