How to Manage Remote Sales Work

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.



Sales Managers Onboarding New Sales Hires

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, I regularly help my clients’ sales managers with the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding plan for their next great salespeople. When I ask about their onboarding process, some business owners chuckle and admit they don’t really have one. “We just kind of throw them in there!” is not an unusual response. 

Interestingly, it’s these same business owners who bring me in because they have an issue with staff turnover in their sales team. There are a few that have a structured employee onboarding process. Not surprisingly, these business owners typically don’t have issues with the turnover of sales talent. Which camp do you fall in? 

Why Have an Employee Onboarding Process for New Sales Hires?

During the first two weeks on the job, your new hire is assessing you and your company just as much as you are assessing the new hire. You are in a probationary period just as they are. Putting your best foot forward as a company helps them confirm that they have made a great choice by choosing to work with you. Consider their first two weeks as the ‘welcome to the family!’ phase. Set them up for a shorter and steeper learning curve so they get on track to job satisfaction and the desired levels of productivity faster.

How to Structure an Employee Onboarding Process for New Sales Hires

Plot out the first two weeks of onboarding for your new sales hires. Every working hour should be accounted for, including a clear goal for what they need to learn, what they are to be doing, and who they will be doing it with or learning from.

Setting the Stage for the Onboarding Process

Let each new hire know who they will be learning from and sitting with. Likewise, let the team member responsible for orienting the new hire know:

  • How much time the new hire will spend with them
  • What the new hire needs to learn
  • What things they need to teach the new hire

Let the new hire know how their learning will be assessed and what things, in particular, they should focus on while working with and learning from others.

Teaching During the Onboarding Process

Every adult has a default learning style. Some people learn best by observing, others by reading, and still others by doing. All people typically learn through a combination of all three. Structure the teaching so that all three of these learning modalities are included. Include video training, working with others, and hands-on application to increase the effectiveness of your teaching. Vary the daily schedule so that your new hire gets a bit of each type of learning opportunity every day. This will reduce the chances of boredom by engaging your new hire in varied and interesting ways.

Interacting With Experienced Team Members

Each week, arrange one or two lunches with experienced team members who will play a key role in the new hire’s life at your company. Chats during mealtimes tend to cover more non-work ground than conversations throughout the business day. Purposefully setting up these interactions will ensure your new hire gets to know their teammates both as coworkers and people.

Preparing Content for Your Onboarding Process

Simply having your new hire sit in a chair beside a co-worker and observe them for half a day can be helpful but not sufficiently illustrative to prepare them to do the job themselves. If job manuals don’t exit at your company, then you will need to break their job role down into its primary components and then provide “how to” instructions so they can successfully navigate their new role. Work from macro to micro when structuring learning content. Provide screen capture videos to show how tasks are completed and how to navigate your company’s systems and tech stack.

Tracking the Effectiveness of the Employee Onboarding Process

Close the loop on your new hire’s learning by checking back to ensure that teachers taught, and the learner learned on a daily basis. Learning assessments can be in the form of written quizzes or person-to-person debriefs. These are vital for helping all parties understand if the training is effective so you can be confident that the person is in a position for success once they are to fly on their own. Ask the employee to provide feedback on how you are doing at teaching them. Getting this feedback will help you meet the needs of the new hire and improve your onboarding process for future hires.

Making the first two weeks at your company amazing for your new hires is a step in the right direction toward improving your staff retention and employee satisfaction. As with all things, there is some nuance involved with developing your onboarding plan. If you would like to discuss this further, please reach out and let me know.


How to Know When You Need a Sales Manager

In my role as a fractional VP of sales, I often see business owners wait too long to bring on a sales manager. As things get busy they find it tough to stay dialled into the sales function. How do you know when it’s time to bring on a sales manager?

How to Know When to Hire a Sales Manager?

Let’s take a look at the different scenarios your business may be facing in relation to hiring a sales manager.

When Sales are Up

Although it may seem counterintuitive, a good time to consider whether or not you need a sales manager is when your sales are up. There are many reasons for your sales to be up. Perhaps the market is buoyant because of the geopolitical, global landscape shifting in your favour. Or maybe your products and services have improved, leading to a boost in sales.

Whatever the reason, the question you should consider is whether you are positioned to maximize on this up market from the perspective of your sales capacity. Capitalizing on an up market can put your company in an advantageous position for future growth and longevity.

Having a sales manager on board to lead your salespeople and manage the numbers can help you build out your sales process infrastructure to capitalize on the immediate-term up market and build a foundation that will weather down market storms.

