4 Keys to successfully manage remote sales teams
In a previous role, I inherited a team of Salespeople that were geographically dispersed on both coasts here in the US. At the time, leading remote teams was a foreign concept to me and required a skillset with which I was not equipped. I needed to adapt and do so quickly.
To give a bit of color to the situation and its challenges, some context is necessary. First, I believe one of the key responsibilities of a Sales Leader on a high performing team is to be a facilitator of positive, energetic engagement. In sales, positivity breeds resiliency and having a team culture centered around it ensures that your teams can take on the rigors of the job in stride. Done right, each team member can feel safe volunteering their best and holding each other accountable for their contribution to the mission. Knowing my teammates and colleagues feel this at all times is a priority. If you share a belief in this principle, you also understand how much of your daily activity and focus are required to maintain it. With that bit of context, you can imagine how doing so remotely where your methods of communication aren’t always supported by body language or facial expressions was quite a challenge for me initially. What I developed over time was a framework that allowed me to convey the right energy, track team productivity, promote accountability, and be a resource for my team.
Here are some key areas of focus that will help you lead remote Sales teams:
1. Check On Your Flock
At the start of each day, make it a practice to check in with each team member individually.
Greet them with enthusiasm in the ways you know will resonate individually and take the time to understand how life is outside of work before diving into anything work-related. This is key to not only showcase your sincerity as a leader but also to get a feel for how they are doing each day. It’s easy to become too far removed when you don’t get to see them enough throughout the day to notice if there may be any non-verbal cues that would indicate something is weighing heavily on them that may be affecting their performance.
Over time, you’ll notice that these conversations will buy you more goodwill with the team, make you more of an approachable resource, and keep you in tune with your remote workers’ engagement.
2. Build Processes
This focus area will absolutely make yours and the lives of your employees easier. Clearly defining how you expect your employees to get their work done is important but simply defining them is not enough when managing remotely. If you want to have your team to feel great about the work they’re doing and know that it is up to the level of standards required for success, you must systematize. Let me illustrate how this plays out without processes.
Sales Manager in the Team Chat: If it’s not Salesforce it doesn’t exist. Please make sure you’re documenting your work.
Team: Okay. 😇
Sales Manager in a Team Huddle: I thought we talked about this. I need all of your activity in the CRM. It’s not getting done.
Team: Okay. 😒
It spirals from there.
The easiest way to get what you expect is to build a process for it.
An example may be as simple as having your CRM mandate specific fields be completed before moving from one stage to another. Or, even better, leveraging a System of Engagement that tracks the activity and their outcomes automatically. Building processes can eliminate a lot of unnecessary management that we’ve written off as “part of the job” to maintain your level of expectations.
3. KPI’s: Get Buy-in, Communicate Constantly, Creatively Drive Accountability
An experienced Sales Leader understands the importance of striking a balance between holding their teams accountable and disrupting them from their work. It can be tough to strike that balance when your teams are remote. I find that communicating the KPI’s that are important and their impact on the business is helpful in getting team buy-in.
If Forecast Accuracy is going to help the business make better financial projections and business decisions, then your team should know that. If doubling your deal size is going to help the business secure a better valuation in its next round of funding, then your team should know that.
An engaged team will take pride in where they chose to work and want it to be successful. Help them understand their part in its success. Once your teams are bought in, a great tool to help you strike an accountability balance is through the use of leaderboards.
I’ve used tools like InsightSquared and Domo to automatically track the KPI’s that are key to our mission and display them on individual leaderboards so the team can track their progress against their peers in real time. The competition and self-accountability alone will drive results; however, creating fun contests and incentives around the KPI’s your currently solving for never disappoints. Try this with your remote Sales Team if you’re in need of mixing in an alternate mechanism of accountability.
4. Have your Tech Stack Finely Tuned
Communication and collaboration are essential to every successful team but because you cannot simply pop your head up and ask for help, these two components can be quite difficult when working remotely. This is where your choice of tools to help your team is critical.
As much as possible, try and find tools that are not only a delight for your remote workers to use but also give you the insights you need to make an informed decision. The needs your tech stack should solve for at a minimum are Team Chat, Meetings/Video Chat, Project Management, Customer Relationship Management, and Customer Engagement.
I recently recommended a list of tools I like here if interested.