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Today’s sales teams are spread out around the world based on the territories they cover.  They cross countries and time zones with team members rarely in the same location. Sales team management may be an art, but to effectively manage remote sales teams require a balance of art and science.

The Art of Sales Team Management

Encyclopedias have been written on how to manage sales teams effectively. Much like the art of sales, managing a sales team requires a strong understanding of relationships, expectations, and motivations.  The job of the sales executive is to encourage top-level performance by setting the bar high and making your team realize that the goals set are attainable.  You provide the sales operation and administrative support needed to succeed and close more business.  You understand the importance of regular and open communications. However, maintaining the right culture, organization, and communication is even more challenging when team members work remote.

The Science of Remote Team Management

Managing a remote team not only requires traditional sales management tactics but also the use of science, or in this case – technology. You still need to create the culture and organizational structure of your department, but technology can be a huge help in collaboration and coordination.  Here’s how.

Start with the Right Stuff

Stanford studies show people who work remotely can be up to 13% more productive.  But you must start with the right person.  Most good salespeople quickly adopts allegiance to their company.  They sell because they believe in their company and product.  But to be an effective remote salesperson, he or she need to be a self-starter, highly motivated, and laser focused. In addition to their persuasive selling abilities, they must also be organized and disciplined. When hiring a remote salesperson, first check and see if they have these inherent characteristics.

Set and Communicate Clear Expectations

People conform to expectations. Set high expectations and the team will rise to meet them. However, expectations will have to be communicated frequently and explicitly which can be difficult for remote teams. This is where technology can help.

Establish uniform group communication through the use of standard collaboration softwares.  HipChat or Slack combine messaging and screen sharing; and if you use a type of Instant Messaging (IM) software, be clear with what should be discussed on IM and what should be communicated with e-mail.  

In-office employees learn business operations through daily interactions with their colleagues. This is a challenge with remote sales teams. Whether you put new hires in an on-boarding process or just train remotely, clear and open communication is integral.  Make sure new members of the team have access to documented workflows and best practice guides.  Assign a senior member of the team to act as a mentor.  Make sure they have the information, resources, and human support to solve common problems when you, as a sales manager, are not available.

effective-sales-team-communication

It’s also important to communicate the structure and philosophy of the company and to introduce key members such as team leads.  Think of your company as a train. It has a direction, a conductor, a crew, and stations along the way. The people riding the train (your team) need to feel safe and in control while knowing exactly who to turn to in case anything goes wrong with a car, or an opportunity/lead.

If your team covers multiple time zones, adjust your schedule to provide as much coverage as possible. You can’t keep communications open if you don’t maximize your availability.

Encourage Interaction

In an office setting, team members can walk down the hall to start a conversation. Remote workers don’t have that convenience. Effective team managers never underestimate the power of online hangouts to build camaraderie.

Encourage the use of Google Hangouts as your online water cooler. Team members can hang out, brainstorm and talk about random ideas. Sales team management can participate in these sessions or designate them as “members only”.

Smart team managers understand the importance of getting a team together face-to-face. Schedule periodic in-person training and team building to fuel motivation and course correct direction.  Use this as an opportunity to further forge friendships, relationships, and trust between team members. When goals are structured around individual accomplishments, it is harder to build trust in the team; and working remotely only exacerbates the problem.  During these interactions, team members can share how they closed a difficult sale and you can share your intuitive sales experience and insights. High performers look to managers for more practical experience and leadership skills than sheer knowledge.

Effective Sales Support Organization

In a recent survey, over a third of high-performing salespeople rated their sales support organization as excellent. That leaves almost half to believe that there can be improvements to the sales organization. A high-performing salesforce recognizes the importance of managing workflows and collaborating data with the tools available. Using a CRM technology to manage sales processes, such as capturing leads, nurturing opportunities, and tracking interactions across all stages of the funnel, sets a business up for effective sales support. Your forward-facing customer support staff and sales team should share all data tracked for every customer or lead interaction.

Manage the Data to Manage the Team

Sales management needs data to drive decisions. Dashboards give you a visual overview but you need to dive deeper.  OroCRM allows you to customize your dashboard and reports to give you the KPI’s that matter to you.

For example, the Leads and Opportunities widgets allow you to manage your salesforce by leads and access information on highly probably opportunities. Managing multiple locations is as easy as creating a dashboard for each location and then comparing results.

If you want to know how effectively your team is processing leads and opportunities, use the Business Sales Channel Statistics widget.  It displays the state of things within your sales pipeline and provides an insight into performance. Compare to previous periods to identify trends in marketing and sales.

In Short

The executive that knows how to manage a sales team effectively needs to think differently about managing a sales team that’s remote.

  •       Start with salespeople that have the traits necessary to work effectively;
  •       Set high standards and communicate, communicate, communicate;
  •       Encourage interaction using technology and face-to-face meetings;
  •       Deploy CRM technology to manage workflow and data.

Do you have any tips on effectively managing a sales team that’s remote?  Share your experiences in the comments section below.