Whether your company is looking to reduce its carbon footprint, attract millennial job seekers or slash real estate overhead, you’ve probably put together a remote sales team.
Unfortunately, many companies fall into some common mistakes when they first attempt to employ remote workers. Other firms are able to maintain their team but they’re never really able to get them to thrive.
Don’t give up hope even if you’ve been struggling to hold onto team members. Here are a few simple ways in which small-to-medium sized firms can ensure their team survives any problems they might encounter.
While you may need to adapt them to the specific needs of your organization, your team will finally start to thrive once you’ve worked all the managerial bugs out of the equation.
Benefits of a remote sales team
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when setting up a remote sales team is to get halfway through the process and say that that it won’t work for them.
If you haven’t gotten one going, then you’re going to need to do so over the next few quarters according to recent numbers. More work is being accomplished on a remote basis than ever before.
Firms that don’t have some form of remote sales model might not be able to compete as efficiently against companies who do. Supporters have long claimed that remote sales techniques help to improve employee retention by giving your team a flexible schedule.
Once a person is trained and reliably productive, you don’t want to risk losing them to another company.
One study of major tech employers in 2014 also suggested that 82 percent of remote personnel report lower levels of stress, since they were able to remain in comfortable surroundings.
Companies with remote sales teams also report many other benefits including:
- Greater levels of sales personnel engagement
- Reduced fuel consumption
- Ability to recruit skilled people from outside of your geographical area
- Retain older workers longer
- Continued sales team operation even during times of inclement weather or transit stoppages
Common pitfalls & mistakes when building a remote sales team
Assuming you were sold on the benefits before, you might have tried to put together a remote team only for it to end in failure.
Managers of companies with struggling remote sales teams often find that telecommuting can lead to ghosting, where people suddenly disappear and possibly even change their contact information without telling anyone.
Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. That’s a major mistake. While your firm is feeling broken up about losing personnel your competitors are taking the opportunity to continue to recruit.
In fact, some individuals feel that online outsourcing can make workers more accountable. One study suggested that 54 percent of traditional employees nationwide essentially sleepwalk through their day while another 18 percent sabotaged their fellow workers.
To reduce the risk of a bad remote hire, make sure you post very clear expectations.
When you start receiving proposals from candidates, make sure to quickly vett any prospects who use stilted language or obviously fraudulent contact details. Countless firms waste time with these when they could be looking for better remote sales reps.
With record numbers of millennials and first-time job seekers looking for this kind of work, you shouldn’t have a small pool by any means.
Compare profiles, ratings and credentials when you’ve finally made a stack of possible legitimate candidates. You may only find two or three people, but that’s better than none.
Remember that a couple of quality hires is far better than paying a number of people who wouldn’t be very effective at your place of business.
Working from home is becoming so common that some managers forget to hold proper onboarding sessions. Establish ground rules and let everyone on your remote sales team know what’s expected of them.
Slacking off is sadly part of the human condition. People will be less likely to do it if they know exactly what they’re responsible for.
The reason that some managers associate remote sales teams with poor work habits often has to do with the fact that they didn’t set appropriate ground rules when they built the time.
Ensure that all of your reps are disciplined enough to work remotely as well. Even though they are telecommuting, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have to call on their specified calling time.
For this reason, working on proper time management strategies and sticking to them is vital.
By the way, you don’t want to ban your existing traditional employees from telecommuting if you plan to build a remote sales team alongside your original one. This will just make it look like you’re playing favorites.
Some companies have successfully incorporated members of their traditional team into a newer remote one to help with the training process.
Things to look out for when setting up your remote sales team
Keep your eye out for anyone on your team who doesn’t feel included. It’s bound to happen with a group of traditional employees, but it may also happen with remote ones.
Bringing the whole team together for weekly forecast calls is generally a good way to maintain solid relations between everyone on your team.
Contracting workers one-on-one might be an even better way to handle this problem. If your sales team doesn’t have any explicit reason that they’d need to constantly communicate, then they might not even have to be acquainted with one another.
Companies that deal with large numbers of freelancers usually put together a team of countless individuals and encourage a deep relationship with each one. They don’t have to deal with a team dynamic to work as part of a team in this fashion.
Never take your eyes off conversion rates no matter which method you use to reach out to your remote reps. Whenever rates aren’t as good as they should be, reach out to your workers so they can make corrections before the end of the quarter.
Listen to any suggestions that members of your team might have to offer in this respect. They might be able to tell you if they know that one particular sales method isn’t reaching your intended market.
