Two years on, the COVID pandemic is far away from over. But there are still remote sales teams that are struggling with the reality.
On one end, the salespeople use their video conferencing and CRM tools not to the full extent. And on the other, their colleagues have gone too far with automation, relying solely on technology when engaging with customers and team members.
This post will help you balance sales automation and human interaction while managing a remote sales team.
We’ve also included pro tips and insights from Marina Arkhireeva, a Sales Team Lead, who’s managing her team online amid the war in Ukraine.
Table of contents
- 3 Virtual sales team challenges
- 7 Strategies for setting up a virtual sales team for success
- 1. Build a sales communication strategy
- 2. Encourage your team to engage with prospects on social media
- 3. Simplify your lead management
- 4. Measure your remote team productivity
- 5. Find the balance between sales automation and personal interactions
- 6. Try remote team-building activities
- 7. Ask your virtual sales team for feedback.
- Final Thoughts
3 Virtual sales team challenges
Even though remote working is now widespread, sales reps had some challenges to overcome when transitioning from an in-person to a fully remote or hybrid workplace.
Managing your entire team and sales process remotely while maintaining high productivity is hard.
Couple that with the inability to control your team’s workflow, and the challenge becomes even more extensive.
So, what are the problems we encounter the most often?
1. Keeping your team connected while working remotely
When your colleagues are spread out across a country or worldwide, it’s tougher to feel connected.
The 2022 Hubspot report revealed that 40% of remote workers miss spontaneous, in-person connections with their colleagues, despite feeling the benefits of working from home.
As a result, losing connectedness and engagement can damage your productivity.
Therefore, virtual team leaders must bring their remote employees together and lead with empathy, finding out what works best for everyone.
2. Not having the right set of sales tools
In the office, understanding what’s going on in your team is effortless, but it becomes more complicated when devices are all you have to build the team environment.
There are plenty of tools for sales managers out there to choose from. Define your business and team needs and choose those that tick all the boxes.
Choosing the right remote work tools is crucial. However, if you rely on multiple technologies, you’ll spend a good amount of time switching between them. Learn how to optimize your time and improve your sales team’s collaboration.
3. Zoom fatigue
It’s not an overstatement to say that everyone in the sales and marketing department should know when to turn off.
Feeling pressured to be accessible or working at all times causes burnout, coupled with six calls per day that tires us out.
The fact is, 70% of remote workers have said that too many calls are disruptive to their concentration and that at least 50% of the meetings they joined could have been replaced by emails.
So, the real problem lies not in the video conferencing tools but in our current implementations of these technologies.
Thus, Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, highlights four reasons why people suffer from Zoom fatigue:
- We maintain excessive amounts of close-up eye contact.
- We become more critical of ourselves, constantly seeing a reflection of ourselves during video chats.
- Our movement during meetings is limited.
- In video chats, we have to work harder than in regular face-to-face interaction.
Once we take into account these problems, we’ll be able to reduce meeting fatigue and make videoconferencing a truly good thing for remote communication.
7 Strategies for setting up a virtual sales team for success
Salespeople can likely be impacted by the remote work challenges mentioned above.
Though regularly measuring your team’s effectiveness won’t necessarily help you feel more connected socially, it can undoubtedly help with team communication and productivity.
Let’s take a look at seven tips on how to manage a remote sales team effectively.
1. Build a sales communication strategy
Working remotely can be especially challenging for employees who’ve been speaking face-to-face with their managers and colleagues for years.
Therefore, strong communication is like the foundation of a household and should be a priority for a sales manager.
Once you establish explicit communication norms with your sales reps, they will know the best way to get ahold of you and one another via suitable channels.
Besides, creating an environment of transparency and trust is vital for remote sales team management.
So, to build a sales communications strategy, you need to:
- Analyze your SMART goals.
- Establish clear communication channels (choose an internal social tool and conferencing platform).
- Create consistent schedules and routines.
- Empower your team to create individual workflows to reach their goals.
- Collaborate with a marketing department to create cohesive communications.
This 5-step sales communication plan is a great place to start when you’re thinking about how you can improve your communication internally.
2. Encourage your team to engage with prospects on social media
When you’ve established an internal communication plan for your team, it’s time to think about external communication.
No matter what industry you’re in and what business goals you have, leveraging social media is a game-changer when it comes to engaging with leads.
Even if the company has an official page ruled by a Marketing Manager, the personal content on social media is crucial, believes Marina Arkhireeva, Sales Team Lead at Synebo. She explains:
“In fact, the customer communicates with you as with a person, not with a company or organization. Therefore, telling about your life, activities, and hobbies gives your audience a feeling of closer contact, makes them know you better, and, as a result, increases trust during negotiations.”
There are two things you need to consider before building your sales team’s social media strategy.
Pick the right social media channel
First, you have to define channels your prospects use more frequently. While Instagram and Pinterest are great for B2C companies, LinkedIn works best for B2B.
If you work in B2B, using LinkedIn for sales is probably one of the most effective strategies for building loyalty to your company and you personally.
But, of course, you will need to put a lot of effort into making the posts on your page helpful, filled with educational content and unique advice that you can give based on your experience.
