While the mass transition to remote work last year felt like a necessary evil at the onset of Covid-19, many organizations are now realizing that the future of work will include more flexibility for employees to get their jobs done from home.
According to a survey by Gartner, 74% of companies plan to shift some of their employees to remote working permanently. After over a year of running their businesses from home, organizations have started to acknowledge the many benefits having a remote workforce provides, like reduced utility costs, increased efficiency, and happier employees. Even renowned tech companies like Atlassian, Facebook, Twitter, and Slack are on board with this realization—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg states that he expects 50% of Facebook’s workforce to be working remotely by 2030.
It’s no secret that being a great relationship builder is central to being a great salesperson, and building and maintaining relationships remotely has been one of the most difficult challenges of the last year. For sales organizations, this shift to remote work and the added challenge of supporting a remote sales culture has been anything but easy.
A traditional sales framework requires reps to communicate with their prospects and customers face-to-face, often traveling to do so. In this midst of a global pandemic, this kind of interaction completely halted and more than 90% of B2B sales teams switched to remote selling, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey. The same report also determined, however, that customers have switched their preference to digital interactions over traditional interactions, with almost 65% of B2B decision-makers saying that remote selling is more effective now than ever before.
Though the numbers may look positive, a transition to remote selling requires some major operational changes for many sales teams. The challenges that come with being a remote sales leader extend far beyond choosing the right technology for your team and keeping up with revenue goals—leaders also have to find ways to keep their sales reps motivated and collaboration seamless in a remote environment.
Here are eight tips on how to maintain an effective remote sales culture both now and in the future:
- Have daily stand-ups and weekly one-on-ones. Daily stand-ups with your team and weekly one-on-ones with each of your sales reps can help you create a constant feedback loop, build transparency, and convey expectations. A Gallup poll of German workers found that when managers set clear priorities for their employees, about 38% of workers feel more engaged and will strive to increase their work performance. During this time, you can get invaluable insights from your team about roadblocks they’re facing and the tasks they’re prioritizing, which can empower you to be a more hands-on leader and help your reps resolve issues immediately.
- Promote work-life balance. Remote work isn’t just a way of working, it’s a lifestyle, and fostering a supportive remote sales culture takes work. In a traditional office environment, the work hours are clear. But that’s not the case when you’re working from home. Due to the flexible nature of remote work, everyone now “lives at the office,” and it’s easy to blur the lines between work and personal life. In fact, unplugging after work is one of the biggest challenges for 22% of remote workers according to Buffer. As a sales leader, make sure you encourage your team to sign off after a long day and respect their time off—especially now that your sales reps have to work harder and longer than ever before.
- Run remote sales contests. In 2020, Google saw a 9% increase in search interest related to “team-building.” Sales contests are great to engage your team and foster a culture of accountability. Get the friendly competition going with contests that are well-suited to remote teams by creating leaderboards and dashboards that publicly display team-wide metrics. This may motivate reps to work harder to overtake their team members. Even if they aren’t hitting their meetings booked quota or closing deals just yet, contests are especially great for new hires who are still ramping to feel like they are contributing to the overall company goals.
- Provide enablement and training. According to G2, the best sales onboarding programs help new sales hires ramp up 3.4 months sooner on average—a time-to-productivity that’s 37% faster than organizations with subpar programs. Aside from your daily or weekly standups, set up recurring meetings to analyze specific call recordings, go over talk tracks, practice objection handling with each other, and more. Remote sales leaders should make sharing sessions a key part of their weekly agenda to encourage their sales reps to coach each other, create a sense of belonging within the team, and build camaraderie. When it comes to your team’s professional development, you can invite guest speakers to run sessions on relevant skills or topics and share courses or virtual events that could benefit your reps as they work to advance their careers.
- Give kudos and celebrate wins. Almost 70% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated. A healthy remote sales culture encourages and practices public recognition. Not only does it help boost motivation and productivity, but it also gives teams the opportunity to celebrate wins together, which is critical for a healthy sales culture. While you can no longer ring a bell on the sales floor, you can still give public recognition and celebrate wins in real-time to keep spirits and momentum high throughout the day. How? By leveraging remote-friendly apps, like Slack: Connect your CRM to Slack so that every time a new deal is closed, a celebration message goes out to the team.
- Leverage your tech-stack and automation. On average, sales teams spend 17% of their day prospecting and researching leads and 21% writing emails. Use automation to connect tools and get more of the repetitive tasks done automatically to set aside more time for your team to focus on what actually translates into sales. Having remote working technology is supposed to help you replicate everything you used to do in the office, so you have all of the same benefits that you’d have if you were working side by side. Seeing your prospects’ faces on Zoom, engaging with them while tracking your performance on Outreach, and discussing their situation with your manager or colleague on Slack, are some of the ways you should leverage your tech-stack to alleviate remote work–related challenges and create a sense of normalcy.
- Divide the team up to conduct A/B testing. There are too many salespeople out there who send emails to or cold-call their prospects without first testing things like subject lines, CTAs, talk tracks, best times to reach out to prospects, and more. That’s no way to run a successful sales framework! The best way to discover what really works is to test, measure, iterate, and repeat. Testing can improve team performance by as much as 25%. Just like your product and marketing teams experiment with their campaigns, you need to experiment with your sales process by A/B testing. The more you test, the more likely you’ll find winning sales plays and messaging—this is how you get better and scale.
- Focus on results (not hours), set the right KPIs, and measure metrics that matter. As a leader, it’s quite normal to expect your team to work a certain number of hours per week. However, time spent working doesn’t equal time spent productively. In fact, research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for a little less than 3 hours. That’s why it’s more important to focus on the results of your remote sales team rather than the actual hours they spend on the job. Use your CRM to track activity metrics, such as the number of new leads added, emails sent, and cold calls made. If you impose too many metrics, your sales reps will eventually stop caring about any of them. Instead, focus on a few metrics that are really good indicators of how your team is performing and what needs to be done.
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