Managing a remote team of employees doesn’t come naturally to most people. How can you oversee a group of diverse individuals located in different areas but are working on the same goal?
Even though the fondness of remote working is something that unites them, other things like the ability to communicate in a virtual environment and build relationships with colleagues online might differ. And making sure that these factors don’t affect the performance of a remote sales team is one of the primary responsibilities of its leader.
However, in some cases, remote sales employees are just a list of email addresses or instant messaging contacts to team managers. However, remote work is here to stay, and, just like Sir Richard Branson famously said, offices “will be a thing of the past.” That’s why learning how to manage teams effectively could be the key to more sales.
Branson is totally and completely right, as studies found remote teams to be more productive than in-house teams, with up to 77 percent of respondents reporting higher performance when working from home, a coffeehouse, or other places.
However, a company can achieve this only if a remote team is managed by a person who knows what they’re doing. In this article, we’re going to see what it takes to:
- Make sure that remote employees collaborate (there’s no PlayStation or a ping pong table to unite them and make it easy to work together)
- Empower them to do their job by giving appropriate tools and software (no, we’re not talking about PlayStation here)
- Manage their accountability to make sure that the team meets the objectives
- Monitor the progress by checking in on a regular basis
- Provide the context for the team and bring the importance of their roles to achieving sales goals
Begin with an Introductory Meeting
The best way to start here is to make sure that everyone is one the same page. As a leader, you need to clarify everything and provide that foundation the employees need to start working and selling. One way to do it is a virtual introductory meeting.
In addition to introducing yourself and getting to know each member of the sales team, here are the most important things to clarify.
The To-Do List for Your Introductory Meeting
- Clearly communicate to them that they’re responsible for their own actions and what kind of impact they have on the overall performance of the team.
- Explain the roles of each team member and how to get help.
- Outline the overall goal and sales targets and how each member can contribute.
- Agree on deadlines and stages of the first projects as well as regular check-ins and progress reports.
- Clarify how they can communicate and collaborate; this often involves describing or coaching employees on how to use virtual communication and collaboration tool.
- If there are some performance bonuses and perks for employees involved, let the team know about them.
Having such a meeting is a major requirement as it helps to set the team up for success. In addition to explaining what the team’s role is and why it matters, it also helps to jump-start interpersonal relationships and unite the group around a mutual goal.
If you’re a Friends fan, you might remember the scene from Chandler’s workplace where Doug, his new boss, instructs the employees at the end of the meeting by saying that there’s no “I” in a team. Shortly after his comment, Chandler quietly says this to his colleagues “Yes, but there’s two in ‘martini,’ so everybody back to my office!”
This scene is relevant for team managers because of two reasons. First, it’s true: there’s no “I” in a remote team, too. Even though they’re working independently, you as a leader need to manage them as a sales TEAM.
Second, when managed properly, employees will be willing to communicate with each other, collaborate, and even go out for a drink if possible. However, the first step in this direction isn’t the responsibility of team members, but yours. Making up for the lack of face-to-face interaction might be a bit difficult, but you can overcome this if you try.
Here are ideas to facilitate the interaction within your sales team:
- If you’re using an instant messaging platform, try to arrange regular calls with everyone or individual team members (once or twice a week is perfect). Their voice tone and mood will tell you a lot, and you’ll be able to recognize if there’s a pressing issue that needs your immediate attention.
- Make up time for non-work related meetings. Do you have a couple of sports fans in your team? Then it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about the latest games and stuff like that. Sports, of course, isn’t the only thing you can talk about – asking what they did on the weekend could be a great topic, too – as the main point here is to make them realize that you don’t just talk about work. Not only this helps to forge relationships but it also increases employee motivation.
- Make sure to celebrate events and milestones. A new member joining the team, a birthday, a work anniversary, achieving a sales goal, a promotion – these are just some of the examples of events that you should celebrate with your team and make some Instagram posts to share the news. While sharing the news with others on platforms like Instagram, be sure to follow your company’s social media policy to keep the organizational image reliable and trustworthy.
