Although the sales world has been moving toward remote teams for decades, the 2020 pandemic kicked that transition into overdrive. Suddenly, managing a sales team remotely became not just a trend, but a necessity.
Now, managing a team (and making sure they exceed expectations) remotely comes with its unique set of challenges, but if done right, it can be highly successful. It can supercharge your selling process, increase your team’s productivity and ultimately drive more leads through your sales funnel.
In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about managing remote sales teams. Let’s dive in!
How Do Remote Sales Teams Work?
Think of a remote sales team, sometimes called a virtual sales team, as a group of sales pros who do most of their work over the phone and online, using video calls and email.
They don't work in a fancy office but often from their own homes or co-working spaces, although they might meet clients face-to-face sometimes.
Unlike the typical sales teams you see in offices, remote sales teams skip the in-person meetings and the casual chats by the office water cooler. However, it can be challenging if sales reps aren’t used to working remotely.
However, a lot of sales work is already done over the phone and internet anyway. So, managing a remote sales team isn't as different as it might seem at first glance. It's just about doing the same job from a different location.
The Benefits of Managing Sales Teams Remotely
Sales teams working remotely offer several advantages over traditional office space work, including:
1. Reduced Costs and Expenses
Managing a remote sales team can be a money-saver. Think about it – no need for office spaces, so no rent, utility or office supply bills. Plus, you can hire salespeople from places where living costs are lower, so you don't have to pay big-city salaries.
It also helps your employees save on commuter costs and extra expenses that come with traveling back and forth from the office, so that’s a win for everybody.
2. Increased Productivity
Remote work can make your sales team super productive. Your sales reps can start their workday from their own cozy homes, saving loads of time and energy.
What's even better is that remote work minimizes distractions. Your remote salespeople can concentrate better on their tasks, and research shows that working from home can make people 13% more productive!
Moreover, remote work allows your sales team to create a work environment that suits their individual needs. Whether it's a quiet home office or a vibrant co-working space, they have the flexibility to choose where they work best, further enhancing their productivity.
3. Expanded Sales Reach
With remote selling, the world becomes your playground. You're not limited by geography anymore. You can connect with potential customers worldwide – as long as you've got a solid internet connection.
Plus, there are plenty of tech tools to help you, like Zoom or Slack. They automate repetitive tasks, keep your sales plans in check and ensure everyone talks to each other – inside and outside your team. This makes growing your business much easier.
Remote sales teams also can bring diverse cultural perspectives and language skills to the table – a priceless asset when reaching out to a global customer base.
4. A Larger Talent Pool
Managing a remote sales team means you can choose the best people no matter where they live. Unlike traditional offices that stick to hiring nearby, remote work lets you cast a wider net. So, you have more options to find the perfect salespeople for your company.
Furthermore, having a remote team encourages inclusivity and diversity in your workforce. You can attract talent from different regions and backgrounds, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to your sales strategies – which can enhance your team's creativity and problem-solving capabilities.
5. More Flexibility
Remote work is all about flexibility. Your sales team can balance work and personal life more easily, which makes everyone happier and more productive. And for your business, it's adaptable – you can grow or shrink your team as needed without being tied to a physical office space.
Challenges When Managing Sales Teams Remotely
Running a remote sales team isn't all smooth sailing. There are some hurdles to overcome, which can include:
1. Negative Effects on Mental/Physical Well-Being
Working from home is great, but it can sometimes make people feel a bit lonely and less healthy. Without coworkers around, it's easy to feel disconnected. So, it's essential for companies to look out for their remote team members.
One way to help is by offering a mental and physical health support program. For example, you can provide your team with gym/yoga memberships, mental health wellness apps, access to healthier foods (like a subscription to HelloFresh) and more.
Toggl has some great remote team benefits to make sure everyone feels great.
2. Distractions and Work-Life Boundaries
Working from home means no more commuting, but it can also mean more distractions. Then getting into "work mode" at home can be tough, especially if you have kids, pets or family members who don’t understand working from home is still “working.”
