Companies are still navigating through the many changes brought on by the pandemic. One such change is that salespeople that once reported into an office are working in remote offices or in a hybrid working environment. There are pros and cons to both models.
The pros are that salespeople feel more productive. They don’t miss the long commutes. Buyers are comfortable meeting salespeople via video so a salesperson can make more sales calls.
The cons to this type of working environment means that sales managers must be much more intentional in how they connect, communicate and build sales communities, what I like to call the “sales village.”
Now, remote working is not a new business model. It’s been around for a long time. As a former Vice President of Sales, we had over 100 remote salespeople all over the country. We were remote before remote was cool!
One of the things I quickly learned as a leader is:
Your sales team is remote. You are not.
I’m not sure who said this quote, however, it sums up what it takes to lead a remote sales team. “You can’t lead from behind a desk or a video.”
Don’t get me wrong.
There is a time and place for virtual sales management.
And there is a time and place for in person sales management.
Face-to-face communication, connection and conversations matter. We can discuss a whole bunch of studies and research to back up this point. However, apply common sense. Think about your own experience in the development of friendships and relationships. Many of those relationships developed and deepened by spending face-to-face time with that person.
It’s kind of like on-line dating. At some point you need to meet the person face-to-face.
As I reflect on my years as a “remote sales manager” there were three things that myself and other sales managers did well to create comradery, team work and a sales village.
1. Get out of your office and get into your salesperson’s office. It doesn’t matter if you are leading inside sellers or field sellers. Invest one-on-one time with your salespeople. Getting out of your office gives you an opportunity to meet your salesperson's family or simply see the day in the life of your salesperson. It’s easy to default to the old excuse, “I don’t have time.”
We make time for what is important. And face-to-face connections are important.
When I was a regional sales manager, I had 18 direct reports. I logged a lot of hours on planes and cars traveling to appointments with salespeople. These hours gave me an opportunity to provide coaching and training. More importantly, these hours gave me the opportunity to build relationships with my team.
2. Schedule more in person group sales meetings. We held two meetings a year in order to keep our salespeople connected. A large national sales meeting and smaller, regional sales meetings. Your first thought might be, “Wow, that’s a lot of money. We can’t afford that.” Think again.
Gallup research shows that having a best friend at work leads to better performance. These sales meetings created work friendships.
Gallup’s employee engagement work shows that companies that create this type of environment enjoy 12% higher profit. That should take care of any argument about the expense of bringing people together.
3. Bring back incentive trips that may have stopped during the pandemic. My experience with sales incentive trips is that I ended up doubling my sales force---without additional expense. How? Husbands, wives, partners and friends that accompanied the salesperson on the trip became my second sales managers. They were my salespeople’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters because they wanted to be on that trip the next year!
Sales managers, remote working doesn’t mean that you are remote. Get out of the office and invest time with your company’s greatest asset, your people.