Over the past year, more sales teams made the shift to remote than ever before. And with it, a lot of great advice on making remote work has been published. I love seeing how generous and freely sales teams around the world share what’s worked for them.
But one thing I see that teams still don’t pay enough attention to is this: creating and maintaining a coaching culture. It’s not enough to give your reps all the tools and systems they need to get the job done and hit quota. You need to design a virtual environment that makes success inevitable.
The golden rule of making remote sales work is to overcommunicate. If you’re ever wondering whether you should say the thing on your mind or not, default to saying it.
This doesn’t mean you engage in endless watercooler talk. You stay on task. You stay focused on the objective. But you want to always keep in touch with the people involved, get other people’s input and feedback, let them know what you’ve working on and how they can help.
Tell your team what
MORE FOR YOU
Set crystal clear goals. Everybody should know at all times what’s expected of them, and how they’ll be evaluated.
- What’s the goal for the year?
- What’s the goal for the quarter?
- What’s the goal for the month?
- What’s the goal for this week?
- What’s this goal for this day?
- How will you know whether you’ve hit it or not?
- What metrics and KPIs do you use to evaluate them? (And where can they see them?)
It’s so easy for people, even well-intentioned, hard-working, smart people, to get lost in the day-to-day of work. So many things come up that request attention during any given day. Staying focused is the ultimate superpower in the age of distraction. And the best thing you can do to help your team stay focused is to give them a very clear, very simple goal to stay focused on.
Tell your team how
Your team should never be left wondering how to do something. Give them a proven blueprint, hand them a practical playbook that enables them to win.
This doesn’t mean you should try to enforce rigid adherence to a pedantic process—give people the freedom to do things their way, make their own judgment calls, use their own wit and intuition.
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist, Picasso said about arts. The same principle applies to sales. Your reps need a set of techniques, processes, and frameworks to work with. But then set them free.
And when you identify that your reps lack a certain skillset or knowledge, help them acquire the skills they need to succeed. There are many online learning platforms that make it easy for remote reps to level-up professionally.
Take the gloves off
I’m a huge proponent of candid communication in sales. The best sales managers use radical candor to empower their team and create a culture of accountable honesty.
“It’s brutally hard to tell people when they are screwing up.” – Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor
Especially when it comes to call coaching for your remote sales reps, giving timely feedback is key. At the same time, it can be even more challenging because sales reps encounter a lot of rejection when they’re making calls, and the might already be in an irritable state before you even bring up your “constructive feedback”.
Create (friendly) competition
I’m not known for quoting Mary Poppins, but it’s true that in every job that must be done, there’s an element of fun. The best sales managers are able to turn the daily grind into play.
- The first person to close 3 deals before noon gets a price
- The rep who upsells the most existing clients in this week gets a price
- The rep who wins the first opportunity from a prospect that’s currently a paying customer of a competing vendor wins.
- The rep that makes the most outbound calls of the day gets an award.
Depending on the priority and situation of your sales team, you can award cash prizes, vouchers, bonuses, “virtual points”, celebrate a winner on a Zoom call, let a rep take a day off, send them company swag, a new headset, or raise the stakes with even bigger means.
The beautiful thing about sales contests is that they create short-term urgency and engagement. Fun little sprints that energize your reps. Don’t underestimate the impact of a little play.
Most importantly—be a great listener. Understand how your team is doing, where they are emotionally, how you can support them, and ask them for candid feedback.
The best way to create a culture where people can freely speak their mind is when you lead by example and show them that you really want, expect, and appreciate it when they give you negative feedback. That’s hard to do, because in the end, we’re all just human, and we all have an ego.
To recap: Culture is key when you want long-term success for your remote sales team. Even if you’ve just made the switch to a distributed workforce because of the pandemic, by now you should have a good enough way of organizing the work in place: the tools, processes, and routines. It’s time to really double down on building a remote sales culture that will make your top performers love working for you.