How to Keep Remote Sales Reps Connected With the Team

Your outside sales is crucial to your business. Compared to your inside sales team, your outside sales reps are on the ground meeting your customers, building personal relationships, and closing deals.

Since your outside sales reps are technically remote workers, how do you integrate them with the rest of your team that works on-site?

outside-sales
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Managing a remote team is not easy, and when you have remote sales reps traveling the globe, even getting face time over a video conference call can be challenging due to time zone issues. Communication is probably over email, which means there are chances of misunderstandings and hence inefficiencies could creep in. For example, your product team may have updated features but your remote sales reps might still be selling an outdated version of the product.

When your entire team is on-site, it’s easy to just walk down the hall and tap someone on the shoulder to get the latest feature update in your product. You also build a sense of camaraderie when you are working alongside your colleagues.

The remote sales rep may start to feel isolated when they are working at home or traveling on the road. This can lead to poorer job performance and results in them not meeting their sales quotas.

In general, remote work has increased by 140% since 2005 according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics. How do you ensure your outside sales reps and remote workers are connected with the on-site team? Some teams struggle to find the right balance between remote sales reps and inside sales reps. How do the best teams manage their remote employees?

Establish clear expectations for each remote sales rep

Even though your outside sales reps have clear sales quotas, you should also set clear team related expectations for the remote workers at the beginning of each quarter. Again, communication is difficult with remote work so you have to make it clear that the remote sales rep has to make an effort to feel connected to the team.

You could implement OKRs so that your remote sales reps have measurable goals they know they have to hit. OKRs were popularized by Google in 1999, and is widely used today among Fortune 500 companies.

Examples of expectations you could set at the beginning of the quarter:

  • Must participate in two weekly video conference calls with the product and management teams
  • Send detailed customer notes from at least five sales meetings a week
  • Get training once in every two weeks from the product team on new features which are being rolled out

Establishing clear expectations is important for your team as a whole. A Gallup poll showed that only 50% of employees know what is expected of them at work. This means there can even be some inefficiencies in your team if the team members do not know what’s expected of them!

Emphasize over-communication whenever possible

With faster internet connection and video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Webex, you would think that remote workers would feel connected at all times, right?

Unfortunately, even though you can see a remote colleague over video conference, you may not be communicating as well as you should. This tactic goes back to the interview process when you are onboarding remote sales reps. Interview questions you might ask a potential remote sales rep include:

  • What tools have you used in the past to communicate as a remote worker?
  • How did you communicate when you are working across different time zones?
  • How did you track your status updates and communicate them to your broader team?

Many teams that have remote sales reps use Slack to keep up to date on what the sales reps are doing in the field. Some argue that Slack actually decreases productivity, but for a remote team, Slack is more of a boon than a curse. Updates over e-mail can get lost especially when the outside sales rep has a simple update to pass along to the team.

slack-chart
Source: Voc

Utilize standard meeting agendas and meeting templates

If you have weekly team meetings or all-hands meetings, chances are you have a standard template for keeping track of minutes, agendas, and notes. Remote sales reps may have their own meeting templates for keeping track of their customer meetings and one-on-one meetings with potential customers.

If you don’t have a central place to store and access meeting notes and minutes, it can lead to further miscommunication and mismanagement of time. Sometimes you want to refer back to old sales meeting minutes and you don’t remember exactly where the notes are stored, so you spend an hour searching your shared drive, email, and Google Docs for the notes!

A proper meeting notes template should have areas to write free-form meeting minutes, a space for the meeting agenda, and also a place for remote workers to ask questions. Additionally, the template should be accessible on any device, allow real-time collaboration, and give anyone on your team the ability to filter for right meeting notes. I work remotely at Coda, and developed these meeting templates to help teams that need a standard doc to share across time zones and locations.

outside-sales-meeting-template
Source: Coda

Outside sales reps should get into the habit of sharing their meeting notes with the broader team so that everyone knows who they are meeting with and what objections customers may have.

Create and document scalable processes

One of the most important aspects of running a business is having scalable processes. This is especially useful when you onboard new team members and they need to understand the current processes your company has built internally.

“Most companies leave far too much of the sales process up to the individual salespeople. Yet to create the Ultimate Sales Machine, you must work as a team, utilizing everyone’s brainpower to drill down, perfect, and procedurize each aspect of the sales process.” – Chet Holmes, The Ultimate Sales Machine

Yes, creating sales processes is key for your remote sales reps to function at a high level. Having operational processes also ensures outside sales reps feel a part of the team. As I mentioned above, establishing clear expectations comes from having solid processes in place so that your outside sales reps know the right cadence of product feature updates, weekly team meetings, and team all-hands meetings. With the right processes, they will also know how they need to contribute to these meetings.

Going back to having a standardized meeting template, your outside sales reps may not follow your processes if they are not properly documented somewhere. That’s why having a good meeting template will help your remote sales reps know there is one central document to go to when the next team meeting occurs.

When your remote sales team is held accountable to your company’s processes, it builds trust between your remote sales team and the broader team. According to Who Coaches You?, this also increases team performance.

outside-sales-accountability
Source: Who Coaches You?

Building a successful remote sales team

There are many ways you can build a remote sales team that feels integrated with other functions in your company. Clear expectations, over-communication, standard meeting templates, and scalable processes are just some of the tips that have helped my team.

“A strong outside sales team starts with strong management.” – Cassandra Aceves, Badger Maps

Ultimately, these tips will only work for your team if your management buys into these changes. It may take some time for these changes to happen. The best way is to experiment with one or two, survey your outside sales reps to see if they like the process improvement, and then make the process an integral part of your team culture.