Managing a ‘Work From Home’ Inside Sales team in the new normal

Managing a ‘work from home’ inside sales team in the new normal
We are lucky that we are a fully ‘cloud’ working environment and our teams have hardware that enables working from home (WFH) - all have laptops for example. Nonetheless, implementing a work from home, across the board environment wasn’t without challenges and we thought it would benefit our clients and prospects to see what processes we have implemented in this short period to tackle issues we wouldn't normally come up against.

Challenge: How do we really know what's going on with our sales reps now they are WFH? 
As a sales manager one of the biggest benefits of having your team in the office is that you can listen, observe and get real time feedback on their daily activity/conversations with potential prospects. This enables you to give immediate support, provide guidance or coaching and identify any concerns or downturns in motivation or work efforts. 

Solution: Trust! 
Ultimately, all you can really do in this situation is trust that your sales reps will do the right thing, continue to deliver results and not take advantage of their new set up. Our advice would be to allocate the majority of time to the reps that need it the most; if you try to spend the same amount of time and effort on everyone, you will fail. Trust that your senior and more experienced sales reps can handle themselves, whilst dedicating more attention to the ones who will benefit from the extra support. Then we recommend buddying up the more junior reps with the more senior, helping you as a manager to cover more ground. 

So whilst trust is key, it is also critical not to leave it all to chance and so activity monitoring and management, clear reporting and early visibility of potential issues is vital too. We would also suggest implementing a daily action and goals diary for each person. This can be reviewed in the first meeting each day.

Challenge: Keeping up with the endless instant messages from your sales guys
As I'm sure you can appreciate, sales reps can be needy people at times - whether they need an answer on how to proceed with a particular quote, how to appropriately respond to a prospect's objections or simply need 10 minutes of your time to air their personal or work concerns. Sales reps by nature will continue to pressure you, much like their clients or prospects, until they get an answer to their questions but that is exactly why you pay them! Prepare for the wave of instant messages, consisting of every question, thought or concern that pops into their heads! 

Solution: Apply structure, create dedicated sessions for resolving concerns and lay down the law when it comes to responding. 
Our advice would be to schedule regular catch up calls throughout the day with a video call first thing in the morning, one before lunch and a final session in the afternoon as a minimum. This will give your sales reps a dedicated time throughout the day to speak with you in regards to questions, pending subjects or concerns - i.e. things which are primarily not mission critical and do not require immediate response from you. Secondly, encourage your sales reps to pick up the phone to you if they need to discuss a key situation. In turn, they will likely not call you regarding a quick thought which pops into their heads, compared to the ease of just firing over a message in a chat.

This is another clear takeaway - creating as responsive an environment as you would find in an office with an instant message platform like Slack is worth its weight in gold in a remote scenario  However, set out a clear rule that you the manager will eventually respond to their instant message and when they should chase - a personal SLA in other words! This will save you a million pop ups and distractions throughout the day. 

Challenge: Incentivising your sales reps to perform in a time that may seem impossible 
Traditional spot incentives normally focus on additional financial gain, go home early initiatives, team bonding/out of work activities. With  the current lockdown/social distancing measures in place, it presents a challenge on how to incentivise and keep your reps pushing towards over achievement when you can no longer call on your trusty ‘leave early on a Friday’ gambit! 

Solution: Think outside of the box and look to distract your sales reps from the current situation, whilst rewarding them with something that in turn benefits their health and mind.
Simple financial gain will of course always be a true salesperson's biggest desire, but it's important to come up with weekly games or competitions that bring the team together. You will be surprised how hard some of your sales reps will work for the promise of a Domino's Pizza delivered to their door for lunch on Friday! Arrange virtual coffee machine moments through group video call ‘breaks’ and even a virtual beer Friday or team lunch where work and performance aren’t on the agenda. This will help with bonding and maintaining the concept of a team moving in the best interests of the business.

Author: Liam Huskinson