- Come up with joint tasks and projects to have two or more team members work on the same goal.
The bottom line here is that regular communication is key to building trust between the leader and the rest of the team forging relationships between people who don’t even see each other every day.
Empower them with the Right Software
Any sales team needs software to succeed. It’s your task to give them an opportunity to use tools that enable them to do their job effectively and efficiently, but it’s often much more than sales software. For example, if your team has sales software, it might not be enough to give them all the data they need to understand customers’ needs.
That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) tools come in, and they can be especially useful to support decisions and improve the ability of team members to build relationships with leads and clients.
Here’s the list of reasons why your sales team needs CRM:
- They need to store client data
- They need to prioritize their time, so they have to have software that helps with time management
- They need CRM to create quick activity reports
- They need to track communication with customers and advertise new sales in a timely fashion
- They need to spend less time doing the administrative workload
That’s why choosing the best CRM for your business is a great decision to eliminate a lot of repetitive tasks by automation and making it easy for your team to do their job.
Measure Performance in a Timely Manner
If you’re managing an in-house team, then measuring the performance of each team member becomes an easy task due to their constant availability. But how does one measure the performance of a remote team? And, more importantly – how often?
Indeed, knowing when to get involved and how much can be a big factor in keeping the performance of remote employees high. Any experienced team manager will tell you that discovering the right balance between holding remote employees accountable and disrupting their work is nothing but easy, but it’s your duty.
“While minimally intrusive check-ins can be sufficient for some sales teams, relying on them could be a risky road to take,” says Kelsey Moore, a talent development specialist from TopWritersReview. According to Moore, such check-ins can make some members feel isolated or even unimportant for the organization, which is to be avoided.
Surely, if nothing’s done in this case, chances are that a lot of miscommunication and even some conflicts may occur more frequently than before.
Many companies have looked for the best ways to prevent this. For example, Google has completed a study on measuring the effectiveness of remote teams and recommended the following ways to do it:
- An evaluation by the team leader
- An evaluation by an executive
- An evaluation by a team member
- Sales performance assessment against quarterly quota
Unfortunately, there’s no universal formula for the frequency of an effective employee performance measurement, but connecting with each of them at least once a week is a common practice. For actual evaluation, checking in at least twice a month is a good idea, too.
However, if you feel that something that requires your attention is going on, getting involved as soon as possible is a must. If you don’t, then things that could easily be resolved in minutes can take up weeks to clear up.
To make sure that your evaluation is effective, you should utilize a number of specific key performance indicators (KPIs), which is something we’ll review in the next section.
Use Specific Employee Performance KPIs
To gain visibility into your team’s activity and performance, consider using these KPIs during evaluation:
- New leads. This KPI shows how a team member contributes to creating more sales opportunities and whether they reach their quota.
- Existing customer engagement rate. Having good relationships with the existing clients is important for long-term business, so checking in whether your team is working with them is also necessary.
- Upsell/cross-sell rate. Tracking these numbers helps with knowing how well clients respond to certain offers and product/service pitches.
- Client acquisition rate. How many leads does a team member convert into customers? Find out the performance of your team and look for large discrepancies between members, as it may indicate existing issues.
- Average deal size. This matters a lot when it comes to sales plus it shows you which deals are worth pursuing and which are not.
- Employee job satisfaction. Performance is important, but you also need to consider how satisfied each team member is with their job. Working in sales requires certain qualities such as persistence and patience, so it could be easy for some team members to run out of steam. That’s why regular surveys are a must. Take time to create an online survey or have a brief online conversation, and your team members will appreciate that.
Also, keep in mind that if a team member isn’t achieving predetermined KPIs, it’s a sign that you should address his or her performance head-on. The sooner the better.
One More Thing…
For a manager of a remote team, it’s easy to get bogged down by the amount of stress and daily duties, so you may forget how important it is to celebrate wins and achievements. Since a lack of recognition is a big problem in remote work because it increases isolation and disengagement, think of ways to celebrate a great job by recognizing and praising your team as well as its individual members.