Explain why personal content is key
Often you may notice that the reach of publications on a corporate page is much lower than on a personal page.
This is natural because people are more interested in personal stories than corporate ones.
And because people are often on social media at lunchtime or after work, they want to consume content filled with personal emotions and thoughts, not official statements and advertisements.
The same logic works with photos – people react to photographs taken from your smartphone more actively than to a professional photo shoot.
So the more your team personalizes content and shows their personalities, the better your engagement rates are.
3. Simplify your lead management
Remote selling is unthinkable without customer relationship management (CRM) tools nowadays.
As CRM has transformed into a means of managing all business functions in one place, more and more companies are choosing this type of software to optimize and automate processes.
CRM allows us to track each customer’s journey across all stages in the sales funnel. And when there are a lot of such clients, you can’t succeed without automation.
“As we have a massive amount of contacts, and our negotiation could be extended and take years, it’s crucial to systemize it with CRM. The human mind can’t save such an amount of information, and with the help of CRM tools, I could always rely on correct info, notes, and reminders. This helps me free my mind from administrative tasks for global goals, negotiations, and development,” adds Sales Team Lead.
Moreover, most CRM systems come with customer journey analytics capabilities, which empower you to make data-driven decisions.
4. Measure your remote team productivity
When sales reps know their deliverables well, they feel more accountable and engaged.
Therefore, set up to 10 key performance indicators (KPIs) for each team member, depending on their scope of work. There might be:
- Call volume
- Closed-won deals
- Revenue generated
- Outreach activities.
The vast majority of this data will be entered into the CPM one way or another, and you will see statistics every month.
However, it’s important to remember that these numbers don’t exist by themselves-it’s essential to analyze them with your team.
Discussing with the team why the results are the way they are with specific examples is also considered a helpful technique.
For example, you can collectively break down one of the sales reps’ conversations and reach conclusions together.
This not only develops your team but also demonstrates you as a mentor who knows how to listen to others.
“To manage the remote sales team, personal contact is always significant because each negotiation is individual. I’m always in touch with Sales Managers on weekly meetings to discuss the ongoing negotiations one by one,” – shares Marina Arkhireeva.
5. Find the balance between sales automation and personal interactions
The chances are high that you’ve already heard more than 30% of all sales tasks can be automated.
No wonder, taking into account that automation technologies are becoming more deeply embedded into day-to-day operations – to drive greater efficiencies and save costs.
According to IBM, 80% of companies are using automation software. And 38% of companies do it specifically to make employees more productive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, automation is not a panacea.
Just think of how many emails you receive, you remember?
Because they look similar, they trigger you after typical events and send you the message you’ve seen before.
“In a variety of automation searching tools, I still think it is beneficial to reach out to customers personally, not with automation. No automation could replace real human communication,” says Marina Arkhireeva, a Sales Team Lead at Synebo.
Like no other industry, sales is the place for personal interactions – empathy and authenticity.
Sure, bots are helpful sometimes, but their capabilities are limited.
Many specialists in the B2B segment expect your involvement in building lasting relationships.
“Working in a company that deals with automation, we still prefer manual customer search. And when prospects ask me whether I am bot or not, they are happy to find out that I am a real person,” adds Marina.
To avoid poor customer experience, you have to define what automation tools are necessary for your goals.
Perhaps, you can choose 3-5 and integrate them to access all the data quickly.
6. Try remote team-building activities
Virtual team building will help you keep employees engaged and motivated.
The primary goal of these activities is to improve communication within your virtual sales meetings and help your team work together more effectively.
Thus, if you want sales reps to get used to video conferencing tools they utilize at work, try virtual escape rooms.
They make the usage of the chosen tool for calls more comfortable, allow you to relax after work, and build team spirit, as they encourage people to cooperate towards a common goal.
To boost your team’s motivation, we also suggest celebrating important events, milestones, and wins and marking baby steps toward your goal.
7. Ask your virtual sales team for feedback.
“Getting feedback from a sales team is a key point in managing a remote sales team. Each sales manager goes through the exact pre-selling process, and sharing the individual experience helps us grow,” notes Marina Arkhireeva.
She adds that a Sales Team Lead should constantly ask team members for feedback, trying to find the most comfortable way to share feelings and opinions.
Comfort is key since delivering feedback online is even more challenging than in-office. To find the option that works best for each person in your team, you can try:
- One-on-one meetings via video conference or phone call
- Frequent check-ins in a chat
- Feedback during team meetings
- An anonymous feedback form.
According to Hubspot, 31% of workers said that anonymously providing feedback helps them feel more supported and included at work.
To be a successful remote sales manager, you need to pay attention to details that often seem insignificant.
These include regular feedback, comfort calls, and tools for managing your leads.
Sometimes it feels like you can still work without it. But that’s not true; the entire team’s productivity depends on the sum of these things.
That’s why it’s essential to choose only software tailored to your team.
And if you use a dozen services that are not 100% suitable, you’re wasting your time and accumulating stress.
So talk to your team, learn what things work best for you, and don’t forget to take the time to ask for feedback.
Kristina Shkriabina is a Marketing Manager at Synebo, a Salesforce development company. Kristina is passionate about Social Media Marketing, street art, and design.