In sales, working remotely is nothing new. Dispersed geographic territories and the need for salespeople to meet with buyers regularly necessitate sellers out of the office, so the debate around remote work is moot.
What is new, however, is having sellers who manage local territories working fully remotely. People you used to see in the office are no longer present. As a business owner, it’s reasonable to ask yourself, ‘are my salespeople actually working during the workday?’.
What Does Remote Flex Time Work Mean for Your Business?
It’s natural that if you’re working from home, picking your kids up from school at 3 pm makes sense [and feels great to do as a working parent]. If you’re wondering whether this is happening with your remote sales team, let me put your mind to rest. Things like this are definitely happening…but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your business.
What has changed about sales work is when the work is done. Remote working has led to flexible working times. This means your sales team can work non-traditional office hours to complete their daily duties. What has not changed is the requirement for productivity and the reciprocal arrangement between employer and employee that salary and commissions are paid in exchange for that productivity.
A unique aspect of the sales role is its scoreboard nature. A salesperson’s productivity is not something only the salesperson and their manager know about. Typically, everyone knows which salespeople are productive, which aren’t, and who is the top tier of sales performers. This information is basically in the company’s internal public domain.
Remote flex time working is, naturally, something that many employees love. It is not, however, a given right. If it is not structured in a way that the needs of your business and paying customers are being met, it simply won’t work.
How to Make Remote Sales Work on Flex Time Successful
If you’re thinking about allowing your sales department to work remotely during non-traditional work hours, here are a few things you should consider to achieve a mutually successful arrangement.
Make CRM Use Mandatory
If CRM use by your sales team is still optional, you should make it mandatory to facilitate a successful remote and flexible working time arrangement. CRM needs to be your ultimate source of truth when it comes to sales activity productivity.
All salespeople and sales managers need immediate access to sales activity KPIs in order to accurately project sales results for the next 30, 60, and 90 days. There is an obvious duality here. Being able to look at CRM sales activity levels certainly provides a daily window into what your sales team has been doing to generate sales. Equally, if not more important, is the fact that these activities can help predict sales results. Monitoring day-to-day sales activities helps ensure that short- and medium-term sales goals will be met.
Hold Daily Virtual Stand-Up Meetings
Before fully remote sales work was a thing, local sales teams had to show up at the office first thing in the morning for a face-to-face stand-up meeting before heading out on the road to make sales calls. The purpose of this meeting was to establish goals for the day and set the tone for a productive day of sales meetings.
You should maintain this practice even with a remote team. A feeling of disconnectedness is an immediate by-product of working remotely. You can avoid this by having a virtual 15-minute stand-up meeting with your sales team (preferably with cameras on!) each morning to create the connectedness and team vibe your salespeople need to stay motivated and grounded.
Have Weekly Meetings With Your Remote Sales Team
Establish a tempo of a weekly one-hour meeting with the sales team. Alternate weekly between the topics of moving sales deals forward and territory management and development. Having these meetings first thing Monday morning starts the week off on the right foot. Make it clear to your team that this time is to be considered sacrosanct and no other meetings should be booked in that timeslot. Of course, customer and buyer emergencies will come up, but if the default is that the meeting is always to happen, 98% of the time it will.
Provide Your Team With One-on-One Salesperson Coaching
Individual coaching is the best way to stay in touch with your salespeople. There is no substitute for dedicated one-on-one time to get dialled into not only sales productivity and results, but also into how your salespeople are doing on a personal level.
A major disadvantage of remote sales work is the lack of camaraderie. Purposeful one-on-one sessions (not just the ad hoc telephone conversations that tend to arise) promote the type of bonding that used to take place in the office. Ensure that at least a quarter of your time together is spent talking about non-work issues. The quality of a person’s relationship with their direct manager is a primary source of job satisfaction. Do your best to keep these home fires burning.
Encourage a Buddy System
Group two or three salespeople together into a work unit to encourage a team environment even when your team cannot be physically present with one another. Provide them with relevant sales-related tasks to work on, such as gathering intel on competitors, creating a slide deck for use by the sales team, and other collaborative tasks. Orchestrating team interaction is a great way to maintain a team vibe so that your people feel supported.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Remote Sales Work Successful
Fully remote sales work is a reality today in a way that it wasn’t even five years ago. The trend of companies forcing their people back into the office after the pandemic is not only starting to abate but is reversing altogether.
New recruits are increasingly demanding the ability to work remotely, at least partially, and if they don’t get it, they will find a job elsewhere. In my role as a Fractional Vice President of Sales, I’ve helped many clients set up their remote salesforce for success. If you’d like to discuss how, please reach out.