Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ

19 April 2020

Successfully managing an inside sales team is a tough enough job at the best of times. It’s even harder, given the current climate. 

If working from home wasn’t hard enough, inside sales managers also have to work out how to manage, coach and motivate employees they can only communicate with via a webcam. It begs the question: How do you manage remote employees successfully?

If you want to get the most from your remote inside sales team, here’s our hard-won tips, as well as those of some industry experts. 

Schedule Regular Check-ins

The lack of banter and communication between colleagues is something a lot of people are missing about the office right now. That’s why we’re making an effort to schedule as many video-based breakout sessions as possible. 

It’s a great way to see more faces and show you are still all in it together, even if you’re no longer in the same office. There’s also a genuine danger that employees may begin to feel detached from the company at large, writes Uberall’s Greg Sterling. Video offers a way to keep your team connected and positive. It’s why Uberall has initiated a virtual coffee meeting every day.

If possible, arrange several of these standup meetings throughout the day. A kick-off meeting is a great way to make sure employees are up and ready to work. A catch-up meeting in the afternoon can help avoid the post-lunch slump. An end-of-day meeting can help your team assess their work and set targets for the next day. It will also help them avoid working into the evening and burning out.  

These meetings are also a chance for you to keep your team abreast of any changes within the company. With so much uncertainty about the economy, it’s easy for your reps’ minds to run wild. Keep their paranoia to a minimum by quickly communicating any changes within the company. Even if nothing has changed and it’s business as usual, tell them this. It will stop them feeling left out now they’re not in the office. 

Avoid Micromanagement

Because you can’t see your team, you might be tempted to start micromanaging them. You probably don’t do this in the office, but the problem of not seeing them can cause you to become more involved than you should. 

That’s why we recommend regular standups to go through work, talk through any problems your SDRs are facing and set targets. You’ve then got to trust they will do the work when they get off the call. 

Your SDRs will appreciate this approach. People are uncomfortable enough working from home; they don’t want to feel like their boss is virtually breathing down their neck.  

If you want to get an idea of how well your team is performing, you can look at analytics from your VoIP system. You can also dive into your CRM, said Jon Carr, head of inside sales at Axios Systems, on an EngageTech webinar. Check how frequently your team is updating and adding contacts to get a better idea of how hard they are working. 

Keep your Remote Inside sales Team Motivated

Incentivizing your team is even more important when they are working remotely. It’s also harder. Naturally, we’ve been running a lot of experiments in-house to work out how we can keep motivation high. 

Maintaining the competitive nature we have in the office has been the most important thing for us. Gameshows and quizzes like Countdown and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire have been a big hit. 

The same goes for camaraderie. When we’re next to each other in the office, it’s evident that we are all in it together. That’s a lot harder to recreate virtually, but it’s still possible. Our team members have been hosting episodes of Cribs and running Show & Tells during lunch breaks. They are even prospecting together via video in a bid to recreate the office environment. 

Rewards are as important as ever, too. We can’t take high-performing team members out to lunch, but we can send them a meal via Deliveroo. When SDRs hit targets (and many are despite the climate), they have been filming celebrations and sharing them with the team. 

It’s important to note that we haven’t changed the commission structure during this period. We’d rather take a small hit to the bottom line than try to save money and subsequently demotivate our most valuable assets.

Carefully Consider Sales Targets

On the topic of motivation, it’s essential to consider targets carefully now you’re working remotely. Even if your team has experience working from home, you should still consider changing or reducing targets to reflect the current economic climate.  

If you’re taking this approach, make sure to assess targets for each person individually. Every sales rep is different, and every account is different. The nature of this pandemic is that not everyone is affected evenly. Travel and leisure have been hit much worse than retail and logistics, for instance. 

Sit down with your SDR and discuss why the target might not be achievable at the moment. It might be because the climate isn’t suited to selling, but it might be because they aren’t tailoring their strategies to reflect the situation. 

If everyone is struggling, then reducing targets is a great way to increase motivation. On the webinar, Jon Carr explained how he has reduced targets across the board. He even eliminated targets for several brand new SDRs. While the business may spend more money on commissions, it’s much more important for Jon to have an SDR who starts the week thinking they can hit a target. 

You might be worried that reducing targets causes your sales team to rest on their laurels, adds Sales Consultant Stephanie Livingston. But if that’s the case, you should be asking yourself whether you’ve got the right inside sales reps in the first place. 

Give Your Team the Right Tools

The right tools can make managing a remote team significantly easier. On one side of the coin, you want to make sure your team has access to software that helps them do their job. Check out our guide to the best prospecting tools to make sure your team is well-equipped. 

On the other side, you need to be able to track what your team is doing. This is easy in the office when you can physically see them. Working remotely really demonstrates the value of a great VoIP system, that captures call analytics, and an integrated CRM. Both systems will let you track the work your team is doing and the calls they are making.

Don’t limit your team’s use of tools, HackerOne CEO Mårten Mickos advises. Now is not the time for an authoritarian regime. They should be free to connect through as many messaging apps as they like.

Provide Remote Training Opportunities

 

Remote work is not an excuse to stop training your team. If anything, they probably need more help than ever. There’s a good chance most of your SDRs won’t have worked remotely before. They certainly won’t have faced a sales climate like this one. 

 

Video calls will be essential when training your team, but don’t be afraid to use the same tactics you would in the office. Listen back to a call, for instance, and discuss what could have been done differently. At the same time, explain how SDRs should be tailoring their outreach to the current climate. That could mean more emails, more social messaging and a more nuanced approach on the phone. 

 

Training also helps to bring some normality to the current situation. “A key way sales leaders can drive business continuity during these uncertain times is to deliver the same onboarding, coaching, and training experience that they would typically get in the office,” writes Paul Saleme, Global Head of Sales Enablement at Showpad. 

 

Don’t forget about training opportunities outside of your organization, either. Encourage your team to attend webinars, listen to podcasts or watch Youtube. Remote work has given people time back. If your team spends it learning how to improve their sales skills, they’ll be all the better for it. 

 

Don’t worry if you don’t get everything right straight away. Remote work is probably as new an experience for you as it is for your team. Be patient, take your time and learn from your mistakes. You can lead your team successfully through this sales period. Maybe you’ll even be able to smash a few targets along the way. 

 

Images by: Zan, Bench Accounting, James Yarema