The COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing concerns that it has created have certainly accelerated the trend toward remote work. However, the remote work trend was put into motion well before 2020, with remote work increasing 159% since 2005.
The rise of remote working is thanks in large part to the various benefits that it provides to employees and employers alike. For employees, working remotely means a lot less wasted time and a lot more flexibility and freedom. For companies employing remote workers, utilizing a remote workforce can be a great way to reduce expenses.
With that said, the sales managers in charge of managing a remote sales team are sure to find that this trend toward remote work also brings unique challenges. In this article, we’ll take a look at both the benefits and drawbacks of employing remote salespeople, in addition to outlining several remote sales team management tips that will help more effectively manage your remote workers.
What Are the Advantages of Remote Selling?
The advantages of remote selling extend far beyond helping slow the spread of infectious diseases, which is why remote selling has been growing in popularity for several years now. Just some of the advantages of establishing a remote sales process include:
Increased Morale Levels
Working from a home office can often improve an employee’s morale. One survey found that 64% of employees say that they would choose to work from home over a $30,000 per year raise. The flexibility and freedom afforded by remote working is something that many employees deeply value and something that can have a substantial impact on the morale of your sales team.
Higher Work Efficiency
Allowing employees to work remotely removes a lot of wasted time. By eliminating time-wasters such as commuting to the office, office socialization, or trips to the cold brew tap, working remotely can boost the amount of time that sales reps have available to focus on their job. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and plenty of distractions also occur within a home office. However, the time-saving benefits of working from home tend to outweigh such distractions — a fact that is supported by a Stanford University study that found that working from home increases productivity by an average of 13%.
Larger Hiring Pool
Employing a remote sales team means that you will not be limited by geographical concerns when it comes time to hire reps for your team. Choosing employees for your sales team regardless of their location creates a much wider pool of potential employees for you to choose from and thus increases your ability to hire sales reps who are an ideal fit for your company.
Remote selling eliminates a lot of the expenses typically associated with employing a sales team, including the cost of renting or purchasing office space and the cost of utilities to keep the lights on and water running in that space. While there are expenses unique to remote selling as well (e.g., purchasing the right software for your team), these expenses are sure to be much lower than the cost of employing a traditional sales team.
What Are the Disadvantages of Remote Selling?
While the benefits of remote selling are substantial, employing a remote sales force does come with several drawbacks that are important to consider as well, such as:
Impact on Mental and Physical Health
Even though a majority of employees prefer working from home, remote work can still often harm a person’s emotional and physical health. Working from home sometimes creates feelings of boredom and isolation that can negatively impact an employee’s well-being and productivity. This makes it important for companies that employ a remote sales team to take every possible effort to keep their team members engaged and connected to the larger community.
One way to achieve this is to create a mental/physical health stipend that gives employees the resources to take care of themselves. They can cover the cost of gym memberships, therapy and wellness apps, and more.
Loss of Learning Through Osmosis
In many cases, sales professionals learn skills from everyday office life rather than structured training or scheduled meetings. They overhear calls from their peers, participate in one-off coaching moments with their manager, or hold quick strategy sessions at someone’s desk. These unplanned but meaningful moments are lost in remote life and are hard to replicate through technology.
Working from home may eliminate a lot of wasted time, but it can also create a lot of distractions that may themselves lead to wasted time. The biggest problem that many people have when adjusting to working from home is an inability to “code-switch” between their home life and their professional life. When you are within the comfort of your own home, putting your nose to the grindstone and adopting a working mindset can often be a challenge. This is especially true for parents and caregivers who are prone to even more distractions when working from home.
Lack of Communication/Community
Working remotely creates communication barriers between sales reps and their managers that can be difficult to overcome. In addition to making it more challenging to communicate key objectives and instructions to your team members, working remotely can also create a disconnect between employees and the company they work for. A sense of community and camaraderie offers a lot of value to employees, and this value is largely lost when those employees rarely meet face-to-face.
How Is Remote Selling Changing?
The dramatic rise in the popularity of remote selling that we have seen throughout the past couple of years has created a lot of new changes to the world of remote selling. Some of the more impactful of these changes that companies need to be aware of as they go about creating a remote sales team include changes such as:
- Remote selling is redefining company culture: Creating a beneficial culture is an important goal for companies across all industries. However, creating a company culture that encourages productivity, community, and employee satisfaction can be a real challenge when your employees work remotely. Moving forward, companies that choose to employ a remote workforce will need to determine ways to still create and nurture a beneficial culture for their company and the employees that it hires.
- Customers expect a personalized experience: The rise of remote selling has not changed customer expectations. Customers still value a personalized experience when shopping for new products or services regardless of whether or not they are meeting with sales reps face-to-face. As companies strive to adapt to remote selling, a key objective is to figure out how to continue delivering customized content and personalized experiences to their customers.
