How to Manage a Remote Sales Team

Sales leader working from home
Managing remote sales teams is now the new norm. As leaders across inside sales and field sales adapt, there are a few key differences to be aware of.

How can you manage a remote sales team and still maintain the same performance as pre-COVID-19? Rewind a few months and this was uncharted waters. But today, managing remote sales teams is the new norm. Although remote work was already steadily on the rise, following recent events, we essentially jumped into the future overnight.

Although this has forced companies to make swift changes and push sales managers to adapt, the benefits of encouraging remote teams are clear. As reported in a Stanford University study, it was found that employees are 13 percent more productive when working remotely.

“Overnight, businesses have completely transformed themselves to operate remotely, with technology being the single most significant factor in facilitating this change.” — Poppy Gustafsson, co-CEO of Darktrace.

At this time, communication technology will shape the future of remote work, in addition to the development of tools and resources that drive productivity, transparency, and growth.

Welcome to the NEXT Normal, It’s Time to Adapt Accordingly

According to a recent Gallup poll, “Now that some employees may be able to return to their workplace, it appears only a quarter are emotionally ready. Another quarter is reluctant to return specifically because of concerns about contracting COVID-19, while half have a personal preference for working remotely.”

“Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.” — Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics

Set Up Remote Working Capabilities

In light of current events, a lot of changes have been made across the nation and world — especially among businesses. Following the work-from-home revolution, managing remote teams is the new norm, at least for the foreseeable future. If you’re struggling to keep everyone engaged, connected, and productive, it’s time to consider the systems you have in place, focusing on digital transformation.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I predict that when we return to normalcy (or as close as we can get), the world will become far more tolerant of remote workers. We will keep what works — like collaborating on tools like Zoom, Slack, and Atlassian — and revert back to processes that we never could nail while working apart. Business travel will be looked at with a more critical eye and hygiene standards will certainly go up… From an industry perspective, we jumped forward five years. Every knowledge worker just got a crash course in collaboration tools. Digital transformation is being accelerated out of necessity and cloud adoption is moving faster than anyone could have predicted.” — Scott Farquhar, co-CEO of Atlassian.

As you adapt to manage your remote sales team, focusing on an inside sales approach,  it’s important to consider what your field agents can and can no longer do.

What Field Sales Associates Can’t Necessarily Do at the Moment:

  • Manage and negotiate with prospects, face-to-face, particularly in a trade show setting
  • Travel to different locations (non-essential travel is limited in some states, and the federal government has restricted international travel)
  • Attend meetings, seminars, and live events in-person

What Field Sales Associates MUST Do:

  • Manage and negotiate with prospects over the phone
  • Manage and negotiate with prospects via email
  • Attend meetings, seminars, and live events online 
  • Upsell and cross-sell products/services
  • Meet sales targets
  • Leverage CRM and maintain accurate customer interaction data
  • Use sales databases and lead lists
  • Communicate with managers and other agents
  • Increase company revenue

In reality, for the time being, all field agents have essentially transformed into inside sales reps. As a manager, it’s up to you to ensure that they’re set up for success. At this point, you should be focusing on one core goal — you need to enable and support your team so that they can perform their best. In order to do so, you need to provide your reps with the tools and resources they need to connect with customers and prospects in a meaningful way.

Some of the capabilities and processes you should focus on include:

  • Inbound and outbound calling capabilities 
  • CRM Automation & Sales Enablement Strategies
  • Workflow automation—eliminating manual tasks and data entry 
  • Data accuracy and streamlined reporting
  • Automated call and activity tracking 
  • Coaching and management 

Luckily, in order to be successful, all you and your reps need is a laptop, internet connection, Zoom (or similar video conferencing platform), access to a CRM, cell phone or dial tone, and then a tool that drives workflow and engagement across inbound and outbound calls. Considering 92 percent of all customer interactions happen over the phone, making and receiving calls will be the lifeline of your sales team. Getting on the phone and talking with customers and prospects is vital. Learn more here. In addition, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics both support your standard email clients, as well as a number of other tools that support marketing automation. This is why it’s so important to consider your current software needs, especially in terms of your ability to automate processes and track performance levels.

Tracking Key Metrics—Here is What to Consider

Managers shouldn’t track reps using the same KPIs they have used prior to recent events and changes. At this time, the majority of field metrics, including event performance, sales-volume-by-location, and meeting acceptance rates are pretty much useless. Instead, managers should shift their focus toward KPIs such as revenue efficiency, inbound and outbound call volume, etc. Learn more here

Related: 4 Metrics That Accelerate Sales and Provide Deep Insights 

As you navigate this new reality, you’ll want to focus on the adoption of critical software tools, improved data accuracy, agent productivity, and the reporting around sales activities. As you adopt new tools or shift strategies, don’t forget to remain mindful of security, compliance, and your CRM processes along the way.