The pandemic situation is raging across the world. It doesn’t seem to slow down any time soon. Businesses that want to sustain their performance must take the remote route with their sales teams in tow. Until now, remote work was shunned, citing a lack of productivity and mistrust in employees. But, now it has become a survival means for businesses that cannot assemble their employees in an office. Despite its past, remote sales are bound to give some benefits. Let’s check them!
Remote Sales Benefits
Although staying indoors is difficult and has its own challenges, remote selling has proven itself to be a viable option to carry on businesses. According to a study by McKinsey, more than 90% of B2B have transitioned to a virtual sales model during COVID-19. Video conferencing and phone calls are extending the much-needed support to carry on business without skipping a beat.
Although the effectiveness of remote selling is up for debate, sales leaders have quickly realized that it offers a wide range of benefits that are simply irresistible to ignore.
- Virtual teams
- Quick scalability
- Global talent
These benefits are making even startups and small businesses take a keen interest in building remote sales teams.
For managers and business owners who are experiencing the remote working situation for the first time, the process of building, coaching, and managing a remote sales team is a Herculean task.
It is better to pick up one task at a time and do it the right way to reap all benefits of a remote sales team.
Remote sales team – Build, Coach, and Manage
The global pandemic situation forced every business to suddenly shift their operations to the remote mode. Sales, which requires a great deal of personal interaction, discussions, and negotiations cannot be uprooted and planted on the remote mode quickly. Especially when you are building a remote sales team from scratch.
To make the process easier, we can break it down into three stages:
Consider this as building blocks to having your entire remote sales team in place and work with effectiveness.
Let’s take a deeper look at how to put each of these building blocks in the right place.
Building a remote sales team
To build a remote sales team, you must find the right folks, have a good online interview process in place, and also ensure that the selected candidates are onboarded in the right fashion.
Here are some tactics to go about it.
1. Mapping the sales team structure
Every business will have over-arching sales targets. It s not possible for a single rep to achieve it. Nor can a sales manager pull all the weight. There is the need to distribute the goal across the board, between different sales folks. This enables each person to chase their own individual goals which when combined together makes up the overall revenue target.
That calls for the need for a well-defined sales team structure. A sales team structure shows where the recruiting process should begin to fill the gaps. A simple sales team structure to begin with looks like this:
There will be a sales manager under whom there will be separate territory managers. Each territory manager will have separate sales reps assigned to them. The sales target will be distributed between each territory and broken down into individual goals for each rep. This makes it easier to build a sales team with an adequate number of reps.
2. Interviewing remote sales folks
Adding a new team member even with the comfort of face-to-face discussions is nerve-racking. Remote recruiting is even difficult and has its own inherent challenges. The lack of physical presence itself is a notable challenge. Sales folks need to specific personality traits that make them suitable to win in a competitive market. Such traits cannot be
The interview process should be in-depth but that does not consume too much time or effort of the recruiter.
Here is a process you can deploy to build a remote sales team:
Ask for video introductions
Video introductions help bring out the true personality of the sales rep. You can see how confident they are while talking, whether they have any communication problems and whether they have the charisma that makes sales reps stand out from others.
Ask for home office setup
Remote selling means the sales rep must work from home, which makes it imperative for them to have:
- An Ergonomic workspace,
- Reliable internet connectivity, and
- A distraction-free work environment
Test them with a task
But, not with the cliched sell me this pen. It is old, everybody knows to work around it, and you want your sales rep to sell what your business is offering. Give them a practical task with real-world challenges.
For example: There is a prospect who was referred by an existing customer who is in the top-tier plan. The new prospect is asking for a steep 50% discount with 3 feature requests that are not planned for until the next two quarters. How will you gain middle ground?
The motive of the question or task that you give should not be to conclude a sale. Instead, it must evaluate their negotiation skills. Negotiation is a skill to a sales rep as a sword is to a Samurai.
Evaluate their sales strategy
Every sales rep has some tricks up their sleeve that enables them to turn leads into deals. Experienced sales reps have strategies of their own. This consists of how they research the prospect, how they deduce their pain areas even before having the discovery call with customers, and how they connect the business offering to solve their problem. A sound sales strategy means the sales rep can sell anywhere and thorough any medium, in-person, or remote.
3. Creating a virtual workspace
Remember the team huddles that used to happen on the office floor? Well, they are a passe. Virtual teams need a separate setup of their own to communicate and collaborate. More like a virtual platform where they can post questions, start threads, discuss and fetch information to close deals.
One of the prerequisites for building a virtual team is to have a solid virtual workplace. Communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, GSuite, Asana, Basecamp, etc. all help with this. It ensures that there is transparency in data availability and no lead is being lost because the sales rep did not have the right information to act upon.
4. Onboarding and training new sales reps
In a remote setting, most of the employee onboarding activity is done virtually. Right from background verification to dispatching the IT equipment like laptops and goodies, there is a process to be followed for proper onboarding.