- Perks and support for remote Employees: As more and more companies hire remote employees, the importance of providing those employees with the same level of perks and support provided to in-house employees is becoming increasingly apparent. This includes measures such as providing remote employees with the equipment and home office support they need and emulating in-office perks such as food perks, happy hours, and more.
What Challenges Are Ahead for Remote Selling and Management?
Successfully managing remote sales teams requires sales managers to overcome several key challenges. Three of the most meaningful challenges to consider as you go about planning for remote selling success include challenges such as:
Adopting the Right Tools and Technology
Choosing the right digital tools for your remote sales team is crucial for the sales enablement process. Thankfully, there is a wide range of software designed to make working remotely more efficient and productive. This selection of remote working tools has only grown more significant over the past couple of years. Equipping your remote sales team with the right tools can often be a challenge given the wide range of choices available but is also something that is a vital objective for any company employing a remote team.
Managing a Hybrid Work Environment
Few companies rely entirely on remote workers; instead, most sales managers today manage both in-house and remote teams. Managing this hybrid work environment can often be a struggle, requiring managers to balance the needs of employees they meet with regularly and the needs of their remote team(s). They also need to ensure that preferential treatment, like promotions or other forms of recognition, isn’t being given to in-house employees.
Maintaining Customer Relationships
Maintaining positive relationships with your customers can be all the more challenging when you cannot meet with those customers face-to-face. We’ve already mentioned the importance of continuing to create personalized experiences for customers when engaged in remote selling. This is one of the most crucial challenges for companies to overcome as they transition to selling remotely.
6 Ways to Manage a Remote Sales Team in a Rapidly Changing World
On the whole, the benefits of remote selling far outweigh its drawbacks, and remote selling is a trend that is all but certain to continue growing in prominence. With that said, the benefits of remote selling can be fully realized if you adopt the right strategies and practices. To help develop a remote sales team that closes deals consistently and improves the bottom line for your company, here are six proven tips for how to manage a remote sales team in today’s rapidly changing world.
1. Make Data-Driven Decisions
Regardless of whether or not your sales reps are working from a remote setting, quality data should drive every decision you make as their sales manager. Working remotely provides reps with a high degree of flexibility and freedom regarding their schedule and the sales activities that make up their workday. Ultimately, though, the data will tell the story of whether or not these choices regarding scheduling and activities are effective. While you certainly want to afford your remote team as much freedom as possible, the data regarding the numbers they produce should guide your final decisions regarding what is allowed and what isn’t.
2. Determine What’s in Your Control
Managing a remote team means letting go of some of the control you might otherwise enjoy as an in-house sales team manager. That doesn’t mean that you should leave your team entirely to their own devices, but it does mean that you will need to differentiate between the factors you can control and the factors you cannot. If you try too hard to compensate for the lack of control that managing a remote team creates, you risk veering into the territory of micromanaging your team. Instead, focus on building trust with your team so that they can perform without direct oversight while still tending to the things you can control.
3. Choose the Right Tools
The digital tools that you supply to your remote team can have a major impact on their performance. Workflow organization tools such as Slack or Asana can go a long way toward keeping your team organized and on track. Video conferencing software such as Zoom can make it easier to conduct remote sales meetings or team meetings via video calls. You may also want to consider outfitting your team with sales scripts or templates that they can use in various sales scenarios. Before you send your remote sales team out into the field, be sure that you have equipped them with all of the software and tools they need to be at their most productive.
4. Proper Staffing
Employing a remote sales team means that you will have the ability to hire any employee regardless of location. Given how crucial proper staffing is for remote selling success, it is important to take full advantage of this benefit. Not every employee is fit for the demands of working remotely. When assembling a remote sales team, it is essential to choose employees who exhibit traditional sales skills and skills that will serve them well in a remote work environment, such as self-motivation and making decisions on their own with limited guidance.
5. Proper Salary
Due in large part to staffing shortages, many companies have begun to offer high salaries and substantial bonuses to remote workers. While higher salaries and bonuses can sometimes attract better talent, they can also encourage applications from people who don’t have the skills or drive to fulfill the role that they are applying for. This makes it important for companies to offer a competitive salary while at the same time ensuring that they are not overpaying for subpar performance.
6. Executive Leadership Planning
If your company is going to transition to remote selling, it is important for your leadership team to start planning as soon as possible for how to best structure the company for supporting a remote team. Remote selling success starts at the top and will require a great deal of advanced planning on behalf of your company’s leadership to be successful.
At Sales Assembly, we strive to help companies overcome the challenges associated with remote selling and maximize its benefits through our exceptional Sales Leadership Certification Program. If you would like to provide your sales reps and sales leaders with the specialized sales training they need to succeed in a remote setting, Sales Assembly’s Sales Leadership Certification Program is the ideal choice.
Empower Your Remote Sales Team With Help From Sales Assembly
If you would like to transition your company to remote selling and create a remote sales team positioned for long-term success, Sales Assembly can help. To learn more about how you can develop an effective remote sales team through our Sales Leadership Certification Program, be sure to contact us today.