As the cases of Covid-19 keep decreasing in North America, there continues to be lots of talk about the future of sales around remote sales reps. Last week I sat in on a few sessions of the Canadian Sales Educators Symposium event. There were many sessions that focused on the work from home or remote sales reps. With offices starting to re-open again, there are a lot of predictions about how the new normal will look like. Here are a few of the benefits, challenges, and some tips on managing your remote sales reps.
Benefits of Remote Sales Reps
Some companies had remote sales reps as part of their teams before Covid-19. This moved to almost all teams over last year and a half. Having remote sales reps hasn’t been all bad. There were many benefits for organizations.
- The most obvious benefit was time savings. For many salespeople in-person meetings were regular occurrences. That could mean fighting traffic in a car, using public transit, and in many cases, flying. Being remote has eliminated travel time allowing sales reps to be able to work on more sales related tasks versus traveling.
- It is also easier to involve more people from the customer side in meetings sooner. For enterprise sales, there can be multiple people involved. Utilizing video meetings can allow you to bring more people into meetings much easier. Face-to-face or small geographic based meetings can now be much larger and involve more stakeholders.
- Opening up to remote sales reps also allows organizations to recruit salespeople from other geographies, not just around the head office. As one of the companies based in KW was hiring salespeople in the prairies, they got great people at an affordable rate. Communitech has a program that helps hire international for sales roles.
Challenges of Working From Home
There can also be challenges associated with remote sales reps. These last few months may have been a challenge as companies and sales leaders have had to support remote sales reps. Here are a few of the challenges that may have occurred.
- Account executives that relied on face-to-face meetings and relationships may have struggled.
- Hiring and onboarding may not have been originally built on being remote.
- Management can be quite different without onsite support. I call this management by walking around.
- Career advancement can be more challenging as the remote sales rep could be out of site and out of mind.
- Some sales reps may have needed or need help with technology and getting their workplaces set-up.
Tips For Working Remotely
Everyone has learned a lot of the last few months on working with remote sales reps. Here are a few tips.
- During the hiring process you can look at their work space and also test their experience/comfort level with remote tools.
- Make sure you have the right communications plan with your reps. Look for tools that can help with one-on-one and individualized support. That could range from tools to review their calls to using slack to interact through the day in a less formal way.
- Look for alternatives to build relationships and provide your reps with a plan and strategies that they can use with customers. As an example, instead of lunch with customers, they could order food remotely and have lunch together. Our team at VA Partners has an informal lunch before our team meetings.
- Mix in a few office days or regional meetings. Before the pandemic, we were a work from home 1 to 2 days a week. It will likely be 2 to 3 days a week, timing it so the team is in together and organizing some fun activities as a team, like we did before.
- Make sure your sales reps have visibility for the leadership team. This could mean Zoom calls, or if there are trips to head office, some face time. You want to keep good people and give them a path to move forward.
VA Partners has been working remotely with most of our customers since we started. If you need help on how to maximize your remote sales team reach out to me for a conversation.