Engagement analytics can give you insight into better understanding why your average conversion rates look the way they do. Managers employing these kinds of analytics shouldn’t take their eyes off them.
Even if you plan to manage your own team remotely, you don’t want to fall into any of the traps you’re working to help others avoid.
Paying attention to all of these metrics is good, but you also shouldn’t hold yourself to them slavishly. Measuring your sales rep’s output needs to go beyond some basic key performance indicators (KPIs).
Don’t hold your entire team to one strict standard or measure their productivity only with numbers.
Look for little things that mere statistics can’t measure. A skilled sales representative who converts only a few leads into sales a week because they’re focused on a saturated market sector might be doing far better than someone else put into the same position.
You may even want to consider reassigning misused personnel because low KPIs don’t always mean that there’s something wrong with a member of your staff. It could be that the way they’re told to market your goods or services isn’t right for market conditions.
While phone and SMS text communication is more ubiquitous now than at any other point in history, don’t rely just on the phone to stay in touch with your team.
In fact, pay attention and see if your remote sales team might be falling behind as far as the technology aspect is concerned.
Modern tools you need to have at your disposal
Free messaging apps are among the most important things you can possibly use these days. You’ll want to have official channels for all the popular ones so that you can stay in touch with members of your team regardless of what platforms they were using before they joined.
Naturally, you can require all members of your remote team to have accounts with your preferred service.
This is actually an excellent idea. However, if you don’t have every modern messaging app at your disposal you’ll lessen your chances of keeping in touch with them when they’re not personally scheduling themselves some work time.
Don’t forget about document transfer platforms either. If you have one that allows you to transfer a secure link without requiring your remote workers to log in, then you’ll possibly be able to improve the chances they’ll actually open the document quite a bit.
CRM tools are often overlooked, because they’re viewed as a vestige of more traditional companies. These are actually more useful to those setting up a remote team because you’ll possibly have countless different online clients to keep track of.
Having a central location for them will keep your team from getting confused, especially if everyone can create their own user accounts.
Online meeting platforms have changed drastically in the last couple of years. If you’re still using something that requires downloading a local client, then you’re living in the past.
Web-based cloud meeting tools are among the best options you can use to organize a remote marketing team these days. Chances are that your existing tool offers a browser-based platform-independent solution that everyone on your team can use without worrying about what kind of hardware they have.
Financial organizations have been using cloud-based word processors for a couple of years now, and they’re now making a huge splash in the world of sales.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t employ one, especially considering that there’s at least ten or fifteen free ones that are every bit as developed as traditional word processors.
Startup or seed accelerators are also a good idea to look into if you’re managing a company that’s just branching out into the world of sales. While these don’t represent a specific technology, they leverage existing ones to provide the best service to new remote sales teams that they can.
These generally offer fixed-term cohort-based programs that offer investment, education and mentorships that come to a head with this huge demo day function at the tend.
This may be an attractive option for firms that haven’t gotten a foot in the door yet. Another good idea for newer companies in this position is an online lead list.
Unfortunately, there are many scams as far as these go. Paying for leads is something that’s wrought with fraud.
A better option these days might be to join a socially networked family of like-minded marketers who don’t mind sharing information with your team in exchange for having hot tips shared with them.
Networking notifiers are a great help to those who are going this route. They’ll pay close attention to your social media accounts and send you automatic updates.
Some can even track if high-profile clients are in the news, which is an excellent excuse to follow up with your prospects on days where you wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with them.
A number of sales-specific tools you’ll certainly need to be using include:
- Email prospecting tools, which are designed to help you establish relationships with all of your email contacts. Never forget that email marketing is important even when it seems like a dying technology.
- Sales enablers can let prospects see when any of your remote representatives are available. These apps automate scheduling and let your prospects choose appointment times that work for them.
- A secure document signature app is almost a must for any company that plans to send virtual paperwork over the Internet. It might sound shocking, but some companies have tried to run a remote sales team without one of these.
- Prospector apps are another important one for anyone doing social marketing. They let you search through a database and export prospects as a spreadsheet file.
- Instant stamp apps take the guesswork out of adding icons that link your post signatures to each of your social accounts and landing pages.
Important factors that determine success in moving forward
Get all of your financial issues straightened out first. Make sure that you have expense accounts for different representatives if necessary and invest in a good small business credit card so that you’ll have liability protection, meaning you won’t be personally liable for the credit performance of the business card.
There are a number of solid apps that remote sales agents can use to keep the financial side of the equation under wraps.
Frugality is often important when it comes to budgeting things for your remote sales team.
