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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

C-Suite Advisory

Four Keys For Transitioning To A Remote Sales Force

Can your team achieve its revenue goals without showing up in person at the office?

The answer is yes…if they have the right leadership. Transitioning from a traditional to a remote sales force can be a challenging undertaking even when you have months to plan for it. Yet it can also lead you and your organization to new levels of success in the marketplace.

Many of us are of the belief that if we were only able to work remotely, we would get much more accomplished. And that may be true! However, when we are tasked with the responsibility of moving an entire sales team from a traditional model to a full-time remote working model, we suddenly realize that the task we face is more complex than simply moving a workstation. It’s not only personal productivity under discussion, but the productivity of the whole selling team – and, by extension, the revenue performance that supports the entire company. This is a big transition. There are four major issues for you to consider if you are accountable for ensuring its success.

  1. Support. How do you plan on supporting the external sales force? You will no longer be working face-to-face, so which tools will you need to interact remotely? The support technologies can be broken into distinct categories: tools for tracking and productivity, and sharing information amongst the sales team (such as CRM tools, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and so on); tools for customer-facing teams; and tools for coaching.  All three of these support areas should be examined closely, and each solution should support and align with the tools selected in the other two areas. It’s worth taking some time to figure out the best answers for your organization and your market. I have seen too many managers make disastrous decisions based on the recommendation of a single member on the team – a quick decision that turns into a mid- to long-term mistake. (For some ideas to get you started, check out this video.)
  2. Expectations. When people are working remotely, we need to set clear, quantifiable expectations for deliverables in terms of daily and weekly activity/behavior. We at Sandler ensure that managers and salespeople work from a cookbook – a documented behavioral plan supporting each salesperson’s unique revenue goal with a group of behaviors designed to optimize their ability to reach that revenue goal. With a personalized cookbook, everybody understands exactly what needs to be done from a behavioral standpoint, every single working day. Think of the cookbook as identifying the critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are 100% under the salesperson’s personal control, day after day and week after week. (For example: “First-time voice-to-voice conversations with C-level contacts.”) Salespeople are required to set down those daily and weekly activity targets in black and white. Make sure that your team members file daily or weekly summaries of their actual vs. targeted behavior totals. That way there’s no room for confusion or missed expectations about what should be happening. You as the leader will know for sure that, if the activity numbers line up, everything necessary to hit your numbers is taking place on a daily basis. We want to set up an environment in which people can be self-sufficient, and a cookbook does that by covering what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
    We also enforce use of the KARE concept to clarify where team members allot their time within each of the four critical categories of their client base: Keep, Attain, Recapture, and Expand. (For more on KARE, take a look at this video.) You will want to build the cookbook around the salesperson’s specific KARE priorities.
    The KPIs for everyone working remotely must be crystal clear. That means talking about them on a weekly (or at the most a monthly) basis during one-on-one coaching sessions, as opposed to on an annual basis.
  3. Process Improvement. What processes do you need to streamline for your group to be self-sufficient as they work externally? Where do you need to make improvements? For instance, how user-friendly is your CRM system for salespeople accessing it via a cell phone? What template are they using for your pre-call planning sessions? What questions are they expected to be able to answer after a meeting with an important contact? What process should they follow to effectively plan for team sales calls conducted via a video conference platform? “Winging it” in these areas, or any of a dozen others, is simply not an option for leaders of remote sales teams. I’ve provided just a few examples, but you get the idea here: make a habit of identifying and troubleshooting the most critical processes so your team members can perform at an optimum level even when they don’t have direct access to you.
    Here’s another process improvement question for you: What process do you follow to guarantee the best remote meetings? For instance, I want to provide handouts and questions to our team members 24 hours ahead of time, so they can review and prepare thoughtful discussion points. You might want to do the same.
  4. Communication Planning. Plan out the points of contact with the individual members of your sales team…ahead of time. Schedule these “touches” on your calendar as repeating events; set up a predictable operating cadence. For instance, we would suggest that you schedule a series of Weekly Individual Meetings (WIMS). These are scheduled one-on-one phone or video discussions that typically take up less than ten minutes. They uncover what is about to happen in that salesperson’s world and identify where he or she may need your support. Once each member of the team gets into the routine of taking part in these scheduled calls, and understands exactly what they need to summarize for you or request from you, your team’s sales productivity – and your own individual productivity – will rise dramatically.

You may also want to consider setting up a plan for providing team-wide updates to your remote sales force. We post a weekly video to update people on what’s happening. This is a reliable, predictable source of information about the most important events, trends, and decisions. It minimizes the telephone game and ensures that everyone has relevant, accurate information. Creating a simple video briefing of five minutes or less makes it easy to update everyone – internally and externally – about the things that are likely to affect them, every single week.  We also have a single portal where all of our information resides, which means there is one resource for those who are missing items or need to review or retrieve documents.

Tackle these four essential issues – Support, Expectations, Process Improvement, and Communication Planning – and you will be well on your way to launching your transition as the leader of a remote sales team that crushes the competition.


Written by David H. Mattson.

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David H. Mattson
David H. Mattson is CEO and President of Sandler Training. He oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company’s global operations including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support. David Mattson is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
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