Given the nature of our “always on-always connected” business culture, it’s become easier and easier for companies to build their workforce with team members based in remote locations. This is especially true for sales professionals, who are often field-based and may work out of regional locations or more commonly, a home office.
Being away from the hustle and bustle of a larger office definitely has its benefits — no “coffee talk” distractions, no mystery food in the fridge — and for sales people, being physically located in their assigned region can mean more face-to-face time with nearby customers and prospects. Working remotely however, doesn’t come without its pitfalls – and these can negatively impact performance if not addressed.
In this post we’ll talk about three specific factors that can impact the performance of your remote team members, as well as the ways Qstream is helping both reps and managers address them before revenue is compromised.
1. Collaboration: Is Anybody Out There?
It’s all too easy for remote reps to live and work in their own little silo. While avoiding a chatty cube-mate may help your productivity overall, working in a physical community of your peers — hallway conversations included — can also be important for sharing critical information and ideas.
Your peers in sales and marketing, including sales leaders, can offer critical support when it comes to closing that quarterly deal with a reluctant prospect, addressing a competitor’s claims, or solving a tough customer problem before it escalates. When you take time to get to know your co-workers you can also quickly identify top performers and learn from their best practices, or share yours. (You can also frequently learn what not to do and avoid similar, often costly mistakes.)
Team collaboration tools such as Salesforce Chatter or private Google+ groups, as well as any number of instant messaging platforms, including free apps such as Skype, can be important conduits for helping reps and their managers build rapport and stay connected.
Qstream, within our own application platform, is also helping to build strong team relationships and drive engagement by integrating social collaboration tools directly into the user interface. When answering their daily challenges, reps can use the embedded comment functions to post a question, state their support or objection to a specific piece of content, or simply offer their thoughts on the value of a specific training concept. Many Qstream customers also use the comment functions to cheer on their team members, and in some cases, even engage in some good-natured ribbing.
2. Delivering Effective Coaching
At its core, coaching is rather straightforward: help your reps improve both what they do and how they do it. But it’s not a simple process. It requires a manager to know what his or her direct reports are doing, understand why they are doing it, and help them to recognize how they can get better. Smart coaches also create a safe space to have a discussion, ask the right questions (and listen to the answers), and constructively challenge their team.
This is hard enough to do when you’re sitting face-to-face with an employee. So what happens when the person you’re coaching isn’t in the same room —or even in the same building — but working hundreds or even thousands of miles away?
As highlighted in our recent series with CSO Insights, the best coaching should be: timely, accurate, relevant, consistent, and individualized. For many managers, this means setting up a regular cadence of meetings with their reps to better understand how they are selling, their progress against key goals and hopefully, eliminate any negative surprises. But a rep’s self-reported assessment alone can be deceiving.
In fact, salesperson optimism was rated by participants of CSO Insights’ 2015 Sales Management Optimization study as the number one barrier to effective coaching. The reality is that precious few management teams have access to the sales performance data and insights they need to make a determination of when, how and what to coach.
Qstream customers are able to address this remote coaching challenge with the help of our platform’s award-winning Predictive Insights Engine. The system instantly sorts and analyzes the daily Q&A responses of reps to deliver real-time dashboards that let managers quickly and easily see how their sales teams are performing on any number of dimensions or content topics.
In tandem, the system uses this data to surface highly targeted coaching opportunities and help managers take action immediately to address knowledge or skills gaps. This ensures that coaching sessions, whether conducted over the phone or on your next ride-along in the territory, can be tailored to the individual, based on their uniquely relevant performance hurdles.
3. Promote Healthy Competition
Most sales professionals are competitive by nature, and it’s the desire to be at the top of their game that motivates them to succeed quarter after quarter. But even the most self-motivated reps can benefit from a healthy dose of competition versus their peers, and this dynamic can be tough to maintain when a team is dispersed across multiple locations.
When you’re working remotely, you can’t hear the bell ringing for your latest customer win, nor can you check the leaderboard in the VP’s office to see who might be beating you that week. Again, this is one area where technology can help inject a positive dose of energy into your rep’s daily activities and foster a productive sense of competition.
Sharing new wins via email and other team messaging platforms, as well as recognizing the success of individual team members is one of the simplest ways to promote sales success and keep reps connected to important company milestones. Increasingly popular online incentive tools like Level 11 or Hoopla can also help managers create and monitor daily, monthly or quarterly competitions that drive desired activities, integrated directly with your CRM system.
Built-in game mechanics such as scoring and leader boards are also a key part of Qstream’s strategy to create positive competition and ensure strong user engagement. Users can be grouped into any combination of teams to compete for top scores on virtual leader boards, complete with up-to-the-minute rankings based on your rep’s daily activity. Integrated communication templates and comment tools also allow managers to easily recognize winning performance or send a quick “atta boy” message to remote individuals or entire teams.
Distance doesn’t have to be a roadblock to building and maintaining a high-performance sales team. Being aware of the potential pitfalls, and having the right tools and processes in place can make all the difference, and ensure your team is engaged, and ready to meet their goals.