If you got used to spending more and hiring more remote personnel than you need, then you could quickly run out of necessary capital. Scalability is as important when dealing with remote teams as physical ones.
Influence is probably the single most important factor when it comes to determining whether a remote marketing plan will work out. Potential clients often make purchases based around what other people say about a product.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should jump out and hire a number of professional influencers who have loads of avatars they can use to promote a product on social media.
Social media experts are an important part of any remote sales team, however. You may want to consider recruiting people from other specialties as well.
If you’re creating an entire online marketing campaign, then you’re going to have to go beyond the bounds what a normal sales team would include. Content creators and people who can look after landing pages are especially important when it comes to ensuring success.
You’ll also want to look for individuals who have some experience with video. This doesn’t mean you’re going to go all out and hire someone to create slick presentations to flood social video sharing sites.
What it means is you need to have at least one member on your team who is prepared to deal with the rigors of creating natural-looking content that can be used to communicate with potential clients.
Another major factor is timing and general knowledge of the market. Just like running a physical sales team in-person, you’re going to want to know what you’re selling and who plans on buying it.
Communicating this to everyone on your team can spell the difference between success and disaster. Unfortunately, unlike giving them proper tools, this is not something that can be achieved easily overnight.
Experience and solid understanding of their work will help them reach this level, but you should also never neglect the good old fashioned training. If you see that some of them are lagging behind in this department, consider training remote employees so they don’t drag behind the performance of the whole team.
Nevertheless, your teammates are the ones who have the best handle on the market. Even if they’re remote workers on the other side of the world, they’re in touch with leads, prospects and clients.
That means they might have some important input to share with you about what works and what doesn’t. In many cases, this kind of input can be far more valuable than every analytic and graph you’ve been measuring sales with thus far.
Examples of remote sales teams done right
36 percent of CFOs said that their company’s remote work opportunities have increased in the last three years, according to a study on these kinds of jobs.
Something must be working out, as this same teleworking study claimed that around 12 percent said that they greatly increased the number of remote working opportunities during that time.
Some examples where this has really worked well is in the straight-up online advertising and eCommerce markets.
In almost every example of a situation where remote sales teams work well, the work has still proven rather demanding.
The best teams have individuals who conduct most of their work activities by communicating with their clients directly via email or by calling them. This makes it easy to integrate these teams into an overall teleworking program, but it can still be rather difficult.
Organizations that are able to weather the storm have opened up new opportunities for sales associates who prove especially capable.
Lead generation is one example that several teams have done right. Several companies have employed remote workers who are able to generate more leads than those working in a traditional office.
Marketing, business development and sales account managers are also joining the remote workforce in several notable famous examples. These personnel have proved that they have the ability to get things done to the point that companies have been able to pass off even this type of work to them.
A few tips from insiders
Perhaps the most important lesson to take away from that kind of example is that there are very few jobs that can’t be achieved in a remote fashion.
Many insiders have said that if a job can be done by a remote worker efficiently, then you should consider doing so in order to take advantage of all the benefits that come with that.
Don’t shop your entire physical sales team out right away, but keep in mind that there are any number of reasons you might rather hire remotely even if you wouldn’t have previously thought it possible to have people in certain jobs telecommute.
Uncertainty is important when it comes to sales. Be sure that they know what their clients’ problems are so they can offer your product or service as a solution.
One industry insider wrote that they should mention the client’s pain one time and then focus on finding solutions for them. This trick works especially well in our Internet-connected world where it can be hard to find trustworthy people online.
Excitement is contagious. If you ask any manager of a successful remote sales team, then they’ll tell you their organization does so well because they have enthusiastic people working around them. They’ll also probably remind you that humor is especially important when working with clients.
Clients ask tough questions. In a way, they’re doing their job as good consumers when they ask a member of your team something difficult. Those who manage good teams will tell you to make sure that your sales associates know not to lie nor avert the question.
Even though they’re working remotely, that doesn’t mean clients won’t be wise to this kind of behavior.
One tip you’ll hear from many business insiders is to let your workers find a schedule that works for them. Be sure that you do set expectations, but give them enough freedom to feel comfortable in their new remote sales job.
Once you’ve struck a healthy balance and found individuals that are able to take care of things on their own, you’ll have built a team that can thrive as well as survive.
Bonus video: How to Manage remote sales teams with Steli Efti from Close.com
About the Author:
Philip Piletic focuses primarily on the fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. He is an editor, writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites. In love with startups, latest tech trends and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Philip would like to thank The Box Reviewers for helping with this article.