The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced social-distancing to feature high on every organization's agenda. The good news is that you can be just as (if not much more) productive in such situations - only you get to do so in your comfiest of comfy PJs. Yes, even for sales teams that now you remotely manage! ‘No way’ you think? Understandable, considering sales is a function heavy on collaboration and face-to-face interactions - by its very nature, social.
Yet, the world of technology has been preparing to accommodate just this kind of a rainy day. With so many remote workforce management support tools out there, you will be surprised at how smoothly your ‘work from home’ sales flow will pan-out.
To remotely manage your sales team, make sure you employ productivity-enhancing tools (such as Signeasy, Connecteam and Trello) and effective communication strategies.
A practical guide to managing a remote workforce
The challenges of working remotely range from sales reps feeling disconnected from the team and clients, and overwhelming interference from managers, to too many distractions at home and the incessant battle to ‘prove oneself’.
To keep your sales team’s engine chugging on smoothly, in this emergency climate, here are some strategic remote team management tips:
Be careful not to micromanage:
When you can't physically see your sales reps at their desks, calling prospective clients or shooting out sales emails, it's difficult to be assured that they aren't misusing their office time. But micromanaging their affairs while remotely managing only reduces employee engagement, creativity, confidence, and retention.
Therefore the best way to optimize your remote workforce is to regularly set SMART transparent expectations. It could be something as simple as “secure sales goal of $500,000 this quarter. And to achieve this, connect with 100 customers via cold calls by this week”. Such targets with helpful suggestions build accountability. And once your employees achieve these goals, you may set new targets. And repeat.
In fact, according to a Gallup poll, when workers were given clear expectations, held accountable for meeting them and given ample support when employees needed, they ended up working harder and delivering better results.
Put clear sales processes in place:
Simply put, it means instating a routine (or sales flow) for your remote team. Especially since sales is all about commission, it's important to set defined schedules to accomplish everything and more. This involves outlining explicit ‘how-tos’ for key processes such as lead generation, conducting demos and negotiating and closing deals.
A remotely managed team needs to prioritize these mission-critical jobs for the day-time when they are fresh and ready to work, followed by admin tasks and other household chores in the evening.
These steps will ensure that there is minimum ambiguity in completing everyday tasks, efficiently. At the same time, it helps managers monitor performance of the team members and keep them working in the same direction.
Setting these processes becomes even more important when the remote salesforce is spread over different time zones.
According to a report by IDC, over 36% of a salespersons’ time is spent on administrative tasks. Add to this the distraction of ‘work from home’ and their focus completely shifts away from the more strategic and creative parts of closing deals.
While chores may be difficult to eliminate from your workflow, it is possible to automate and speed-up many of the repetitive tasks. Here are a list of productivity-maximizing software that can help:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) & Configure price quote (CPQ): It helps users keep records of their individual sales activities, track leads or opportunities, create product and pricing bundles, forecast sales, leverage guided selling and so much more. It also helps sell in a collaborative manner (with other remote departments), which 77% of salespeople consider important. You may choose to use these tools from popular vendors such as Salesforce, Zoho and Oracle.
- Electronic signature software: Especially when anyone is working remotely, it can be difficult to get physical signatures from internal signatories and clients, at different stages of the quote-to-close cycle.
E-signature software, such as Signeasy, helps sales professionals manage and get legally-binging electronic signature on their important sales paperwork.. ESignatures carry equal legitimacy as a ‘wet’ signature , and are especially valued for the ability to offer improved mobility. eSignature software such as Signeasy also seamlessly embed (powered by API-integration) into CRMs and collaboration platforms, to include the eSigning feature into your sales workflows for improved user experience. It can also improve productivity by 85% according to a Forrester report.
- Remote work management tools: Slack and Asana are prime examples that let salespeople collaborate, communicate and share ideas with ease. They can be used to aid your remotely managed workers in assigning and syncing sales tasks across teams.
- Digital adoption tools: It's great that you have invested in platforms that help your remotely managed team sell better, but for them to be effective, you need to make sure that the users are properly trained and onboarded. In-app microlearning platforms offer contextual support to navigate complex software such as CRMs, in the flow of work.
Help remote teams attain work-life balance:
More often than not, when working from home there tends to be a blurring of home and work boundaries, according to researchers from Cardiff University and UCL Institute of Education. To prevent this, for an always-on job like sales, you need to encourage your team to:
- Slot some personal time (watch a show, walk the dog, take up a new hobby etc)
- Set aside time for chores
- Create a dedicated workspace. And not take any work related calls/decisions outside of that, like at the dining table or in bed.
Even if they work from home, make sure your employees have vacation time and personal days off.
This way employees will be energized to hit their targets without burning out.
Build empathy and connect with Video-conferencing tools:
Video conferencing tools help 87% of remotely managed workers feel more connected with their enterprise.
Having facetime with your manager and team members on video calls, creates the ‘digital watercooler effect’. Discussing your family, the latest Netflix shows or even showing them your new in-house gym can create a sense of belonging and offset symptoms of cabin fever.
This leads us to the next point, about the importance of communicating on a habitual basis.
Communication. Communicate. Communicate:
Encourage your team to use a messaging tool or a collaboration platform to stay connected. A remotely managed team can start to feel like ‘armchair team members’, who work individually and can't understand each others’ needs.
- Set a solid communication strategy in place: You may encourage remote workers to share sales best practices, successes and key updates. Sales reps may also offer feedback on ideas, support on co-workers’ sales queries and share interesting articles on internal forums or group chats.
- Have a change management plan in place: This will help assuage fears of the change in sales workflows caused by remote work. As management, take on the responsibility of providing easy access to common questions such as ‘why do we need remote work?’ and ‘how can we manage sales growth during this period?’, ‘how will new technology help’ etc.
- Keep up the office morale: Add a dash of levity and fun into your communication via gifs and emoticons in internal emails or host a party over a conference video call. You may even designate an hour every day to at-home yoga, to keep the high-pressure of sales from getting your workers.
Everyone in your sales team needs to be embraced into the folds of tech-enabled sales workflows to make this transition seamless.
Now more than ever before, it's imperative that we collectively figure out disruptive ways to turn the ‘home-office’ environment into one that lends itself to productivity.