Remote working has been on the rise for many years. People in search of jobs are more likely to accept a job if they offer part-time or optional remote work. But, along with all the perks of remote work, one of the negatives is engagement. It's hard to create that bond, office atmosphere, and engagement when your team is virtual. Here are three easy C's to mitigate the lack of connection.
Salespeople are often considered the original remote workers because they're rarely in the office even when they have traditional office space. More often than not, a portion of your sales team will live in another state or another country. This gives them a lot of autonomy to do their jobs how they see fit, and they even enjoy "being left alone." As of 2019, according to Remote.co, the number of companies with a remote workforce is growing — 66% of companies allow remote work, and 16% are fully remote. That means this feeling of disconnect will increase if you don't start acting soon. Three ways to keep your team engaged are:
Remote work comes in different forms. Some people work remotely a few days a week, a few days a month, and for others whose companies are hundreds of miles away, their entire job is remote. So, communication is critical.
Set clear expectations with your team and communicate them often. When they are working remotely, what hours should they be available? 24/7? Regular office hours? What is the expectation for their role? Clarifying what remote hours to be active is essential for different time zones. What reports/updates do they need to provide to demonstrate their progress? When should their CRM information be up to date? When do they let you know changes to the forecast or a significant setback with a customer? When do they have access to you, the sales leader, so that they can plan their time? Communicating expectations creates a reliable accountability system and surfaces issues much faster. It also allows them to feel independent without feeling disconnected.
Another essential rule to set is how and when to use communication tools. Figure out when your team should use chat groups or messenger apps? What specific information do you send via email? At what point do they pick up the phone? An example of this would be sending vital opportunity information via email because it can be easily filed and saved vs. in a chat group. A call is excellent for clarity, and a chat group is great at reminding people of tasks or small changes.
Once you have questions and communication channels locked down, start to figure out how you want to measure your sales team’s performance. Without clear parameters in place, it is difficult to know if someone is performing well, much less be able to hold them accountable to it. We like to say the phone is for communication, email is for information, and CRM provides a complete picture of what's actually happening.
The distance also makes it harder for team members to feel like a team. In the worst-case scenario, they're just strangers working in different parts of the state or country, who just so happen to be connected by the same project. Sure, they exchange messages and chat occasionally, but they are missing out on the collaboration and creative synergy that can make work exceptional and emotionally fulfilling. People need to feel that they are united, or a part of something bigger, and that includes being a team member and a part of your organization as a whole.
What can you do to help connect remote salespeople? A study by Zogby Analytics found that 41% of remote teams are still left to coordinate via text, Skype, Facebook messenger, and other social media channels instead of being given mobile platforms that are specifically designed for remote project management and communication. Start with investing in real remote tech. Not only will the software work better, but it will ensure ease of use. Efficiency, and secure collaboration.
After you have those tools in place, it's time to set the tone of the online workspace. The key to doing this is to be intentional. What can you do first thing in the morning to help your salespeople know they are a part of the team? Maybe it's a fun morning gif contest over chat? Or maybe there's a daily group goal or milestone you can celebrate. Illustrate the ways their role contributes to the team and company goals. Share company information beyond the sales team. Let them know how their work is contributing to so many others. Highlight when a salesperson communicates effectively. Let them talk about it. The more they share, the more it reinforces the behavior you're looking for. Continue to let them know that the work they are doing matters today.
Culture is a huge part of retaining high performers. What culture are you creating? Culture is built by the behaviors that are rewarded or punished consistently over time. If you want to know more about guiding good behaviors, check out our blog on, "The ABC's Of Managing Your Sales Team."
If you aren't intentional with your remote guidelines, a subculture will be created that might not align with your company values. It's easy to say that you value transparency, but what happens if people feel like they are not receiving consistent information or that their colleagues have more information than they do?
One way to make sure this doesn't happen is to encourage knowledge sharing. Reward those within the group who share helpful insight, tips, articles, or anything else that could help others on your team. Then support your salespeople who ask questions. Chances are if they are asking a question, someone else has that same or a similar problem.
Another way to create a common culture is to make sure everyone on your sales team has similar learning or training. According to Quantum Workplace, 76% of remote workers say they need more work-related training, and it comes as no surprise that 85% receive it online. Letting your remote salespeople learn at their own pace can help them remain engaged, which can be a great use of e-learning. Try creating short webinars and other online content that everyone has access to. Give them a week to absorb it and then reward them when they finish the course or quiz them on how they've applied it on the job.
With any sales team, but especially a remote sales team, smaller subgroups can form and influence the culture. This can be a good thing if it aligns with the company culture, or it can cause even further division if it doesn't align. Bringing remote teams together for meetings or training can be a great way to give people face-to-face time and promote collaboration. Being able to reinforce the culture when the group is together is essential.
Remote work is gaining popularity especially in sales organizations, not just because more businesses understand how to maximize remote work without a physical office. But, because it's beneficial to their team and company. The ever-growing challenge of remote sales team members not feeling engaged is growing smaller every year as more technology advances, and people have more ways to connect. Remember, your three C's: communication, connection, and culture, and you'll have a happy, engaged, and productive remote sales team.