It would be an understatement to say that the pandemic changed our outlook on remote work. Organizations, managers, and employees have had to adapt to the changes that working remotely has on a team’s dynamic, responsibilities, and overall performance.
Sales teams are no exception. According to recent Salesforce research, more than half of sales professionals expect to continue to sell virtually primarily. However, 58% find virtual selling more challenging than selling from an office.
So what’s a sales manager to do? To win this “new norm,” sales leaders will use the best sales management software and strategies to keep teams connected, motivated, and performing. We explain how to lead a sales team when everyone is remote.
What is a remote sales team?
A remote sales team is a team of reps and leaders who work virtually from their desired locations. Remote sales teams are often dispersed geographically and perform their responsibilities virtually via digital communication and collaboration tools. While there may be a company headquarters, there is no common office space that employees need to report to each day.
Many sales reps enjoy the flexibility and convenience of remote work, and employers appreciate eliminating the cost of physical office space and the ability to hire from a broader pool of candidates. However, some challenges can arise without an in-person sales office's energy, awareness, and connectedness.
Remote sales team challenges
It can be difficult (but not impossible) to recreate the dynamics of the “sales floor” virtually: the ability for reps to learn by watching/hearing one another, the competitive atmosphere, the down-to-the-wire collaboration, and the opportunity for a manager to immediately course correct rep missteps with coaching.
Sales managers often find it challenging to keep virtual reps engaged, supported, and productive. At the same time, some sales managers feel pressured to be constantly online or available to alleviate those challenges.
Sales managers often lack visibility into what their reps are doing and rely on anecdotal reporting directly from the rep.
6 Best Practices for Managing a Remote Sales Team
1. Set clear expectations
When your team knows exactly what you (and the company) expect from them, they are more likely to deliver. From quotas and sales goals to processes and data logging, it’s best to define, discuss and reinforce expectations early and often.
Once you’ve agreed upon goals and Service Level Agreements (SLAs), you have the framework for performance measurements. There are a plethora of metrics you can track; the ones you ultimately choose should fit the goals and culture of your business and sales team. Document and share with the reps the exact metrics you will use to assess their performance during a remote sales training session.
2. Use sales tracking software to intervene early
Regarding seller performance, it’s easy to measure and track the basics – leads qualified, quotas achieved, opportunities lost, etc. The quality of activity and tasks leads to higher win rates that can be difficult to track when your team is remote.
With signal-based sales tracking, you can take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Define custom KPIs, select essential signals to your business objectives, and use your dashboard and alerts to track progress. Let's say your goal is to ramp up new enterprise reps selling a complex product to a new market – you’ll want to follow the signals around early pipeline activity that leads to growth, like “meetings completed with the right buyer” or “same-day follow-up email.”
This level of detailed visibility allows sales managers to see rep activity deeper. If a rep isn’t getting responses to emails, SetSail will identify and analyze the differences between their email activity and that of top performers. Sales managers can step in to coach the rep on potential improvements before it puts a damper on their numbers.
3. Provide the right tools to support remote success
The shift to remote work has underscored the importance of using technology to drive collaboration and productivity. However, an overabundance of devices can be overwhelming and result in the opposite effect: too much time managing apps and too little time selling. Focus on solutions that offer intelligent insights and productivity bumps.
- CRM solutions: Reps will collect, track, and, most importantly, access the information they need to build trusted relationships. It’s a must-have for remote sales teams. It can sometimes feature additional sales engagement features, like email management or click-to-call functionality, eliminating the need for reps to juggle multiple tools.
- Automation: From outbound calling technology to sales email applications, automating mundane, time-consuming tasks can help personalize outreach, accelerate activity and make the remote work experience more enjoyable.
- Project management and collaboration apps: Use Zoom, Slack, and Asana to create a virtual workspace for sharing knowledge, connecting, and keeping everyone on the same page. We’ve included a list of some of the top tools at the end of this post.
- WFH perks: Happy employees are more productive, and offering remote reps unique perks, like wellness programs, snacks, treats, or company swag, can make their days more fulfilling and boost retention rates.
4. Cultivate relationships within the team
Sales leaders can help nurture their relationships with their remote teams. Create a Slack channel to celebrate wins, welcome new hires, and share personal milestones. Slack is also a great platform to support peer-to-peer recognition. Virtual happy hours, trivia games, or scavenger hunts are other ways to build relationships.
5. Focus on optimizing performance with remote sales coaching.
An estimated 45% of reps got less or no coaching since going remote. To keep remote sales reps engaged and successful, leaders need to foster an environment of continuous remote coaching. With a team built on virtual interactions, successful sales coaching requires the correct programmatic elements: listening, self-discovery, a presence at every stage of the sales cycle, and a direct correlation to career development.
Managers can leverage sales coaching software with dashboards to deliver just-in-time coaching to remote reps. To begin, establish a regular cadence for 1:1 coaching conversations. And recording each session will allow reps to access the sales coaching tips they received and management to assess change over time.
6. Harness the power of motivation.
Coffee is for closers but should also be for the reps following your organization’s best practices. Sales professionals are competitive by nature, so leaderboards, sales activity trackers, contests, and incentives are go-to's for many managers.
SPIFFs have traditionally been based on activity volume, but it’s more effective for remote sales leaders to track signal-based incentives. Instead of rewarding the rep with the most dials at the end of the week, managers should run contests that automatically reward reps for achieving the signals they care about most (e.g., “Email received from VP+” or “Pricing discussed with a decision-maker”). This keeps contests focused on best practices and behaviors and improves motivation with monetary rewards and friendly competition.
Top Tools for Managing Remote Sales Teams
Team selling is not what it used to be. Before remote teams, sales professionals could walk over to another department. They need to do it virtually, behind busy calendars and calendar links.
However, it is still possible to create a strong team selling culture by leveraging without being in the office.
Here are a few top tools to consider when establishing your digital HQ.
- Slack is a messaging program with organized spaces called channels. With all the people, messages, and files related to a topic in one channel, you find what you are looking for and move faster.
- Notion is a shared space for teams, projects, and docs. It makes a perfect home for sales messaging and process guides.
- Asana is a project management tool with 200+ integrations that allows remote teams to plan projects, coordinate work remotely, and hit their goals.
- Monday.com is another project management tool with features to help remote teams manage projects, track tasks, and collaborate, as well as 24/7 support.
- Everhour helps remote teams keep track of time spent on each project, opportunity, or task.
- Figma provides sales teams a space where Design can share customizable sales decks and marketing collateral.
- SetSail is a sales data hub that provides complete, actionable sales data so remote sales teams have full visibility into their data. Through AI, SetSail detects buying signals, productivity patterns, and best practices from all sales cycle stages. Insights are available in your CRM, data lake, or SetSail's dashboards, so remote managers know precisely when and how to coach their teams successfully.