It might not be a bad idea to start thinking about building a remote sales team.
As part of its 2014 Key Global Trends research, Dell uncovered more than half of people believe employees who get to work from home are just as productive, if not more so, than those confined to an office every day.
It’s not hard to see the benefits of employing remote sales reps — the majority of their time is spent communicating with clients out of the office, via phone, or online anyway. But, in managing a distributed sales team, other challenges arise, like keeping everyone on the same page, engaged and productive.
Here are some tips to help you build a successful remote sales team:
1. Hire ‘Type A’ People
Working remotely isn’t for everyone. Some personality types will fare better than others working as a remote salesperson.
For example, ‘Type A’ people typically operate with a constant sense of urgency at work. They become impatient when they feel unproductive and enjoy juggling multiple projects at once. These traits make them great candidates for getting things done under minimum supervision.
Here are some other traits to look for in great remote salespeople:
- Quick, effective decision-making
Assess these traits and project performance by assigning a small project for candidates to complete as part of the interview process. For example, ask sales candidates to give you a cold call later in the day to talk to you about a specific product.
2. Make Onboarding Quick, Easy and Scalable
Sixty-seven percent of organization leaders believe a smooth onboarding program leads to better employee engagement, according to a 2013 Aberdeen study. When building a team of employees who are distributed all over the map, engaging them through efficient exchange of documents and onboarding information is a must.
Completing new hire paperwork long-distance can be cumbersome, especially if it involves signing and scanning hard paper copies. Instead, make your onboarding process completely digital — allow new hires to sign and fill in agreements electronically.
Helping new hires get up-to-speed quickly on a distributed team can present many challenges. Create training content like videos and written guides with images using channels like YouTube or Vimeo, and online document builder apps like Google Docs, for instance.
Store them on a cloud platform, like DropBox or PandaDoc, which is specifically built for sales teams, where all team members can easily access them regardless of the time of day. This will help new team members find what they need on their own, and other team members won’t have to constantly stop what they’re doing to train.
As demand for your product increases, you’ll need a way to add more members to your sales team and make them experts on the products they’re selling quickly. That’s why making your onboarding process scalable through prepared training materials, easy access to files, and a training plan will help you avoid unnecessary growing pains.
3. Provide A Mobile Workspace
Just because your sales team doesn’t have a physical office doesn’t mean they can’t have a shared space to collaborate on-the-go. You could use word processing programs to write contracts and email to send them back and forth, but in that method, you risk losing documents and keeping track of workflow.
Instead, provide a workspace that connects all aspects of document management in one place. Use a content management platform that integrates with your team’s CRM so you have less scanning, uploading, and data entry to worry about. Being able to upload information right from your CRM into sales documents creates a paperless, lightweight process — easy for sales reps on the go.
Additionally, use messaging tools to help the team stay in touch easily using a mobile device — like Slack or HipChat, for example. Regularly bring the team together virtually in the same room using video conferencing and screen sharing tools like Appear.in or Join.me.
4. Enable Instant Communication and Feedback
On a remote team, employees don’t have the luxury of wandering to the office across the hall to ask a question. They’ll be working primarily on their own to troubleshoot problems and develop ideas.
Use a platform that helps your sales team collaborate better — one on which members can instantly send documents to one another with questions or seeking approval. You’ll notice workflow improve as employees can see document statuses, make changes, and send documents back and forth more quickly.
Yet, keep in mind not everyone might be working in the same time zone, so set communication expectations accordingly. Determine times for deadlines and meetings based on when everyone is most available. Decide during which times the team should use instant message chat, email, and video calls to communicate.
5. Hone Your Culture
Because your sales team doesn’t work together directly, creating and managing a company culture will be harder. That’s why it’s important to have a solid idea of who you are as an organization, what you stand for, and the related cultural characteristics (social norms, values, and beliefs).
Define tangible characteristics of your culture like how you speak to customers, how and when your sales team speaks to one another, and how you approach work. Communicate them clearly and regularly to the entire team. Develop a “company code” or “company values” sheet employees can reference to clarify any questions and ensure their decisions are in alignment.
Regularly survey remote team members, asking about their level of satisfaction and their thoughts about the company’s values. Ask for suggestions for improvement. This will facilitate big-picture feedback and reduce unexpected turnover due to employee dissatisfaction.
A successful remote sales team needs the right talent, effective onboarding practices, and a strong culture to help keep everyone on the same page. Your team of remote workers could be the most productive team you’ve ever managed, as long as you provide them with the right resources and support.
What are some other methods for managing a remote sales team? Share in the comments below!
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