Effectively Manage a Remote Sales Team in 5 Quick Lessons

BY C. Lee Smith
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If your organization has decided to allow sales reps to work in remote locations indefinitely as a result of the pandemic, your sales managers need additional training. In many cases, the art of managing a sales team well comes down to commitment by leadership to properly develop its sales managers. The commitment is also necessary if you’re leading an organization that has long relied on geographically dispersed reps to sell your products and services.

The shift to remote work locations that took place last March was a shock to employees at all levels in organizations. But, sales reps, more than other types of employees, may have already been accustomed to working in the field. When the pandemic started, these reps were no longer welcome to drop into customer locations. That change was huge for reps and your managers need training on how to support their team as many prospect and client sites remain closed to outside visitors. A Buffer study shows that remote employees struggle with collaboration and communication (20%) and loneliness (20%). Your sales manager training program should address those issues, along with engagement, through the following lessons:

  1. Establishing Clear Expectations
  2. Being Available
  3. Creating Team Culture
  4. Optimizing the Sales Process
  5. Hiring with Remote Work in Mind

Establishing Clear Expectations

Your sales managers may have given their reps the sales number they need to make this quarter. But do they know how to coach each team member to work to their best outcomes? In the new normal, reps can no longer count on in-​person meetings. They don’t get to stand in a conference room to deliver a presentation and observe interactions between key personnel at the customer site. To score a sale in this environment, they need to develop their online video skills.

A good sales manager training program will encourage managers to plan out and communicate their expectations for their reps. They may need to spell out how to conduct client video calls. And they’ll need to specify how many phone calls, emails and online meetings reps should handle on a weekly basis. Over time, this volume of prospect touches will develop interested prospects and result in sales.

Being Available

After your sales managers lay out what they expect their reps to be doing to achieve their goals, they can’t go on autopilot. Reps will encounter difficult or unexpected situations and need their manager’s guidance. In a traditional office setting, reps can catch their manager in the break room or they can wait outside their office. In a remote setting, they have to reach out electronically. They may hesitate to ping the manager because they won’t want to interrupt something important. Meanwhile, an important customer or prospect situation could be simmering.

To curb these kinds of delays, your sales manager training programs should help these individuals communicate their availability. They can tell their team members to message them at any time on the office chat system. If there are times when they can’t be disturbed, they should clearly communicate that information. 

Creating Team Culture

One-​on-​one meetings, held through video, help managers stay in touch with their reps. And managers can also use these interactions to coach reps when they’re having trouble closing deals. Individual meetings also help managers build trust with each rep.

Manager training should also underscore the importance of developing team culture through another type of meeting. In a remote work situation, it can be challenging for employees to get to know each other. Some reps with previously existing relationships may chat informally. But that’s not the same as building a team culture and a safe space where members can interact. 

Managers can learn how to set up a weekly session for team members to share their successes and challenges. They also need to practice the most positive ways to keep the sessions going during awkward moments. These team sessions are worth the investment of time and energy because reps will feel supported and will engage more with their work. Our research shows that 62% of sales managers believe one of the top skills they need is the ability to engage with and motivate their team members.

Optimizing the Sales Process

Nothing slows a sales process more quickly than one person assuming that another person in the organization is handling an issue. These kinds of delays can be deadly to the sales process. The art of managing a sales team requires training on the actions they should take to ensure that deals continue to progress through the funnel. Your program should help them identify common delays and list the best ways to correct problems, whether they are internal or external to the organization. In a remote work setting, losing track of individual deals and relevant details has serious implications for the bottom line and for rep compensation.

Hiring with Remote Work in Mind

In remote work settings, reps will change jobs and managers will need to hire replacements. Not every candidate will be suited to the remote work culture in your company. You can help managers make wise decisions by giving them access to a comprehensive sales skills assessment.

The Art of Managing a Sales Team

There are no shortcuts to developing great sales managers. These key staff members need training. When you invest in them, you invest in the future of your company.