The gig economy, improved technology, and cultural shifts have led to more and more employees working from home over the past decade. But nothing has driven that change as fast as the current coronavirus pandemic.
Until recently, our office has operated on a mixed model, with a global team of partners, employees, and salespeople working remotely, and a “home” team operating out of our headquarters in Stockholm. Now, even our Stockholm team members are working from home–including me.
It’s been an interesting adjustment, with benefits and challenges. I love being home with my family and avoiding the commute. I don’t love not seeing my team every day.
For large sales teams, being forced to work remotely on a large scale can present enormous challenges. How do you maintain team cohesion and motivation without daily or weekly check-ins? How do you coach effectively when you never see your salespeople face to face? And, most importantly, how do you maintain consistency and scale your team up when you can’t get them all in one room for training?
Fortunately for all of us, a few best practices can help us all manage - and scale - our teams remotely, even in a time of pandemic.
1. Align your strategy, process, methodology, technology, and training
I talk about this a lot, so I won’t belabor the steps here. But I do have to mention them because these foundational building blocks are critical to managing any high performing sales team, and even more critical now. Without them, you won’t be as successful in implementing the rest of the steps.
You can read more details about how to align these five elements here.
2. Develop a shared language
It’s important that everyone on the team agrees on the meaning of key words that you use in your strategy and process. Without shared definitions, you’ll have to manage not only remote locations but practically remote languages.
Some foundational words and definitions every sales team must agree on include:
Marketing qualified leads, and their sources/campaigns (the hand-over point to sales)
Prospect and deal qualification criteria (sales qualified lead > opportunity created)
Key milestones and activities in the opportunity management process, or “sales projects,” as we prefer to call them in a b2b sales environment (ensure buyer alignment)
KPIs like win rates, sales cycle, deal size (if above definitions are clear, this is solved)
For every term you define, make sure that everyone on the team has access to the correct definition and uses the word that way every time. This is easiest when you have completed the previous step and have everything built into a shared CRM and Sales Enablement platform, like Membrain.
3. Make the process dynamic
Your remote salespeople will all have different needs at different times. While it’s critical that you have a process that aligns with your customer-focused strategy, it’s also important that the process be flexible and dynamic based on what’s happening with each deal, account, or project. And to go even further: dynamically adjust the process based on individual strengths and weaknesses, and seniority on the job.
4. Provide access to effective analytics
Clear and useful analytics are more important than ever when your team is remote. Without daily interactions with salespeople, it can be nearly impossible for managers to have their “fingers on the pulse” of what’s going on with each one of their reports. Clear, accurate, insightful analytics provide a window into what’s going on so that coaches can coach proactively rather than reactively.
Clear and useful analytics are more important than ever when your team is remote.
5. Maintain consistent training and coaching rhythms
This is not the time to ease up on training. Salespeople are facing unprecedented change, challenges, and uncertainty. They need more skills, not fewer. Create a consistent training momentum, and stick with it. Training consistently over time is far more powerful than with one or two training “events.” Remote training technology makes it easy to space training over time.
Likewise, coaching should be provided on a consistent rhythm. It’s too easy to “forget” to provide one-on-one and group training when you’re not running into each other at the water cooler. A consistent rhythm helps ensure this keeps happening.
6. Build scenario-based training for new and existing employees
With a process-based approach and the right technology, you can build scenarios for new salespeople and managers to bring them up to speed quickly, even from a remote location. Scenario-based training enables your team to “get their feet wet” in a safe environment before going live with real prospects or sales teams. It can also be used to bring existing salespeople and managers up to speed on new approaches and skills developed to address changes in the market.
These are unprecedented and challenging times for many of us, but they’re also a time of opportunity. Our sales teams have a chance to adapt and serve clients in bigger ways than ever before. The same practices that you need in order to effectively manage and scale your remote teams, can also help your team become the best in its class. For more on developing world-class sales teams, check out my recently released book, Stop Killing Deals.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.