Motivating Your Sales Team in a Remote-First World

Sales leaders have historically faced an uphill battle in keeping their reps ready and able to run through a wall for them.  In a position that faces consistent rejection (no matter how good the rep is), long hours and tons of pressure—motivation is important.  The sales team is undoubtedly the group that relies most heavily on the need for unfettered drive.

This challenge got even more difficult in a COVID world, as sales teams are now often 100% remote.

The revenue producing groups are, in many cases, dispersed throughout the world and siloed both mentally and physically. While challenging and ever-shifting, this new paradigm presents opportunities to have a team that is more motivated than ever.

The following steps will help your employees not just survive, but thrive in the remote world:

Hire The Right Players/Train the Existing Ones

As sales leaders move forward in this brave (some may say strange) new world, there are certain characteristics that are important in hiring and running a remote team. If the teammates are existing ones then leaders can emphasize/train for these qualities.

  • Being self-motivated and resilient – this may seem obvious and in some ways unteachable, but – whether in-office or 100% remote – most sales leaders look for this characteristic no matter what. In the contemporary world, the ability to strive for goals and push through adversity without constant pep talks becomes more important than ever. Hopefully, you’ve already hired a team with this skill, but if you’re having to train it, focus on the five core elements of resiliency: building self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and purpose.
  • Communicative – again, another trait that should be a part of any salesperson’s makeup, being a masterful and persistent communicator is paramount in so many ways. The sales team has to rely on each other for many things including leads, sales techniques, industry/internal news and support. If reps go into “lone wolf” mode and stops communicating with leaders and teammates, the results could be devastating. There are a variety of ways to build communication skills, and the key here is to ensure proper expectations are set around regular communication with the team.
  • KPI driven – communication and motivation are somewhat abstract, while key performance indicators (KPIs) are not. Hard, undeniable numbers are an excellent way for leaders to hold the remote team accountable, as well as to watch trends to see which members seem to be motivated and on-point, and who might be fading or disengaged. It’s difficult to have a sales team focus on a variety of KPIs at the same time, however, so choose the ones that correlate best with your sales success. Perhaps this is the number of initial appointments, or value of proposals, plus of course closed business (value and number of deals)– choose what two or three key metrics correlate with success at both bottom-of-funnel and further up the sales funnel.

Give the Team the Proper Tools for Success

Sales tools, especially those that can help provide valuable insight to the underpinnings of your business, become as important as ever in the dispersed world, here are  a few must haves:

  • A world-class CRM – Task monitoring, pipeline management, funnel awareness and robust tracking data are key. Particularly as sales reps move to a remote world, even CRM-resistant reps need to be tracking their activity so sales leaders can identify any issues early, and can support the highest levels of success.
  • Marketing automation software – In an environment that can have many distractions, automating and following up on emails, managing social sites and centralizing marketing collateral is a must.
  • Internal messaging system – The need to communicate with leaders, teammates, HR, IT, etc. is more important than ever, and can help significantly with team bonding (see below).
  • A video conferencing platform – Demos, discovery, pitch decks and internal meetings all rely on this ultra-important technology for the sales team to drive revenue.

Encourage Team Bonding

This may be the most difficult of all aspects of managing remote teams, but team bonding is critical to keep sales teams engaged and motivated, especially when they’re facing rejection from the outside world and don’t have friends around them in the office to vent their frustrations to.

  • Maintain a sales leaderboard – Snapshots of discoveries, demos and deals are huge in motivation and create a healthy competitive environment.
  • Create a break room – There is no deal talk here (okay there inevitably will be), mainly a place for sales reps to hang out and let off some inevitable steam or get to know their teammates in a casual environment. There are lots of online ways to do this, whether it’s a virtual office environment like Orbital, or just a BreakRoom channel on Slack. The most important thing is to build genuine connections, which will improve resiliency and engagement.
  • Encourage recognition – Closing a big deal and not getting recognition from your boss and – more importantly – your teammates can be a real bummer. Recognize! Give them a shout-out on Slack or Teams (ideally in a public channel as appropriate), and you can even pick up the phone to thank them and congratulate them live.
  • Keep those cameras on – This may seem simple but it can quickly become a bad habit to show up to an internal meeting with your still picture/avatar. Having your camera on and being present encourages engagement and bonding. That said, some teams have found success in creating walking meetings – in which case, perhaps people are on camera for the first five minutes, then go off camera and people can get some fresh air while they catch up.
  • Create a budget for quarterly/yearly get togethers – While this may seem counterintuitive in an article covering remote work, regular in-person get togethers go a long way toward creating trust and respect, and are well worth the budget.

Keep that Work/Life Balance (or Blend)

Work/life balance is a constant topic of conversation and something many companies tout as a big part of their culture. While those promises are sometimes left unfulfilled, this notion becomes more difficult in a remote environment. A well managed life/work balance makes employees more happy overall, eases stress and ultimately makes for a more productive employee.

In fact, remote workers cite better work-life balance as the top reason they work remotely. Keep in mind that top performing salespeople aren’t always naturally great at work/life balance, which can lead to burnout and/or disengagement, so it’s even more important to highlight this balance with your best sales team members.

A few ways to ensure your employees meet this important equilibrium:

  • Respect your employees’ hours – Yes, the sales team keeps crazy hours sometimes – 5am demos, 10pm discovery calls in New Zealand and red-eye flights working on proposals, but there still needs to be respect for “normal hours” and weekends. Let them choose when they want to work, and you’ll see much better performance from great salespeople.
  • Encourage your employees to actually use their PTO – It is there for a reason, and getting away is not only a great way to motivate the team to do well monetarily but to allow them to refresh the batteries and come back ready to crush those numbers. Pro tip: except for very rare exceptions, don’t let your team take a cash payout instead of a Presidents’ Club trip.
  • Encourage them to take at-home breaks – Respect their morning routine, let them take a lunch break daily as much as possible, and be supportive of them when taking 30 minutes in the afternoon to go get the kiddos from school. With the right team, they will more than make up for the hours they were on break.
  • Support your employee’s mental health – Encourage employees to take care of themselves mentally by supporting healthy eating, exercise and the occasional mental health day off.

Losing a top salesperson can be incredibly expensive, both the cost to replace them and the damage to their in-flight deals and customer relationships. Performica can identify at-risk employees and help retain them, using proven HR best practices and AI, and delivering same-year ROI. Learn more and schedule a demo today!

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