Modern technology has drastically changed the global work environment. In fact, 82 percent of U.S. workers surveyed by Randstad US say the ability to work from anywhere at any time allows them to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Today, it’s becoming more common to have employees working from co-working spaces or their homes, no matter where they are in the world. This applies for many sales teams around the world. But, let’s face it, having a remote sales team can be a good thing but at the same time, it can be difficult to manage.
It is essential to understand that a purposeful, engaging culture is the backbone of an efficient remote sales team. Indeed, culture is vital because it directly influences things like employee happiness, engagement, retention, and recruiting. At the same time, it can also be a competitive advantage. Based on a deeper perspective, culture influences business decisions at all levels. Let’s take for example, Apple which has a culture built around design, or how Zappos has one built around customer service. Hence, company culture is more than just the way people interact within the company; it is also how they interact with customers, suppliers, vendors, and partners.
Nowadays, various successful companies have no office at all and their entire workforce works remotely. However, there is a downside: often, when employees are remote, it can be hard for them to connect to the company culture and feel engaged. In this case, what does a leader need to do in order to effectively manage remote sales team?
Set clear objectives & goals
Setting the goals for your team is one of the foremost steps to take. This will help your remote sales team to have more incentive to work and also give them a direction so that they all move towards the same goals. Not having concrete sales goals and objectives to work toward will not lead to positive outcomes. Therefore, without ambitious goals to strive for, sales people have no incentive to put their best foot forward.
Choose the right technologies
Technological mishaps are inevitable at work, and working in a remote sales team doesn’t solve this problem. However, sales teams can’t afford to lag behind since these team members already have more work than they can realistically manage. Hence, having broken technologies will just make the situation worse.
At the end of the day, each team has its own workflow. A good approach is to research technologies that complement natural communication flows. After that, you need to run a few experiments to validate that the technologies you chose are a good fit.
It is in the hands of the leaders to build routines from the technologies that they’ve chosen. For example: if you’re going to have video calls with your remote sales team, make sure that you always use the same video software. Similar to the way offices have routines, so should remote teams. Having these processes in place will always ensure that you’re running meetings effectively and that team members know what to expect.
Additionally, it is a good idea to encourage team members to avoid distractions when they’re on team calls and in meetings, too. For instance, it can be tempting to check Facebook and hence be less committed to the discussion taking place on a call. Focus takes practice and patience, especially for remote teams.
Encourage open communication and feedback
It is a must to keep your team communication channels clear and open to promote transparency while actually enabling the team communication that organizations so desperately need. The goal is to promote an environment where everybody is contributing, not just the loud extroverts amongst your team. One way to do to this is by reducing formality associated with communication in order to avoid that employees stay quiet, which isn’t healthy for employees or for your team as a whole. Based on the size of your team, the more casual and laid-back you are with team communication channels, typically the better they become at being open and transparent.
Set expectations on communication methods
Encouraging open communication is one thing. It is also essential to set expectations on which communication channels are to be used for what topics in order to set the tone and encourage communication. For instance, you may want legal and ‘serious’ documentation always by email or on your cloud file server, whereas casual discussion can be done via Skype.
You can reduce the confusion by having a simple guide, and ensuring everyone is in line with your thoughts. For example: If your remote sales team uses a particular set of tools for communicating and collaborating (say Dropbox for file sharing), convey the information to new team members, so they do not have to email the team to find out which specific tools are needed for which situations. Besides, it is important to ask that team members stay logged in to these tools as well; any barrier to that communication can be detrimental and kill productivity.
Take time to learn about everyone
It is undoubtedly easier to get to know someone better while working face-to-face at the office than remotely. It is a good practice to make a point to learn about each of your employees or colleagues through informal discussions or even consider running a staff wide survey on favorite meals or movies. For example: simple, fun activities such as quizzes really help to grow a positive company culture within a remote team.
Measure your remote sales team employee engagement
A good way to measure employee engagement among your remote sales team is by setting time for a formal quarterly survey, a monthly email status update from every team member, or something like an employee pulse survey.
In these surveys, the focus should not be only on work-related topics either; asking about general happiness and mood encourages openness, and may help to alleviate any feelings of isolation and lack of communication as well.
Maintaining a remote sales team is clearly a challenge. However, once you start adopting the good practices to manage your remote sales team, you’ll be setting yourself up for culture success and more productivity. It is certain that with great company culture comes great employee happiness levels, and this leads to great outcomes for the company.