Stellar sales work is possible outside of a traditional company office. As a sales manager, it is important to lead your remote team with the intention of helping them reach their goals while adjusting to a new way to work.
Depending on how your team is used to working, you may need to make some changes to your management approach to set your team up for success.
Remote Sales Management Challenges
Working remotely can be challenging for sales teams, and for managers who are used to working with employees face-to-face, there can be some uncertainty around how to support employees in a remote setting. Some challenges remote sales managers face include:
Knowing when to turn off: Feeling pressured to be accessible or working at all times.
Keeping employees engaged: Ensuring team members feel supported and productive when working from afar.
Barriers to collaboration: In the absence of face-to-face interaction and close proximity, creating opportunities to collaborate can feel few and far between.
We asked HubSpot sales managers what their biggest learnings have been to overcome these challenges and more when managing remote salespeople. Here’s what they had to say.
Tips for Remote Sales Management
Establish clear communication channels.
Create consistent routines and schedules.
Set measurable goals and KPIs.
Make time for remote team-building.
Look for creative opportunities to build relationships.
Focus on remote-specific sales enablement strategies.
Empower your reps to find their individual workflows.
1. Establish clear communication channels.
According to HubSpot’s 2019 Remote Work Report, 29% of remote workers say communicating with coworkers is one of the biggest challenges they face working remotely. For employees who are used to speaking face-to-face with their manager and colleagues to ask a question or get feedback on a problem, working remotely can be especially challenging.
To lead a successful remote team, strong communication should be a top priority. When reps are used to being able to swing by their manager or a colleague’s desk to exchange information, digital tools can create accessibility in the absence of proximity.
This is not to say employees should be accessible at all times (in fact, we don’t recommend taking that approach). It does mean all members of your team need to know how to get ahold of you as their manager, or one another as colleagues, through the appropriate channels at the appropriate times.
For example, your reps may want to use email to send you messages that don’t need an immediate response. A chat tool such as Slack can be used for sending brief messages that need an immediate response, or for appropriate social conversations. And video conferencing software such as Zoom can be used for one-on-one meetings and calls that provide the face-to-face element phone calls lack.
When it comes to communicating with remote team members, it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate. If you see a message come through that you aren’t able to get to right away, let the sender know you saw it and will address it when you complete your current task. Or if you do need to step away from work and use a tool such as Slack, set a status letting others know you are away from your desk so they know you won’t be providing an immediate response.
Establishing clear communication norms with your sales reps so they know the best way to get ahold of you and one another via the proper channels.
2. Create consistent routines and schedules.
According to HubSpot Senior Sales Manager Tiki Biswal, consistent schedules and routines are essential for managing effective remote sales reps. He says,
"If you don’t have regularly scheduled one-on-one’s, deal reviews, and coffee chats, it will be hard to ensure that your remote reps are getting the time and attention they need. I recommend setting a regular schedule for these events to keep in communication.
One hack that I used with one of my remote reps — I would let him know whenever I was commuting to and from work, and make myself available for a phone call. That created an additional hour and a half per day that my remote rep had my undivided attention."
As your team shifts to remote, look at your current meeting cadence, and determine what check-ins and reviews need to be modified to accommodate your new work setup. Be as consistent as possible to provide support to reps when needed.
Get more time management tips here:
3. Set measurable goals and KPIs.
Do your reps know exactly what performance metrics they are being measured on? Do your current organizational goals reflect the business climate and your new organizational structure? If not, now is the time to get crystal clear on the metrics and KPIs your team should be measuring.
HubSpot Senior Sales Manager Alison Bridgman relies on data to drive development conversations with her reps. She says:
"Lean into trust and data. Just because you can't walk by someone's desk doesn't mean they aren't working. Use data and reporting to track how reps are progressing towards their goals and help them set themselves up for success."
Help create opportunities for your sales team to connect and get to know one another. This can include setting up optional virtual watercooler meetings, virtual co-working time using video conferencing software, or even adding ice-breakers or engaging activities to your standing meetings.
5. Look for creative opportunities to build relationships.
Building trust with your employees is essential for success. According to Business Insider, employees who trust their managers have less stress, more energy, and record fewer sick days than those who don’t.
For HubSpot Senior Sales Manager Tiki Biswal, building trust with his reps is a major focus area. He says:
"While adjusting to remote sales management, my greatest challenge was truly getting to know my remote reps early on. A big part of goal-setting with your reps is understanding what drives and motivates them. This takes a bit more time when working remotely and as the manager, I take the responsibility of building that relationship.
Scheduling virtual ‘coffee’ breaks on Zoom has been really helpful and carving out time to simply have a non-work conversation is crucial. This replaces the organic conversations that happen during the day with the people that sit next to you."
Several teams at HubSpot also like utilizing a "how to work with me" guide created to help managers and colleagues understand one another’s work styles and habits. Having this information on hand is helpful for open communication and building trust.
Here is some helpful information you and your reps can include in your "how to work with me" guides:
What qualities I value
Current focus or goal I’m working on
My work hours and time zone
The best way to communicate with me over non-urgent issues (for example, specify if you prefer to be contacted via email, Slack, phone, etc.)
How I give and receive feedback
Things I love to talk about
Making sure you always keep the boundaries and work styles of both you and the employee in mind, look for opportunities to continue building trust with your reps even when you aren’t working side-by-side.
6. Focus on remote-specific sales enablement strategies.
Part of being an effective manager is ensuring your employees have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Now is a good time to ensure you have a solid sales enablement plan in place.
Catalog and optimize sales content — Make sure your reps have access to the information they need when they need it. For remote teams, this often means having a clear electronic asset management system.
Utilize video for training purposes — Although a rep can’t swing by your desk with their laptop to get help with a CRM function, they can share their screen with you on a video call to quickly resolve their question or learn a new skill.
Refine the sales process — Review your current sales process to ensure there isn’t any unnecessary friction for your reps. It is worthwhile to periodically walk through the steps a rep took to close a recent deal and to work with them to identify areas of simplification.
7. Empower your reps to find their individual workflows.
If you want your team to be successful while working remotely, empower them to own their success and to work how they see fit to reach their goals. According to Alison Bridgman,
"Working from home was a big transition for most and it has required my team to build new schedules and habits. Checking in on how that is going for each rep was crucial to helping them feel productive. It has also empowered them to have a normal routine where they can turn work on and off."
Remote sales teams can also benefit from sharing best practices among reps as they discover new tools and tactics that can be helpful for their colleagues as well.
Though working remotely can be a major shift for some sales teams, with some flexibility and willingness to adapt, they can still reach their goals. For more tips on crushing remote sales, check out this post.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May, 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 22, 2020 8:19:00 AM, updated January 18 2021