Since last March, sales teams have had to figure out how to function in a remote environment.
For many organizations, however, the prospect of continuing as a remote sales team into the future is very appealing. This requires a lot of intentional work:
- Learning how to hire remotely
- Managing & coaching asynchronously
- Building the tech infrastructure to keep your team connected and engaged
Let’s walk through some tips to help you build a remote sales team that will last through 2021 and beyond.
Why the future of work is remote.
According to CNBC, 45% of companies use a hybrid work model, and only 32% will continue to be in-person first.
There are numerous benefits of remote work, both for employers and employees:
- Reduced costs: office space, equipment, fuel, flights, and even office perks like coffee and snacks
- Increased efficiency, due to less travel and in-office chatter
- Wider talent pool, including internationally based reps
- Greater empowerment and autonomy for your reps, which can boost morale
In a survey carried out by FlexJobs, 65% of respondents said they feel more productive in their home office than at a traditional workplace.
It’s safe to say that the future of work is remote, which means that sales managers are looking for ways to both survive and thrive in this brave new world.
How to build a remote sales team in 2021.
Building a remote sales team presents its own unique challenges to sales managers and founders.
Not only do you have to answer questions like:
- What skills should a remote salesperson have?
- How do you screen for the right qualities and values?
- What should the hiring process look like for a remote sales team?
- How do you know when you’ve found the ideal candidate?
But you also have to dig deeper into the qualities, skills, and experience that you expect from candidates.
Here are some tips for how to build a remote sales team successfully in 2021.
Be intentional about your actions.
When everyone gets together in the office, you can afford to act more informally, maybe even wing it a little bit.
But when you’re in a remote environment, you have to be more intentional:
- Setting up 1-on-1 check-ins with your team
- Holding team-building and morale-boosting activities
- Providing coaching opportunities to help reps boost their skills
- Checking in to make sure everyone is hitting their numbers
No doubt you’ve experienced these challenges. As you build your remote sales team for the future, take these lessons into account, and be intentional about your activities.
Proactively hire remote-friendly reps.
When we first went into lockdown, we all made the most of a rough situation. Some reps did well in that new environment, while others struggled a little more.
But as you’re building a remote sales organization for the long haul, you have the opportunity to focus on hiring reps who will thrive out on their own (and, conversely, steer away from reps who won’t).
A “remote fit” consists of a number of attributes:
- Having at least some remote work experience
- Diving into remote work with the right motivations (i.e. working harder and more focused, rather than just screwing around)
- Having their own remote work setup
Remote fit certainly isn’t the only attribute you should consider when hiring. After all, the rep has to be able to sell!
But if you’ve got a choice between two great reps, and one has remote fit while the other doesn’t, it helps make that choice much easier.
Hire for experience.
On a remote sales team, you can’t be constantly looking over your rep’s shoulders, micromanaging their every move. As a result, your remote sales team needs reps with some experience who understand what’s expected of a good sales professional.
Hiring more experienced reps also shortens the onboarding process, since you won’t have to train in specific skills.
Here are three qualities you must look for in a remote sales candidate:
- Coachability. Reps should be eager to receive feedback so they can improve their sales skills.
- Communication. Reps should be quick to communicate via email or messaging platforms like Slack, so that you can make changes in real time.
- Ownership and accountability. Reps should own up to their own mistakes, admit their failures, and work to improve themselves.
Develop a rigorous hiring process.
Hiring reps remotely is definitely harder than doing it in person. When you’re face to face with a candidate, you get to pick up on nonverbal cues that give you a sense for who they are.
You just don’t get that over Zoom.
That’s why your remote hiring process should be more rigorous than what you’ve done in the past:
- Set up a scoring system to define top candidates based on the top qualities you’re looking for (e.g. remote work experience, culture fit, etc.)
- Involve multiple parties in the process, including a hiring manager, trusted team member, and potentially a company executive, to ensure that your remote sales team collaborates well
- Have a roleplay as part of the hiring process, as well as a take-home project to gauge their capabilities
The more you can evaluate the rep in advance, the more likely you’ll avoid blind spots and find the right fit.
How to onboard remote reps.
Once you’ve hired a rep, the next step is to effectively onboard them. Here are some specific steps you should take:
- Set clear expectations. If you have set working hours or certain rules that apply to remote reps, you need to communicate them early to avoid friction and frustration.
- Engage your reps. Lack of rep engagement can hurt rep and productivity. This is why implementing systems to engage reps in conversations with both peers and management can help to boost their enthusiasm and productivity.
- Provide the right tools. There are certain platforms and systems that remote reps need to succeed: CRM, coaching intelligence, remote chat, project management, video conferencing, and more.
- Develop a remote-focused onboarding plan. You need to develop a process for onboarding that reps can participate in while at home. Instead of sitting them in front of a bunch of boring PowerPoint presentations, give them interactive exercises to engage them in the material.
- Start asynchronous coaching immediately. Even the most experienced reps have some areas where they need to improve, so you should coach early and often. In order to do this effectively, you’ll need coaching intelligence software to help you track rep behaviors and performance improvement.
Keep in mind that remote-first sales is still a relatively new phenomenon, which means there’s still a lot you’ll figure out along the way. Be patient, and stay focused on the ultimate goal: engaging your team, developing their skills, and bringing in revenue.