It's a good idea to set up a dedicated workspace at home and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Taking breaks and managing your time can also help you stay on track.
3. No Informal Learning Opportunities
In a regular office, you learn things not just from formal training but by chatting with colleagues or picking up tips during coffee breaks. These unplanned learning moments are hard to recreate in remote work.
To solve this, companies can create virtual spaces for informal chats and learning. Encouraging regular video meetings and open conversations can help bring back some of that casual learning you get in an office.
4. Communication Barriers and Lower Sense of Community
Another problem is remote work can sometimes make it harder to communicate with your team and feel like you're part of a community. This can lead to misunderstandings or feeling a bit disconnected from your company, with 40% of remote workers missing that easy sense of connection with their team.
Companies can use communication tools and set up regular virtual meetings. These meetings can be a chance for everyone to catch up, share ideas and feel more connected – even when you're not in the same location.
How to Make Managing a Remote Sales Team Feel Like Managing an In-Office Sales Team
Resolve Communication Challenges
Talking to your team in an office is easy—you're all in one place. But when your team is remote, you need to rely on phones, video calls and messaging apps like Slack or Zoom. So, as a manager, you need to make an effort to talk to your remote team often. It's all about trust and keeping everyone on the same page.
Learn from the tech industry – consider setting up a daily stand-up meeting where you and the team go through:
- What was done
- What needs to be done
- Pulse-checks on challenges
- KPI reviews
Embrace Digital Tools and Workflows
Remote sales teams use a lot of online tools as part of their workflow. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure everything is organized and easy to access. Plus, you’ll need clear plans and goals for meetings to keep everyone on the right track.
In an office, you can see what your team is doing without much effort. But with remote teams, you have to use tech tools to keep an eye on things. Personally, I’m a fan of gamified tools like Spinify.
If your team are also gamers, they will love gamified leaderboards. Source: Spinify.
Just remember not to go overboard and become intrusive. Trust your team to do their work and be there to help when they need it. You can also use tools like sales scorecards to increase accountability.
Expectations in Different Settings
Setting expectations in an office is straightforward because you see your team every day. In remote work, it's different. You have to talk things out more. Make sure everyone knows what goals to aim for and how to measure success. Regularly check in to keep everyone aligned!
10 Best Practices for Remote Sales Managers
1. Set Clear and Defined Expectations
It all starts with setting clear goals for your remote sales team. Of course, hitting those sales quotas is important, but there's more to it. Encourage your team to focus on specific activities that will get them closer to closing deals.
To make this happen, work backward through your sales process. Figure out how many closed deals each team member needs to reach their quota. Calculate the conversion rate from meetings to closed deals.
Understand the number of cold calls or emails it takes to set up a meeting. With these insights, set clear and attainable goals for each team member. Think of it as creating a sales scorecard to track their progress and boost a bit of friendly competition.
2. Develop a Strategic Sales Process
Crafting a clear and smart sales process is a must. Whether it's a video call, a phone call, sending an email or a webinar, your team needs to follow a systematic plan. This not only helps them hit their quotas but also sharpens their sales skills.
Don't forget to include internal team workshops and training in your sales process. Cover topics like how to use effective cold email tricks, best practices for following up with prospects and new ways to generate leads.
Your role is to equip your team with the tooling they need to excel.
3. Leverage Data for Smart Decisions
Data is your secret weapon. Whether your team is working from home or an office, let data be your guide. Use it to make decisions, especially when it comes to scheduling and sales activities.
Find the right balance between giving your team freedom and using data to see what's working and what's not. This way, your team members can make informed choices while still working toward your sales goals.
4. Rethink (and Don’t Over-Do) Team Meetings
Not every meeting has to be all about work. Remote sales reps miss out on the fun stuff that happens in an office, like chatting with colleagues.
So, mix in some team-building activities and informal check-ins to discuss non-work topics. Building these personal connections can make your team even stronger – especially when working remotely.
For some cool ideas on spice up your sales team meetings, you can check out my blog post here.
Don’t forget to keep meetings in check. You don’t want your team to develop Zoom fatigue, a common problem for 70% of remote workers who barely have time to work with all the meetings in their calendars.
