Managing a sales team is one of the hardest jobs in any organization. You're required to bring in the revenue for the organization…but often, due to workflow issues, strategic decisions, or maybe even factors that are beyond your control, you don't see the salespeople as much as you'd like to. Here, then, are three tips that can help you become more successful as a sales leader in creating a predictable operational rhythm – a cadence – if you find yourself responsible for the performance of a remote sales team.
1. Communicate via more than one modality. Keeping in touch effectively via multiple channels is a critical priority. You cannot over-communicate! So choose a number of different options and set weekly reminders that will help you to use them appropriately, using the formats that you find work best with each individual salesperson: text, email, voice-to-voice, and/or video conference. Whenever you are doing team meetings, however, you will want to consider choosing video conferencing as your default rather than an audio-only conference call. Why?
Because you want people to be able to see each other, for one thing. The human connection people have with their coworkers is extremely important. Not only that: conducting videoconferences will also give you a clear idea of how your team is interacting with prospective buyers during their videoconferences. You want to make sure that your people are dressed for success, that their heads are in the game, and that they're ready to go. If it's 11:00 am and one of your team members is still lounging around in below-business-casual-level attire, that needs to change! So use the team video conferencing meeting to connect on the human level...and also to see for yourself how the members of your sales team are presenting themselves in today's digital working environment.
2. Set WIMs. WIMS stands for Weekly Individual Meetings. Here’s how it works. On a Monday, for instance, you reach out to each of your people for a maximum of ten minutes. During this brief discussion, you simply say something like, "Hey, what are you going to achieve this week? What are your goals for the next five days?" Near the end of the call, say something like: "Where do you need my help?" On Friday, check back in for just a couple of minutes to ask, “How did things go this week?” The key to making this cadence work is brevity. You repeat these calls faithfully next Monday and Friday for a maximum of ten minutes and, say, three minutes, respectively. You then continue this cadence every Monday and Friday. What you are doing here is setting momentum and setting expectations – by setting a tone of accountability. You are teaching them that, in between these short Monday and Friday calls, they really do need to do the activities that support their income goals… and support the business. Talk with each of your people twice a week along the lines I have laid out here, and you will see for yourself that the value you and your team will generate from WIMs will be incredible.
3. Collaborate on the behavioral plan – also known as the cookbook. It is extremely important that team members who are working remotely structure their day in a specific way, so that all the activities necessary to generate success are accomplished, day after day, and week after week. A sales cookbook will help them do this. This is a proven list of activities and behaviors that, when executed daily and weekly, lead predictably to success. We call this tool a cookbook because it operates on the same principle as a recipe that’s been tested and validated by a professional chef. If you turn to your favorite cookbook and find the page that reads “Spaghetti Carbonara,” and if you obtain ingredients A, B, and C, and follow steps 1, 2, and 3 to the letter, then the end result you’re going to experience is spaghetti carbonara – not just sometimes, but every time! So as the sales leader, you will want to a) collaborate with each team member on that personalized cookbook and b) use it to help create and set aside time blocks for your people. If you don’t make a point of doing this, what you will find tends to happen is that your people only do the things they're comfortable with or like to do. And oftentimes, in that scenario, many things are left behind. So work together to create a daily “recipe” for success, one that gives you each a very clear sense of what the countable activities are that support the salesperson’s income and personal goals...and when those activities are going to take place. Structure the day around the cookbook! For instance: from 9 am to 11 am, send out X number of personalized email messages that either request referrals or follow up on referrals or personal connections; between 11 am and 2 pm, call X number of existing clients; and between 2 pm and 3 pm, make X number of calls to new prospects. (Note that “X” will be different for each salesperson and that the activities will vary, too.) A personalized cookbook helps you to break up the day for each and every member of your team, so you both know exactly what’s happening and when it’s happening...and you can both look at the ratios and troubleshoot together if there is a problem.
Let’s face it. Managing a remote sales team isn’t always easy. But if you follow these three simple steps consistently, you will be sure that you are pointing your team – and yourself – in the right direction, week after week.