5 Powerful Strategies for Managing a Remote Sales Team

You want your sales team to crush their quotas.

The problem is, you have a remote sales team scattered around the country or even the globe.

And let’s face it. Managing a remote team isn’t a piece of cake.

Communication isn’t that simple, and misunderstandings are common. When problems arise, you can’t just walk across the hall to resolve it face-to-face.

And how will your sales team close enough deals if they don’t trust each other enough to collaborate seamlessly?

What’s more? Working from home can lead to a feeling of being isolated and disengagement from the team. That’s really bad for motivation - an essential ingredient in sales success.

And yet, there are companies which are delivering stellar results with remote sales teams. What are they doing right?

1. Implement Processes

“Processes are by far the most important thing you can possibly implement when managing a remote sales team,” says Liam Martin, founder & CEO, Time Doctor – a company with a 100% remote team of 80+ people distributed across 4 continents.

Good processes provide the structure and direction for getting work done, especially when remote sales teams are spread across time zones.

“Procedures on lead generation, how to do a demo, negotiate, and close a deal and customer success are all critical to systematize and digitize to make a remote sales team successful,” adds Martin.

But how do you get your salespeople to actually follow those processes?

Don’t just keep your process docs in a shared folder and expect people to read and implement them. Instead, define them in terms of tasks.

Processes as Task Templates

Use a powerful project management tool such as ClickUp, that has features enabling you easily to map your processes as project templates and recurring tasks. You can have templates for processes such as sending a cold email, creating a proposal, presenting a demo and so on.

When all these recurring activities are visible in your project management tool, it saves you the pain of micromanaging your team to check if they are following processes!

Fostering Accountability

One process that many successful remote teams follow is to set up an accountability routine. Once a week, all team members post an update on what leads they would be following up next week and what targets they have already met.

This helps team members be on the same page on project targets as well as keep everyone accountable to everyone else. And accountability ensures teams reach their targets on time.

2. Manage Sales Activities

You could just give your salespeople a target and ask them to deliver.

But is that really enough?

No, smart sales managers know that they have to keep track of their salespeople’s activities. This is especially important in a remote sales team where you can’t see what your salespeople are working on. You will not have the opportunity to coach your people as regularly or effectively as in a physical office. So it’s vital to use the right technology that makes it easier for you to manage your team.

Managing Outside Sales

If you have an outside sales team, you can use Badger Maps to keep track of your sales reps visits. Badger Maps integrates with a large number of CRMs and this data will automatically get added to your CRM.

“Badger is a great managerial tool, because you can track field activity and results from anywhere in the world. Your reps in the east coast are connected to the home office in the west through Badger,” says Steve Benson, CEO of Badger Maps.

Combine these great sales tips with the best field sales app:

Managing Time Usage

It’s also vital that your salespeople judiciously allocate and spend their time on the right opportunities. There’s no point in getting distracted and spending excessive time on leads that are too small or have a low probability of conversion.

Use a time-tracking tool like Time Doctor to keep track of which projects and opportunities your salespeople are working on. As management Guru Peter Drucker said: “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Moreover, a time tracker helps teams maintain “consistent” work hours. After all, distractions at home are one of the biggest challenges for remote employees.

Simplifying CRM Adoption

Getting your salespeople to keep recording their sales activities in a CRM is really important in a remote team, but it’s also way more difficult! Therefore, use a CRM like Nimble that makes manual data entry nearly unnecessary. It integrates with G Suite, Office 365, Twitter, etc. and gives you a complete record of your email and social conversations.

No more having to follow up with people to get their CRMs updated!

Pro Resource: Listen to Tom Pisello's Outside Sales Talk podcast episode to discover how to lead a successful remote sales team.

3. Build Trust

Trust is built up in a team over time. When you are not spending eight hours a day in the same physical office, it naturally takes longer.

In nearly every sales team, individual accomplishments on specific deals might be given more recognition, than the teamwork that went into it. This can lead to internal conflicts, unhealthy competition and mistrust.

This is a bad state to be in for any team, but in a remote setting, this can cause serious setbacks.

Promote Teamwork

A team that does not trust each other is unlikely to collaborate or help each other. Therefore, you should take active steps to promote effective teamwork among your remote employees such as give the right mix of individual vs. team recognition, take regular feedback, clarify roles in the sales process, and so on.

One of the primary barriers to trust in a distributed team is lack of non-verbal communication.

The way around this?

