April 27, 2021

The idea of having employees work in different locations around the world was once the domain of large multinational corporations.

Due to increasing networking and digitization, more and more companies are taking advantage of the opportunities to recruit the best talent from all over the world.

Recruiting is now a worldwide network. Sometimes the idea of working remotely is less about bringing in international employees and more about letting employees work from home.

But successfully managing remote teams poses enormous challenges for companies. Earlier this year, it was reported that IBM is reversing its policy on remote working and banning teleworking, telling employees to either work at a main location or quit.

Does that mean it's impossible to effectively manage remote sales teams?

Of course not. The key to success lies in the question of how the teams are set up correctly.

So how is it possible to motivate your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) when they are on the other side of the globe?

How do you make sure they're contributing to the business instead of watching Netflix at your own expense? And are there times when you shouldn't be using a remote sales team?

Pros and cons of remote sales teams

First, let's take a look at some of the key benefits:

Lower costs. The big advantage of using remote teams is the savings. Office costs represent an enormous cost factor that should not be underestimated. There is an enormous urban-rural divide, but the best minds live in the cities and want short commutes, as numerous studies have shown over and over again for years. But this is where rents are highest. We all know the reports about not steadily rising real estate prices, which did not take a breather even in the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, for many companies, saving office space appears to be an extremely attractive option.

Unparalleled access to top talent:

Building a remote team gives you the opportunity to hire the best people from all over the world. There are millions of talented people out there who are overlooked. Imagine how powerful your sales team can be if it's not limited to the talent in your area.

Get the best work out of your team. Many people worry that remote workers will only do what is necessary. They probably think so because most people don't work in offices all the time they're there. However, my experience has been that given the opportunity to work on their own terms, people do their best job. That means your remote team may very well do better than the one chained to their office.

However, that doesn't mean that leading a remote sales team doesn't come with challenges too. I've found the two biggest drawbacks to be a lack of knowledge sharing and communication difficulties.

No matter how well you've set things up, nothing can replace sitting next to a group of your colleagues and sharing feedback from a meeting and with customers.

It can also be difficult to build a sufficient level of trust, especially in the first few months. While many people can work remotely with no problem, it is not for everyone. In many cases, a successful home office fails due to missing or incorrect equipment.

You can never know with 100 percent certainty how someone will work. Even with the best of intentions, making the transition can be especially difficult when it's your first remote position.

Using Sales Development Reps to Boost Your Sales

An important member of a sales team, whether remote or not, is the Sales Development Rep (SDR). Simply put, their job is to generate leads for the back office team.

Your focus is on targeting the right type of prospect for your business, not closing the sale.

In my experience, this is one of the most difficult positions to fill and train. One reason for this is that the job is constantly changing. Usually the sales process looks something like this:

Qualify and contact your lead
  • Go through your exploratory / fact-finding questions to make sure your prospect is right for your business
  • Go through the cycle of requirements and product fit
  • Discuss details like pricing
  • Complete the sale

Most SDRs have a slew of new technologies that most typical salespeople have never seen or used. The workflow is constantly changing. Most SDRs also have the disadvantage of not knowing how to sell or buy technology.

The role of SDR comes with a lot of training, and many companies don't have their own SDR manager to properly scale this team.

Despite the challenges, I would recommend that you seriously consider hiring an SDR once you have 2-3 employees. You want your sales team to focus on sales, not acquisition.

I know there are different opinions on this and not everyone will agree, but I never understood why sales executives want their highest paid sales reps to spend 25-50% of their day working an SDR. It just doesn't make sense.

The companies that get this right understand the value of an SDR and its ROI to the organization.

One solution that I've seen many companies is hiring outsourced companies as the first SDR.

The cost is the same (if not lower) than hiring an in-house SDR, but now you get all the knowledge sharing and experience of a professional managing your campaigns. Everyone is happy.

Your TP has one less person to train and have to go through the first three months to find out whether this setting works or not. The sales team is pumped full of leads and you've dramatically increased the chances of achieving your goals.

Once the model works for you, you can start building the team in-house.

Building your remote dream team

Hands-on experience is invaluable in finding the right people to join your team.

For example someone who has sold a similar order value or sales cycle.

In addition, character and personal drive are crucial. It is always better if an employee really believes in the product and wants to solve a real problem for the customer, instead of just wanting to close a deal.

That's not part of our culture at Proceeds; we don't push hard selling with our foot in the door. Rather, we try to understand our customers' business and train them to help them achieve their goals. If we can't do this for our prospects, we won't earn their business.

An often overlooked aspect of attracting the right talent for your company is showing your passion for the company.

If you can't show enthusiasm for your company, then how can you expect a potential employee to want to work for you?

When it comes to team size, there is no one size fits all. They hire when the business calls for it.

As the company grows, the number of remote workers is likely to increase too.

It is important to follow the same process that you would follow if you were to hire people in the company. Too often I see companies that reduce the hiring process to a short Skype call and a letter of offer. That is not enough. You can use a pre-hire aptitude test to assess your applicants' cognitive and essential skills.

Make sure you have adequate training for remote workers. If you don't already have a new employee induction guide, wait until you have one.

Have your training manual ready before you hire new employees. Alternatively, you can plan two weeks on site for training and getting to know the employees and work processes.

This way, your new hires will feel part of the team from day one and understand the people and business practices of your company.

How to lead remote workers

Active management is central to a high-performing team. For remote teams, this means regular communication. Fortunately, today's technology makes this inexpensive and easy.

Nothing beats calling and talking to your team members. Sometimes that means picking up the phone.

We have also set up a CRM with excellent activity reports. It's also easier to track the performance of sales teams compared to other teams because the results are easy to interpret: How many leads have been contacted? How many sales were made?

However, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Building a great remote sales team without trust is impossible.

To keep productivity high, you need to hold everyone accountable. We are looking for people who can manage themselves and take responsibility. Your remote team won't work if you watch over them all the time.

I hear so often that people worry about how to be sure the team is working and how to trust them. That is an understandable concern. Therefore, you have to hold your external employees just as responsible as everyone else in your company. Make sure your expectations are defined, then use simple methods of communication.

Make your remote teams part of the company

The best companies make sure that remote teams are as much a part of the company as any employee. We never want a "them against us" attitude.

Yes, remote sales teams can be an important part of your business if you set them up and run them properly. Make communication a priority and provide constructive feedback.

Hold employees accountable with clear goals and expectations. Build trust that goes both ways. Acknowledge the work of your remote team and reward their efforts. In return, they will reward you too.

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