For sales reps, there is a lot more stretch to be covered to complete the onboarding process. Here are some things you can do to make the onboarding of remote sales reps easier.
- Make them shadow senior sales reps for a month
- Acclimatize them to business goals and current performance
- Set monthly sales goals to be chased
- Grant them access to all marketing and sales collaterals required for prospecting
Coaching a remote sales team
Even the best sales who can sell ice cream to Eskimoes need some amount of training to fine-tune their craft. When the sales team is made up of freshly recruited folks, they need some acclimatization to get into the groove. They need some amount of coaching to understand the processes in place, how leads are procured, and the overall sales strategy.
That makes sales coaching essential. Here are some ways to go about it.
1. Implement a sales process
Your organizational sales process is the holy grail to your business growth.
To quote Tiffani Bova, the Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce:
That said, a typical sales process will go through the following stages:
- Handling objections/requests
It is worth noting that the process might seem linear as if every step is a precedent to the next one. However, there could be instances where the customer who is already with information will jump directly to the objection or feature request stage.
The sales rep must be trained to handle such instances. They must be coached to be flexible and agile so that they can take the prospect to a closure.
2. Set SMART goals
Be it in sport or sales, the efficacy of coaching can be measured with the results. In sales, it can be measured with the number of accounts closed, the revenue earned or even the number of demos presented.
To keep the sales teamwork in a focused manner, it is necessary to set SMART goals.
In the sales context, some plausible smart goals include:
- Specific – No: of accounts to be closed
- Measurable: Revenue in USD to achieve in a month
- Attainable: Revenue that can possibly be achieved within a month
- Realistic: Ambitious yet pragmatic
- Time-bound: Monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual goals
SMART goals ensure that the sales reps have a clear direction to take. They know how many leads they should connect with and how much revenue should be achieved from each lead in order to reach their targets.
For newly onboarded sales folks, the revenue goal can be lighter with smaller revenue targets. As time progresses and their skillsets improve, higher goals can be set up.
3. Schedule weekly/bi-weekly catch-ups
Weekly or periodical sync-ups with each sales rep is essential. Here is why: every sales rep who is assigned to a specific territory or a product will stumble across unique challenges. They might need the support of the sales manager to work around these challenges.
Quite often, the manager would have to enact the role of a senior who can remove roadblocks, give consent for higher discount rates, and so on. Periodical catch-ups help with that. They also serve in measuring the sales rep’s performance against planned targets. Any shortfall can be corrected through a collaborative effort or through a change in individual sales strategy.
Managing a remote sales team
If a business owner is asked to make a list of their top 5 challenges in order of severity, managing a remote sales team will easily come anywhere in the first 3 places. For that matter, managing any remote team is difficult.
However, for every tough business challenge, there is a process that can help make things easier. That said, here are some ways to manage a remote sales team the easier way.
1. Equip sales folks with the right tools
On an average day of selling, a sales rep will hop on multiple calls, access prospect details form the CRM, update customer call details in the CRM, showcase demos, and also do a little bit of reporting. Above all, they also send and manage multiple cold emails, respond to first replies, follow up with warm leads turning cold, and so on.
All these activities cannot be done with a simple word editor or a spreadsheet. They need the right tools that will help them stay organized and manage their workload.
The essential tools that a sales rep will need include:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Sales and market intelligence
- Lead handling and prospecting
- Analytics and reporting
- Integrations and automation
2. Promote team camaraderie
According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work, one of the biggest struggles with working from home is loneliness. This is on par with collaboration and communication.
This struggle remains constant for all functions, including sales folks. That is why it is necessary to promote team camaraderie.
Camaraderie means mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together. Remote sales teams do not get much time to spend together due to clashing time zones and calendar schedules.
Hence, the need to schedule informal team meetings where sales reps can come together and chit-chat random topics between themselves. This helps vent out the steam aroused due to work pressure and helps ease out any mutual trust issues that could have cropped up due to miscommunication.
3. Celebrate wins with leaderboards
Sales. Racing sports. They have two things in common. They are both driven by passion and an adrenaline rush to close first. Leaderboards give rankings of who finished first or the most. They create a healthy competitive environment within the same team. Especially when they are scattered across the globe and are working remotely.
Leaderboards also double up as a reason to celebrate wins. In the absence of water cooler talks and face-to-face interactions, leaderboards create an opportunity to celebrate those who are acing their targets. In a way, it also inspires the laggards to pull up their socks and climb up in leaderboard rankings.
Nobody expected 2020 to take an ugly turn. The pandemic has chased us all indoors, forced some business to shutter, and forcing what is remaining to go remote. Sales teams, which are used to working in person are now finding themselves taking the remote route.
Business owners must come to terms with this situation. They must arm themselves with the know-how to build a remote sales team from scratch, coach them for efficiency, and finally manage them to deliver results. That information is not easy to come by. Our blog is an attempt at that.
Are there any other strategies that you are deploying to manage your remote sales teams? Let us know.