Over-communicate - send updates on a regular basis, respond to messages promptly, and be available at important times. Encourage your team members to not only “talk” with you frequently but also amongst themselves. Hop on a video call through Skype or Slack rather than have a back and forth conversation over email or chat.

This simple habit goes a long way towards building trust and reducing communication roadblocks.

Deploy Internal Communication Tools

And if you want to take your remote sales team’s camaraderie to the next level, use an internal communication tool like Haiilo. The tool promotes transparency, by facilitating conversations across levels and teams, knowledge sharing and more.

Additional Tip: Haiilo is especially helpful for sales teams because it has employee advocacy features. It allows salespeople to establish themselves as thought leaders on social media, while promoting their companies at the same time.

4. Promote Employee Engagement

Low levels of employee engagement is bad for your bottom line. Engaged employees are sometimes 10x more productive than disengaged ones.

And in remote teams, where human contact is minimal, it’s easy for engagement to slip. That’s why it’s vital for you to take proactive steps to motivate people and mitigate factors that frustrate your employees.

Here’s how...

Reduce Frustrations

When you‘re trying to improve employee engagement, start by making it easier for people to do their jobs.

For instance, one of the activities that salespeople hate the most is prospecting. Besides, a good salesperson is not necessarily a good prospector, which is why SaaS sales expert Aaron Ross recommends that you build a separate prospecting team.

But what if you don’t have the budget or bandwidth to build a prospecting team?

Use a tool like Interseller - a prospecting, email finding and email outreach tool, all rolled into one. It will save your team at least 20% of their time. But more importantly, it will eliminate the pain of prospecting for leads and finding accurate emails. Both of these are routine tasks which frustrates most talented salespeople. So why not leave it to software, which will do a far better job anyway?

Sometimes, you don’t need an HR intervention to boost employee morale. Just the right software!

Share Accomplishments and Provide Support

Hold a weekly video call to share accomplishments - how someone closed four high-ticket deals in one week or what tactic was used to convert a reluctant buyer.

We draw our motivation from others. The more accomplishments you share, the more enthused each salesperson will feel to deliver big wins.

Regular meetings not only stimulate people, they are also great for brainstorming about strategies or complex sales challenges. Don’t let people face those challenges on their own. Create an atmosphere where people can find help and support whenever they need.

The Water-Cooler

Since remote workers lack the usual watercooler moments, encourage discussions on Slack around everyday topics, like the latest baseball match or a rock show in your city.

Hold Meetups

And just because you are remote doesn’t mean that you should never meet up!

Quarterly meet-ups or annual get-togethers are also great for building cohesion and relationships among remote workers. These social connections will not only promote positive vibes among team members but also combat workplace loneliness. Chargify, another company with a 100% remote team, has been organizing remote team retreats for years.

5. Set Clear Expectations

In a remote team, where communication is a challenge, it’s easy to misunderstand who’s supposed to do what.

And you know what happens then, right?

Tasks slip through the cracks.

So don’t just communicate your expectations to a group. Set clear expectations with each remote sales employee in your team too.

Follow it up by making sure those expectations are defined as tasks in a project management app. If your sales team’s predominant mode of communication is email, you can use Dragapp, to convert emails to tasks and view them as a Kanban Board directly inside Gmail.

But why are expectations so important?

A Gallup poll of German workers found that when managers set clear expectations, held employees accountable for meeting them and responded quickly when employees needed support, the workers took extra initiative and performed better.

Expectations should be about sales targets as well as sales processes. You should get on a video call with your remote team members at least once to talk about basic ground rules on how to find leads, what to do when cold calling prospects, how to follow-up, and so on.

This ensures that every team member is clear about the overall goals, priorities and targets of the group.

And don’t forget...

Let your team know that you are willing to get on a Skype call to clarify any doubts. Your team members should not hesitate to reach out to you.

Not that Hard!

A remote sales team gives you the advantage of building a sales presence in different cities. And if you do a few things right, it’s not too hard to manage it.

Encourage smooth communication and collaboration between team members, create efficient processes, set accurate goals, build trust and be available.

That’s all you need to see your teams’ performance skyrocket.

Which of these techniques will you start on today? 

About the Author:

Peter Banerjea is Co-Founder of SuccessIsWhat, a leadership blog and SuccessIsWhat Marketing, a content marketing agency for startups and small businesses. He was previously the founder of a leadership and sales training firm. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc, Lifehacker, Sumo, Problogger and several other top blogs.

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