How to Manage a Remote Sales Team In 2023
There are real trade-offs in going remote. Almost all of this revolves around the simple fact that you’re not in the same room as your team—you are missing out on overhearing sales calls from your reps, and it's more challenging to join a call, demo, or meeting at a moment’s notice. You and your team might also have less opportunity to high-five and celebrate wins in real time too.
If anything, the pandemic has taught us that teams can still accelerate their sales activity and achieve their sales goals while working in a remote environment. It’s not surprising that a growing number of salespeople still choose to work virtually — The State of Remote Work Report by OwlLabs found that remote work made employees happy, and 38% percent of them are willing to take a pay cut in order to continue working virtually. There’s better work-life balance, enhanced productivity, and dollars being saved! What’s not to love?
Research shows many workers prefer to be remote, and our experience at Qwilr is no different. While there were plenty of challenges in the early days, we’ve found that working remotely can be incredibly powerful in the long run. Still, it requires a different approach and accounting for some of the elements that we lose when we’re not all working together physically.
In this article, we take you through seven tips that will help you manage and motivate a sales team like a pro.
Understanding the concept of a virtual sales team
So what exactly is a virtual sales team, and how does it operate?
A virtual or remote sales team consists of remote employees and managers that work virtually either in the same location or as a distributed team to cater to their clients and prospects.
Face-to-face and in-person interactions with remote workers are limited, and sales leaders mostly stay in touch with their team through emails, video calls, phone, and team communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Whether this is your first stint as a remote sales manager, or you’re someone with traditional selling experience experimenting with remote sales, having a clear understanding of how a virtual sales team operates will empower you to get the most out of your remote salespeople, while being an understanding, supportive and motivating manager.
With an evolution in the way teams sell, virtual sales reps have adapted to engage prospects through video conferencing or phone calls. When it comes to prospecting, lead generation, sales automation, creating proposals, and other sales activities, they lean on cloud-based sales tools such as Salesforce, Qwilr, and more.
For those new to virtual sales, it may feel that it lacks a human touch, but this is not the case. Remote sellers still often meet their prospects face to face for a meeting, at a conference, or even to share a cup of coffee or a meal.
Just because your sales team isn’t physically coming into the same office doesn’t mean they’re never out in the field meeting with customers. If geography is a challenge, virtual sales presentations can still offer a personal touch.
Early in the sales process, many conversations will take place through Zoom or a similar platform and over email, so not much is different than when the team was working in an office together. While it may be more challenging to build trust and relationships virtually - it's very much still possible.
7 Pro tips for effectively managing and motivating a remote sales team
So what changes? That’s probably the #1 question in the mind of sales managers new to remote sales.
Remote sales teams that thrive have a few things in common and have mastered the art of virtual selling. They champion transparent and continuous communication, have well-crafted and documented processes, and don’t shy away from using sales tools that enable asynchronous workflows. In order to ensure that your team keeps achieving its sales target, there are a few things that you need to master as a manager.
Set clear expectations and deadlines.
In an office setting, you might get cues on pipeline status, sales objections, and blockers by simply having real-time conversations with the team or overhearing their calls.
With remote teams, you don’t get to read the room quite the same way.
Therefore, the best way to stay on top of sales activity is by establishing clear expectations on deliverables and deadlines early on. This is to ensure that your sales strategy does not take a beating.
For example, some managers find it easy to run team meetings on a daily basis to discuss their sales pipelines and quota, allowing for greater transparency, while others stick to a weekly schedule. The frequency with which you and your team should meet should be determined by a few factors. These include how complex your deals are and how experienced your sales team is. If deals are more complex and/or the team is less experienced, you should opt for more frequent communication.
Another way to have daily connection is by having a bot run an async meeting in a tool like Slack. This will allow team members to participate no matter what time zone they’re in and at their convenience. They won’t need to miss a team meeting because that’s the only time a key prospect could meet.
As a manager, you also need to ensure that your sales reps are on the same page as you when it comes to their sales targets.
Having accountability and transparency around what their revenue numbers are, how many demos they need to deliver, and how many upsell deals are needed to make quota should always be over-communicated so that they are clear on their day-to-day.
Revenue is one of the most visible metrics across the company, and any misses on your team’s part are bound to impact profits. Proactively identifying areas of improvement and taking quick action when you see performance gaps within your team will help you stay on course with your sales targets.
Emphasize effective communication
Casual conversations around the water cooler, a quick check-in across the cubicle, or a tap on the shoulder are common when working in an office space and a key factor in helping projects move forward while building trust.
You can’t do these things as easily when working remotely, so you have to be intentional about encouraging team members to check in and ask questions. By building the right playbook for communication, companies can still empower their teams to communicate in a manner that benefits everyone.
For example, Zapier’s fully distributed team has adopted the value of “default to transparency.” The team ensures that they communicate in public channels, share information, document their work, and ask questions in a way that helps others do their work more effectively.
A few tips for effective communications that you can follow as a remote team are:
- Be specific with questions: Make sure it is clear who you are talking to, what you want them to do, and by when? If you’re asking over Slack or Teams, use the @mention, and if others should be aware of the question or discussion, you can @menton them too so that they know to follow along.
