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Long Distance Sales Reps

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Long distance arrangements, whether of a personal or business nature, can be as advantageous as they can be difficult to manage. More and more startups as well as large corporations have started experimenting with flexible working hours, home office and hiring remote employees. So how does working from home (or anywhere but the cubicle) pay out?

According to a study executed by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, working from home led to a 13% performance increase, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment). That’s not a bad result at all, especially in sales where every call counts.

However, success is not automatic. Performance growth and maintenance in remote sales reps is conditioned by perfect planning and management.

The challenges of managing a remote sales team

Making more space in your department’s office does bring certain obstacles and challenges along.  Even if you free your mind from the stereotypes of lower performance and less time spent working and more spent scrolling through Facebook, there are things that you should be ready for none the less.

  • Trust issues. It’s not easy to build a personal relationship and trust with people you’re not seeing face to face. It will be a challenge for both you as the manager and them as the employee to deal with this and overcome it.
  • Isolation and engagement issues. Man is a social being, and sitting alone at home or in a café every day may evoke a certain feeling of isolation and lead to a decrease in engagement.
  • Lack of space for recognition. Especially in sales, the need for public recognition and praise of good results can be a great tool for motivation in the office. When salespeople are spread all over the country (or the globe), this becomes very tricky.
  • Emergency issues. Let’s say that a business partner calls you and needs some data assessment from you ASAP. You need to get in touch with your sales reps to put a report together, but ASAP then inevitably becomes a couple of days if one of them is in Australia, the second is in Nebraska and the third in Paris.
  • Less personal involvement and team spirit. The team spirit and self-awareness of one’s role within said team is one of the bigger advantages of working in an office. Having a coffee or going for lunch with a colleague doesn’t need to mean deep friendship, but it can help people connect and work better together.

Tips for remote sales rep management

So how do successful team leaders deal with managing people outside the office? Here are a few tips that should help you get a hold of tracking and motivating your remote sales representatives, resulting in the previously mentioned boost in productivity.

The importance of accountability

You want to make sure that your salesman or saleswoman keeps their performance up without keeping an eye on them 24/7? Or at least 8/7, to be fair to the average workday? Keep them accountable for their results. Whenever you feel like there’s a noticeable drop in their results, open it up and ask them for clarification. Nobody likes to be called out on job badly done. And aside from that, you may even occasionally find out that there’s something else going on that you can help your employee with.

2. Activity doesn’t equal efficiency

I’ve met managers who were obsessed with time sheets and tracking every coffee and smoking break of their remote employees, justifying it with the statement that time is money. This universal rule however does not apply to sales, because only time spent making quality calls, good prospecting and  customer relationship maintenance is money. So instead of tracking their every step, how about an activity tracking tool showing you what they are doing and how much of it, with the results included? Bigger picture and innovative approach towards metrics analytics is the key.

3. Make use of available technology

Remote teams have an increased demand on technology, because it requires extra effort to keep everyone connected and up to date anywhere, anytime. Look into the available options for time  and result tracking, task management, lead record tracking, data storage, analytics and fast and efficient communication. Providing your remote team with the best available tools will not only help them do their job better, but it will also make it easier for you to stay on track.

4. Build a system based on routines

There’s no better way to keep everyone engaged and at an acceptable working level than by maintaining a regular set of routines that applies to everybody, with no exceptions. Whether it’s  the scheduling of regular meetings and updates, consistency in software usage, regular updates and the form thereof, blocking disturbances and distractions during group calls and conference meetings etc.

Especially while managing a remote team of salespeople, consistency and regularity has a great value and importance in keeping the results solid.

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