5. Understanding Control and Trust
Managing a remote team means finding the right balance between control and trust. While you can't watch over every little thing, focus on what you can control. Avoid micromanaging and instead build trust with your team.
Concentrate on what you can influence – clear goals, support, coaching and feedback. Create an environment where your remote sales team can shine.
6. Engaging Reports for Easy Communication
Effective reporting is all about keeping everyone on the same page. Instead of boring reports filled with numbers and text, go for reports that use visuals like charts and graphs. They're way easier to understand!
You can use tools like Visme to create these visual reports. They make it simple to present complex data in a way that keeps your team informed and interested.
Visme reports look way better than the standard PPT or Excel reporting.
7. Prioritize and Score Leads
As a remote sales manager, one of your main jobs is to make sure your team is selling to the right people. To help with this, you can set up a system that scores leads.
This means giving points to leads based on certain things, like how interested they are and what actions they've taken (like visiting your website).
Another smart move is to keep your sales data organized. You can create a separate list for old leads that need to be followed up with. This way, your main lead list stays fresh for new opportunities and you have a plan to try and win back those older leads.
8. Hire the Right People
When you're putting together your remote sales team, you've got a real advantage here – you can hire people from anywhere in the world.
But here's the catch: not everyone is cut out for remote work.
As Josh Hirsch of MetaGrowth Ventures recommends:
“Some employees become so used to the 9-to-5 routine that it becomes difficult to work outside the office[, so] include questions about remote work during the hiring process:
- Do you have any experience with virtual selling?
- How well do you work with little or no supervision?
- Are you comfortable working remotely?
- How do you deal with stress?”
Look for people who not only have great sales skills but also can handle working remotely. They should be good at staying motivated and making decisions on their own. It can take time to find the right candidates, so make sure you’re providing competitive pay and benefits to bring in the best talent.
9. Hold Regular One-on-One Meetings
Having regular one-on-one meetings with your team members is a must. It's not just about fixing problems – it's about being there for your team and showing it.
Find a time that works for each person and make it a regular thing on your calendar. Tools like Google Calendar, Calendly or solutions offered by your CRM tool allow invitees to adjust the event, offering flexibility.
During these chats, you can talk about work stuff, of course, but also how they're feeling. It's a chance to build trust, check in on their well-being and figure out when you might need to step in and give them a hand.
10. Recognize Wins and Celebrate Milestones
Remember those fun office celebrations when a big deal closed or someone hit their sales goal? Well, you can still have those, even when you're working remotely.
For example, you can share fun GIFs in your team's chat when something awesome happens. Or, you can send cool gifts to team members who reach their goals, like subscription boxes or tasty treats.
Celebrating these wins keeps everyone motivated and feeling like they're part of a close-knit team, no matter where they are.
Pro-Tip: Encouraging Team Accountability
To avoid the hassle of constantly overseeing your remote sales team, try to create an atmosphere where everyone feels responsible for their work:
- Champion New Ideas: Encourage your reps to come up with fresh ideas and ways of doing things. Let them take the lead in testing these ideas.
- Ownership of Goals: When you set performance goals, make sure each rep takes charge of tracking their progress and planning how to achieve those goals.
- A Safe Space for Questions: Let your team know it's okay to ask for help. Create a space where they can comfortably seek advice from you or other team members. (This could be a special group chat where they can ask questions and get feedback.)
- Flexible Work Styles: Understand that each rep's work-from-home situation is different. Allow them to figure out the best schedule for themselves while juggling their personal lives. This way, they take responsibility for managing their workload effectively alongside their family commitments.
Mastering Managing a Sales Team Remotely
Managing a remote sales team isn't quite the same as having everyone in the office. You’ll need to be (and have people who are) excellent at online communication, using digital tools and motivating themselves.
But as more businesses embrace remote work, these skills are gold. By mastering the art of remote sales management, you can make your sales team thrive, no matter where they're working from.
Keep those virtual connections strong and foster a team spirit that transcends physical distance!