- Get as much context as you can: Get as much context as possible from your team to identify the problem so you can help them find a solution ASAP. Do you have a team member who is seeking a way to handle an objection that came up during a sales call? Have them send you the sales call recording (and the approximate timestamp where the objection came up) so you can fully understand the conversation and can advise accordingly.
- Remove things that block or delay responses: This includes jargon, acronyms, slang, and messages like “Hello, can you help me,” without expanding on it. Some team members may get nervous if they see a note from you that says, “Hey, let’s chat when you have a second,” without any context. It will cause more stress and anxiety than necessary. Try saying something like, “Not urgent, but I want to run through this proposal you sent yesterday” or “When you have a moment, I’d love to talk to you about a training we have coming up that I’d like your feedback on.”
- Shared calendars are your friend: At Qwilr, everyone can see one another’s calendars. Our sales reps often block out large chunks of every day to ensure they have enough time to do all their sales activities and leave lots of blank spots for calls to be booked. You and your team can leverage a scheduling tool like Calendly to book appointments and avoid a lot of back and forth on scheduling. As a leader, it’s important for you to work hard to respect your team’s calendars!
- Make written updates efficient: We’re big fans of creating written updates that are easily shared across the team. We use our very own Qwilr product to great effect for internal communications. It forces us to clarify our own thoughts, progress, and blockers and gives other team members an easy reference to check back on 24/7. While setting up effective communication guidelines is one part of the puzzle, the second is setting up communication expectations. This is key when you have a distributed team where asynchronous work is valued.
Develop a well-defined virtual sales process.
Not having a well-defined and scalable sales process is like throwing spaghetti (read tactics) on the wall, thinking something will stick. The truth is that nothing survives without a structure for long, and the same is true for sales processes.
If you want your team to bring in businesses consistently, you need to empower them with a framework that helps them move a prospect from a lead to a closed customer effortlessly.
A repeatable sales process makes it easy for them to move customers through efficiently while allowing for a personal touch. So what does a well defined well-defined sales process look like? When working in a virtual sales team, the sales process make look slightly different, even though the steps remain the same.
Below are the seven key steps:
- Preparation: this stage is all about creating an accurate and detailed profile of your target audience. While preparing, you may have to liaise virtually with your marketing team to gain insights into your company’s buyer persona or with your research team if you need detailed market insights on an enterprise customer.
- Prospecting: prospecting remains more or less similar in a remote team. That’s because most companies heavily depend on prospecting tools such as Linkedin, email, and calls for prospecting.
- Approach: this step hinges on face-to-face interactions, and that’s where it differs for virtual sales reps. In a remote team, calls with prospects happen via Zoom or a similar video conferencing tool. That being said, it isn’t uncommon for sales reps to meet prospects over a cup of coffee or during events!
- Presentation: the presentation step is key to a sales process, and while some may argue this, its outcomes are rarely dependent on whether it is in-person or online—what matters is the content of the presentation and how it solves the problem for your prospect.
- Handling objections: the first step in handling objections is actively listening and understanding the customer’s concerns. If doing this virtually, it’s great to take notes as you go or even record the conversation so that you can provide them with accurate solutions and close faster. This isn’t as easy to do during in-person meetings as you are constantly driving the conversation.
- Closing: this is the step where the prospect turns into a new paying customer and proceeds to sign the contract. Thanks to e-signature tools, this can be quickly done virtually. And if you’re using Qwilr, you can do this very swiftly through its built in e-signature functionality.
- Negotiation and follow-up: the last and the final step of a sales process is less about selling and more about nurturing existing relationships. Again, something that the virtual team can ace with emails, handwritten notes, or simply hopping on a call to catch up with the client and see how things are going.
Sales processes improve your team's effectiveness, but whether you are a startup on an established company, sales processes need to evolve as your business grows. This is to ensure that your team is still delivering at the optimal level. But how do you know when’s the time to improve your existing one? We cover all this and more in the video below:
Use the right tools
Taming the chaos of remote project tasks and processes is going to be more challenging if your team isn’t armed with the right tools.
So which tools work best for remote teams? The answer to this question is, ‘it depends.’
The list of remote-friendly collaboration tools is continually growing, which means that the market is flooded with options, from task and project management software to communication platforms, CRMs, and sales enablement tools.
Ultimately, you’re looking for tools that will champion collaboration and increase the productivity of your sales teams. After all, you want more productive work done, no matter where your team works from, right?
That being said, make sure you have thoroughly evaluated the tools based on the features, budgets, and team size. Finally, pick ones that are easy to use, offer automation, and integrate well with your existing toolkit.
Qwilr’s proposal software, for example, integrates with a variety of tools such as HubSpot, Slack, Zapier, and more.
Have regular calls with the full team, and each team member
Having success with your remote sales team depends a lot on how much and how often you communicate with them. Just because you aren’t part of a regular office work environment does not mean you have to shy away from mentoring and setting them up for success. Your guidance, after all, will help them negotiate better, crush quotas, and close deals faster!
