A few days ago I posted some tips for managing a remote sales team.
Those tips were fine, but they were also pretty basic—the stuff we have to do as sales leaders, no matter what. So, I thought a follow up with more specific remote management advice for leading a nascent sales team.
Articulate your expectations and measure them every day.
When you are a new sales team you don’t have all your benchmarks identified. That’s not a reason to be wishy-washy though. Clearly communicate your expectations about activity and/or outcomes, and then measure against it every day.
For some roles or ramp levels, you may need to measure activity. Like calls per day, emails sent, social touches, number of accounts worked, etc. In this case, be clear about the activity you expect, and hold everyone accountable to hit that activity level.
Better is when you get to the place you can measure outcomes. Because what you care about isn’t activity, but results. Like appointments set, opportunities created, pipeline generated, deals won, bookings, etc.
Make sure you are measuring either activity or outcomes, reporting on it, sharing results and holding people accountable.
Shadow a lot of calls.
If you are running a newer sales org, you probably have a lot of ramping reps. One of the best things you can do it shadow their calls. This helps you hear their talk tracks, but also allows you to jump in and help guide the call if they get over their head.
Have reps record their calls.
When you are remote you don’t have the benefit of overhearing calls on the floor, or getting the quick download of a call when a rep pops in your office to debrief. But when you’re just getting your sales team off the ground, you need to be listening to a lot of calls and call recording can help distribute that effort.
Leverage call recording software and listen to calls asynchronously. When you are showering, going for your morning run, eating lunch…whenever and wherever you can squeeze it in.
And with call recording, the team can listen to (and learn from) each other’s calls. The transparency of call recording is powerful—you will be able to diagnose problems with more certainty and create best practices for your playbook more quickly.
Update the playbook frequently.
When you are a newer sales team you are learning every day—how to overcome a new objection, a better way to handle a differentiation question, a new way to get a prospect into a trial account, etc. Make sure you are updating your playbook every week with learnings. With a distributed team, everyone needs a single destination for everything they need.
Coach to the playbook.
It’s not enough to just update the playbook, you need to coach to the playbook every day. In your individual and team meetings, refer to the playbook, pull up the playbook, use the playbook…that’s how the team becomes accustomed to using the playbook as a resource. It will help ramp reps more quickly, and ensure everyone is selling the same way.
Roleplay. A lot.
A role-play session doesn’t have to be long—even a 5-10 minute session can be helpful. Some of my favorite topics to role play are appointment setting, qualification, discovery and objection handling. This is how everyone learns from each other and practices in a safe space. A new team should be spending time doing role-play every day, even when they are working remotely.
Manage for process compliance.
When you are managing a newer sales team remotely, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for reps to be doing their own thing. This isn’t the time for a ‘Wild Wild West’ approach. You want everyone following the same sales process, using the same sales methodology, prospecting the same definition of ICPs, using the same cadences. That’s how you measure and improve with certainty. With everyone working remote things will feel really chaotic and inefficient if they are each doing their own thing.
Focus on what you know.
The challenge with running a new sales team can be that there are a lot of unknowns. So focus on what you do know. If you use the list above you will know metrics, expected activities, and outcomes, plays, and skill. You will know what’s working and what’s not, and be able to optimize. Stay hyper-attentive to what you know and the path will illuminate. If you get lost in what you don’t yet know, it can be a distraction and at a time when all of your attention is needed on moving the team forward.
The bottom line on leading a new-ish sales team remotely
If your sales org isn’t a well-oiled machine and you find yourself unexpectedly having to manage remotely, it’s time to be very black and white, and perhaps a bit more prescriptive than you may be otherwise.
Focus on what you know and what you can measure, be clear and consistent. Inspect everything, and above all else, follow your gut. If you think something is ‘off’ it probably is. Chase that down until you figure it out. If things are working, do more of that. And most of all, give your team lots of attention, coaching, and guidance.