In nearly every single industry, remote work is becoming more and more popular. And is that surprising? According to a study, remote employees are more likely to feel happy with their job. Not only does remote work encourage work-life balance in your employees, but it can also reduce overhead costs and help to attract talent across the nation.
Hiring people to work from home or from Fiji isn’t a magic elixir, however: Utilizing a remote workforce requires careful planning and investment, putting your team — and thus your business — in the best position to succeed.
When it comes to sales teams, remote work often presents a unique set of challenges. Because these teams are often built on camaraderie and competition, which can be difficult to manufacture remotely. But it’s not impossible.
To ensure that your sales reps work at peak capacity despite their distance, focus on actionable ways to boost productivity no matter where they call home. Here are 8 ideas to get started:
Hire the right people
It all starts with the team. A sales manager should always hire people that they can build trust with and think will succeed, but your salespeople, in particular, should be personable, communicative, and flexible.
When hiring for a remote team, there are certain skills and traits that translate better to remote work than others. As you interview potential candidates, focus on those who demonstrate time management and organizational skills and are comfortable working autonomously from any time zone.
Though your team will still be managed, you will also want self-directed workers who can motivate themselves and make sure they reach their goals each day, week, and month — without micromanagement.
Encourage collaboration via apps
Collaboration is the key to productivity on an individual level: The results of a recent Stanford studyshowed that
“cues of working together can inspire intrinsic motivation.”
Luckily, in the digital era, it’s easier than ever to encourage collaboration, even among remote teams. Tons of apps and platforms are available that can serve as meeting spaces for your sales team, providing the tools they need to work together effectively as well.
For sales teams, platforms like Cyfe.com (an all-in-one business platform with customizable widgets for sales, CRM, social media, marketing, and everything else), Trello.com (a project management platform where you can track the progress of any individual idea), and even simple tools like IDoneThis.com (where you list your daily to-dos and check off when you’ve done them) helps everyone stay on the same page.
Communicate purpose to your team
The key to unlocking the power of collaboration isn’t just letting your sales reps loose in the same digital playgrounds. To reap the benefits of working together, you need to explain the underlying purpose behind their goals and set clear expectations.
What reasons do your sales reps have to perform well? If it’s just money, that’s going to hurt you in the long run — workers will increasingly need larger and larger bonuses and/or salaries to incentivize them to work. But if you can get your sales team to buy into a larger mission, or make a game out of their collaboration, you’ll find more success, studies suggest.
Purpose is the key to productive collaboration — not money, micromanagement, or threats to job security.
Use chat tools consistently
While no one wants a manager to look over their shoulder constantly — even in the digital sense — few on your team should mind using chat tools like Slack.com to keep in touch throughout the day. Chat tools are getting more and more sophisticated, allowing users to upload files, share documents, and otherwise work as workforce management tools as much as they are communications tools.
Most importantly, these tools keep people connected and help them feel as though they’re part of the team. You may not have a shared water cooler to gather around when working remotely, but you can still gather in a Slack channel to talk about anything from workflows to sports and the holiday party.
Video conference regularly
As fun and effective as chat tools can be, so much of our communications with people are based on body language and facial expressions. Speaking face-to-face, via Skype, for example, results in clearer communication and fewer miscues. Schedule regular video call check-ins — weekly is best, but once a month should be your minimum — and save conversations that require visual aids, such as sales decks, for these time slots.
Meet in person whenever possible
Your team may be far-flung, and frequent in-office visits may not be possible for the majority of your sales reps. But it’s still important to bring your team together at least once a year to keep them engaged with the company and motivated to succeed.
The best way to do this is to deliver some sort of value to your team in exchange for their participation. Make your in-person meeting part of a team retreat, or a strategic sales meeting where you’ll review new trends and tools in the industry. This can be a great opportunity to connect on a personal level while still learning and growing.
Maintain your commitment to training and improvement
Training doesn’t end when your sales reps finish onboarding or feel comfortable using all their tools. You should continue to provide sales training in the newest tools, applications, practices, and techniques to employees throughout their time working for your company.
Employees who feel that their business is invested in them and their growth as professionals and people will similarly invest themselves in the business. The time and resources you invest in your remote employees will repay themselves quickly.
As much as a sales team needs to work together, it’s true that an important tenet of the position is to compete. Those who make the most sales typically make the most money, which is both a monetary incentive and an incentive in the form of bragging rights.
Use a performance dashboard that remote workers can check anytime to promote healthy, informed competition among sales reps. They can then take it upon themselves to further the stakes and increase the competition with low-stakes bets such as “loser buys lunch.” Give your sales team the right tools they need to compete and they’ll take it from there.
The final word
Of the many kinds of teams you can build as remote entities, sales
Make sure you’re providing your remote team the tools and skills they need to be successful. After that, it’s up to you to trust the people you hired and let them bring it home.