A good way to stay in touch with your team members is through regular 1:1s and skip-level meetings. Such calls provide invaluable information to managers, and you can use this time to openly discuss their growth plans, address any frictions, seek updates on new developments, and use this opportunity to exchange ideas.
Successful one-on-one meetings in a remote set-up hinge on the agenda and consistency, so make sure your sales reps have a set agenda and that regular meetings are blocked in your respective calendars. Don’t cancel unless you REALLY need to. Frequently canceling these meetings sends a message to your reps that they aren’t important - and they really and truly are.
As mentioned earlier, keeping your team updated on communication expectations is also key when working remotely. Buffer, for example, has set up communication best practices for their fully distributed team, which focuses on “communications expectations.” These include response time across channels, when to respond immediately, and when to use asynchronous vs. synchronous communications. These guidelines build clarity and increase sales productivity, freeing your rep’s time.
Finally, formal meetings aren’t the only way to stay in touch with your team, and it is worth recreating hallway moments using digital channels!
- Set up some non-work-focused Slack channels based on the interests of your team — some of our favorites are #aww (pets!), #music, #my-kitchen-rules, and, until recently, #nba.
- Use tools like Donut to organize randomly assigned catch-ups.
- Try Zoom rooms that anyone can join for regular water cooler sessions or team-building activities to boost camaraderie.
Build a culture of trust, accountability, and curiosity
Peter Drucker once famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And what he meant by this is without a solid culture, everything would fall apart. Culture is what keeps teams engaged, motivated, and doing the best work for themselves and the organization.
To ensure your sales team thrives in a remote setup, you must build a culture of trust, accountability, and curiosity. And while effective communication is key, it’s also important that you involve your team in discussions, provide sales training and learning opportunities, and ensure that sales reps have autonomy in setting deadlines and getting work done.
Another way to empower your team is to let them have a say in setting up their own schedules or be responsible for their KPIs. Granting them the freedom to expand their duties when needed is another way that you can build trust.
Fostering a culture of trust paves the path for innovation, collaboration, heightened employee engagement, and increased sales productivity. And there’s science behind it! Neuroscience research published by the Harvard Busines review found that there’s a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance, and in fact, when compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:
- 74% less stress,
- 106% more energy at work,
- 50% higher productivity,
- 13% fewer sick days,
- 76% more engagement,
- 29% more satisfaction with their lives,
- 40% less burnout.
That’s a lot of positives! When team members feel respected and are treated fairly they have a heightened sense of belonging to the company—it’s a win-win.
Share regular sales updates with the team.
Sharing updates is a two-way street; we’ve talked a lot about asking your reps to be proactive and communicate with you frequently, but you should also be sharing timely updates and feedback.
This could come in the form of providing weekly updates on the team’s progress toward an overall sales goal. You can (and should) also be providing updates on company performance, strategy, and anything else that may be impacting the sales team either directly or indirectly.
One way to share sales updates is through a sales scorecard that will give your sales reps greater visibility around their performance. This serves a variety of purposes, but most importantly gives them insights into where they stand against team goals and what steps they can take to improve their sales performance.
You can share such updates during weekly sales meetings, via email, or a team communication channel—whatever best works for your team.
Sales managers shouldn’t just stop there! As a manager, you want your reps to succeed, so if you find new research, industry insights, or tricks to help them negotiate better or shorten the sales cycle, share them with your team and encourage team members also to share their learnings with the group.
How to train remote sales reps?
Training remote sales reps can be accomplished through leveraging technology for interactive sessions, developing a comprehensive online sales training program, practicing role-playing exercises, providing regular coaching and feedback, and fostering a collaborative environment.
Remember, training is an ongoing process, so keep evaluating and adjusting your approach based on feedback and results.
What are the benefits of remote selling?
Remote selling offers benefits such as access to a wider talent pool, cost savings on office expenses, increased flexibility and work-life balance for sales reps, improved productivity due to reduced distractions, and expanded global reach for tapping into new markets.
How to build a remote sales team?
To build a remote sales team, define your sales reps' desired profile and skills, utilize online platforms and networks to recruit talent, establish clear communication channels, implement practical collaboration tools, provide ongoing training and support, and foster a strong team culture despite the physical distance.
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From distance to results – making remote sales work
Managing a remote sales team may seem like a daunting task, but with the right game plan, it is entirely achievable.
With a clear vision, efficient processes, and unwavering support, you can lead your remote sales team to surpass targets, foster strong client relationships, and ultimately achieve outstanding sales performance. So go ahead, seize the opportunity, and make remote selling work for you. Remember, distance does not diminish the potential for success; it merely challenges us to adapt and innovate.
And if your growth-focused sales team is looking to make quantum leaps with its proposal strategy, why not give Qwilr a try? From proposal templates to analytics and 24/7 customer support, you’ve got yourself a winning sales proposal tool. Speak to the team or book a demo to get started.
About the author
Mark Tanner is the Co-founder and CEO @ Qwilr.
Qwilr enables sellers to build beautiful interactive sales material that houses product facts, demo videos, case studies, ROI calculators, and more. Qwilr enables your buyers with all the information they need in one place so that they can adjust the quote to suit their needs, accept e-sign & pay all in one smooth flow.