When Sales are Down

When your sales are taking a nosedive it is an obvious time to consider hiring a sales manager. If your sales are down but you’re confident that it’s not a direct result of market or product issues, it may be that your sales process is weak or underdeveloped and needs some attention. 

A sales manager can help by distilling what to do and in what order to establish a robust, repeatable sales process that will allow you to reach your sales goals reliably and predictably. Plus, having an expert on the team to worry about the sales process will free you to work on the other strategic aspects of your business that you are best positioned to handle.

When You Don’t Know Where Your Sales are Trending

Not knowing which direction your sales are trending in is a sign that you have been pulled in other directions within the business and have been unable to devote the focus you need to the sales function. 

A sales function can drift for several months with inbound revenue requirements being satisfied by existing customers. If you’re not paying attention, several quarters can drift by before you realize that you’re not bringing on enough of the new customers you need to expand your reach and revenue.

In this case, bringing on a sales manager who can watch the dials, read the reports, and work with your salespeople to course correct as necessary will allow you to focus on the other needs of the business with the peace of mind that the sales function is in capable hands.

No matter what stage your business is in, be sure to assess your sales to determine whether it might be time to bring on a sales manager before it’s too late. If you’re not ready to bring on a full-time sales manager, there are several benefits of an outsourced sales manager as well.

If you need assistance thinking through whether a fractional sales manager could help you grow your business and achieve predictable, steady revenue growth, please contact me and I’d be happy to discuss this further.

How a Process Driven Sales Process Makes Your Business a More Attractive Asset

If you’re planning to sell your business, you need to consider what the buyer wants. They want a profitable revenue-generation machine. If you’ve struggled to hit your revenue goals reliably and productively, what can you do to make your business more attractive and achieve the purchase multiples you desire? 

In my role as a Fractional Vice President of Sales, I work closely with clients to build a sales and revenue-generation process infrastructure that helps companies reach their sales and revenue-generation goals reliably and productively. Here’s what you should look at to accomplish this in your business too.

How to Build a Business Worth Selling 

1. Sales and Revenue Generation Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Do You Have Any?

Track sales activity and results key performance indicators to have a clear idea of how your business is performing and know when and how to course-correct your sales process. 

Sales revenue for the overall company is, of course, required. But going more granular and tracking sales revenue per rep demonstrates that you have cracked the code on how to make salespeople in your business and your industry successful.

Classic sales and revenue generation KPIs are things like sales quota per territory, which rolls up to a regional and then a national goal.  Next to that would be the actual revenue generated per month, per quarter, and per year per rep. 

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: Do You Have One?

If you’re currently using spreadsheets to track sales activity and performance, chances are that you could benefit from streamlining your process by adopting a CRM. Invest in a CRM and use it religiously, 100% of the time, for all of your sales opportunities and salespeople. A good CRM is like a mirror that reflects the diligence with which your sales team follows your sales process. 

A CRM not only gives you a centralized repository of all your sales information and lets you present it in an easy-to-understand format but also allows you to increase productivity and optimize your selling.

3. Build a Documented Sales Process

This crucial aspect of your business is the recipe for your sales team’s success. It is essentially an instruction manual to follow to generate sales in your industry. When you have a detailed sales process nailed down, this is a clear indication that you can scale up and have any new salespeople you onboard become active and productive very quickly.

4. Refine Your Hiring Process

Create a defined and refined hiring process that ensures you can consistently hire candidates with the highest probability of sales success. This will position your company to scale up at any time. 

Without a clear hiring process, the purchaser of your company will be left to try to unravel the mystery of hiring sales winners on their own. By giving them a tried and tested formula for hiring excellent salespeople, you make your business more attractive.

5. Have a Sales Coaching Protocol

Sales coaching is an integral component of empowering sales reps to reach and exceed their sales quotas, share best practices, and improve retention rates. Creating a process description that outlines the content of sales coaching sessions shows that you understand how to take great sales hires and long-term performers and continually increase their knowledge base, sharpen their skills, and improve their performance levels year over year. 

When you have all of the above components, it demonstrates to potential buyers that your company is not reliant on a single individual for revenue generation success. Rather, you can demonstrate that you have a well-oiled revenue-generation machine that can continue to function even when the players change.

A buyer wants to see that you have set up a systems and process infrastructure so that the company is in a position to generate revenue in up markets or down markets, good times or bad. This is the type of guarantee that a potential purchaser of your business is looking for.

If you’re thinking of selling your business or if you are currently building one with the long-term goal of selling it, get in touch to discuss how to structure your sales function to make your asset as attractive to your buyers as possible.