Coaching your sales team remotely can be a challenge. There’s a world of difference between working in an office and working from different locations, and many things can get in the way of successful coaching — from tone of voice to glitches in technology. These impediments can be time-consuming and reduce productivity for both sales leaders and reps. Managers can also easily forget some of the little, often unconscious things they do at work to keep team members motivated and engaged.
In light of these challenges, here are some ways to ensure productivity in a remote sales environment.
One of the most important things to remember about coaching remotely is to make yourself available. Think of how many questions you answer or problems you help solve when team members pop into your office. This proximity is a luxury they no longer have.
Be sure to check in regularly and set up recurring calls. Be aware that your team members may not feel comfortable bombarding you with emails or text messages, and they may store up their questions. Make sure they know you are still around; your virtual door is still open; and you welcome their questions, opinions and strategizing on deals as much as ever.
Resist the Urge to Micromanage
Your team members work at different paces and react in disparate ways. Questions that take seconds in the office when you’re all just feet away can become more difficult over a messaging app or email. Remember that a series of questions — with their notifying pings and dings — might not be a big deal to one team member but can be frustrating to another. Show restraint, and resist micromanaging. Trust your team members to fill you in regularly and to ask questions when they need your guidance.
Tone of Voice
One of the hazards inherent in any form of online communication is misunderstanding a person’s tone. We all have stories of that time a friend misread a text message. You said something you meant ironically, but your friend took it literally. While this situation can seem funny after the fact (and the internet is full of examples you can peruse at your leisure) it often isn’t a laughing matter in a professional setting.
Emojis and abbreviations can alleviate some of these difficulties. Though not often recommended for use professionally, from a distance, a simple smiley face or “LOL” can go a long way in letting a team member know you’re kidding.
Make sure your team is well versed in using the technology needed to work remotely. Tools such as chat and video conferencing are great platforms for collaboration and creating that human connection with distant team members. Check that your team is up to date on the use of these tools and have downloaded all the apps and plug-ins needed to ensure there are no disruptions to your coaching or sales activity.
Provide your team members with easy access to reports and dashboards from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to discuss improvements, as well as declines, in performance and conversion rates. While it’s easy to gather around a computer or view these numbers together in a conference room, you don’t want to experience delays when your team members can’t access what they need or struggle to interpret the data.
In the office, it’s easy to let team members know they’re appreciated. Maybe it’s a fist bump (or air high-five) as you pass in the hallway or a quick thumbs up when you overhear them on the phone. These little gestures go a long way in alleviating stress or providing feedback to questions that are sometimes never even asked. Often, they are spur of the moment or unconscious. Working remotely, it can be easy to forget how much these signals mean to our team members. Take the time to show appreciation. Go a step further, and offer public praise in a group chat, like “Shout out to Josh for closing that deal!”
Working remotely changes the dynamics of professional interaction. Many of the bumps and hiccups of everyday office life can become magnified and, if managers aren’t careful, manifest in a loss of productivity. Successful sales managers adapt to change and adopt the coaching practices best suited to their team members while working from home. Often, taking just a few minutes to consider the challenges of technology, as well as how messages come across in the absence of proximity, can go a long way toward bridging the divide created by distance and keeping your team motivated for success.