“Out of sight, out of mind.”
This saying holds true for many things, and unfortunately can include remote team members.
I saw this happen recently for one of our remote sales reps (let’s call him Jerry).
I was conducting an exit interview with Jerry. He’d just left a position with a client because of limited training and not enough investment in managing the team. Apparently, the client had been too caught up in other aspects of the business like product development and public relations, leaving Jerry with few resources to help him learn and improve.
Jerry knew how to sell, but he needed specific guidance on how best to sell his client’s product. He had to operate on assumptions, which affected results and contributed to a frustrating work relationship.
Even experienced remote sales reps need direction if you want them to deliver results. Don’t just assume that they’ll be fine just because they’re remote (and don’t forget them, either). A formalized support and management program will help keep them on your board and will be good for your long-term sales health.
Why you should nurture your remote sales reps
If “it’s the right thing to do” isn’t enough of a reason to convince you, there are tangible business benefits to supporting your remote team.
You’re creating loyalty among your remote sales reps. A loyal sales rep is a huge advantage. It often takes less time to find a good remote rep as it does to find an on-site full-time hire, which means less headhunting time for you. Also, the longer they stick with you, the more familiar they’ll be with your brand, which will improve their performance.
You’re ensuring your team’s success (and therefore yours). You want your remote reps to sell well, don’t you? After all, that’s why you hired them. So why wouldn’t you give them the tools and training they need to make you more money?
You're developing an onboarding framework. A formalized (and realistic) onboarding framework helps them ramp up quickly, and will eventually get them to a point where you can leave them alone, because they already know so much about you and your business.
You’re building the ability to scale. When you build your remote sales rep support program, you’re laying the foundation for a flexible sales workforce that can scale up or down as needed. By tweaking and optimizing the process on a daily basis, you’ve stripped away the ineffective elements and are left with a streamlined and repeatable process.
How to support your remote sales team (the right way)
Not sure how to support your team? Well, here’s what’s worked for me:
Leave open lines of communication. Make no mistake: remote sales reps, whether in-house or contract, are a part of your team. So you need to keep two-way lines of communication between you through instant communication. Live chat apps like Slack, Skype or Whatsapp work well. Give them a chance to ask questions and update you, just as you need a way to give them quick feedback.
Conduct daily team meetings. As a manager, you need to keep a finger on their pulse. Don’t be overbearing, but motivate them and encourage them to improve a little bit each day. The meeting can be 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of your team and can cover:
- Weekly goals
- In-depth discussions of accounts
- Compliance with job/process requirements (CRM, etc)
- Learning progress
- Updates about product, marketing or process
The most important thing is showing your team that you are invested in what they’re doing. You’re not an overlord; you’re a leader. Use this opportunity to gain feedback and learn what is working.
Weekly one-on-one sessions. Just because they’re remote, doesn’t mean you should treat them differently from the rest of your sales team. Schedule at least one meeting a week with every single remote rep on your team. Get to know them better as individuals. Have frank, open discussions about their accounts and what it’s like working with you.
Ask them questions like:
- What does their pipeline look like?
- Are they encountering friction within the process?
- Could their pitch need some refinement?
- Where do they feel they’re lacking?
- Are they encountering internal roadblocks?
- Are there areas where the company can improve?
You might not think that it’s proper to ask a remote rep some of these questions, but I would argue that their fresh perspective might be more insightful.
Coaching is an important part of leadership. You should also use these sessions as an opportunity to listen in on their client conversations and give live feedback.
Change starts with you
Don’t wait for your remote sales reps to magically improve overnight. Be a leader and make them a part of your team.
Schedule your daily sales meetings and weekly one-on-ones. When you have some quiet time, prepare the framework for the daily and weekly meetings. Communicate the agenda so everyone is on the same page. Keep in mind that this can be tweaked as you go. You’ll get back what you invest in it.