Virtual sales teams are becoming increasingly popular among companies looking to diversify and to reach new markets without the expense of bricks and mortar offices. Virtual teams can offer quicker geographical growth and increased sales, whilst empowering team members with greater autonomy. Hiring and growing a virtual sales team needs some careful consideration.
Setup Your Infrastructure
First things first; you need to make sure your team has the equipment they need to get the job done. Since your sales teams are probably working from home, they’re going to need computers, phones, webcams, and microphones, as well as all the basic equipment they need to get the job done.
You need to think about quality. It’s going to reflect poorly on your business if someone is talking to a member of your sales team and the connection keeps cutting out, or the equipment is too poor quality that the conversation is stilted and illegible. The better the quality of your equipment, the better the quality of the output.
Of course, some people will already have the majority of the required tech, but it’s unfair and it’s not going to go down well with your team (if they’re already employed with you) if they have to go out and buy equipment, so make sure you’re paying for at least some of the equipment.
Select Your Operating Procedures
Just like any aspect of business, you need to make sure you’re creating, setting up, and defining your operational procedures for everyone in your virtual sales team to follow. This means showing people how they should be working, what kind of experience they’re providing customers, and how your behind-the-scenes is working.
Don’t’ think this means you’re micromanaging your staff, because you’re not. By operational procedures, we’re talking about daily check-ins you’ll have with your staff to see how everyone is doing. This includes group meetings that brings everyone together, one to one meeting, and a list of ways that people work.
You’ll also want to set up places for everyone to come together, like creating a Slack channel which not only talks about work, but also has a social element so everyone feels like a valued part of the team.
Hiring for Remote Sales Teams
Hiring team members who will work remotely and sell virtually is a little different to hiring an in-office team. The people you hire need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. There will be no option of supervising them throughout the day so there needs to be a high degree of trust. Practically, the salesperson you hire needs to be able to sell via phone and video calls. Being a great salesperson face to face does not mean that your new hire will be able to achieve the same sales targets virtually.
For the hiring process, consider including mock sales calls via phone and video with yourself and another member of your team. Keep in mind that doing well in an interview that is hosted virtually is not the same as being good at the job they are being considered for.
Have Realistic Goals For Your Virtual Salespeople
Much like an inhouse team, your virtual sales team will need clear and transparent goals. To start with, these goals might be lower than those of an inhouse team would be. Partly because it is impossible to foresee all stumbling blocks a new virtual team might encounter. Also, teams with unrealistic targets tend to perform badly. For salespeople, goals equal motivation. If a salesperson believes that a goal is unachievable then they will be demotivated. Whereas a lower goal is seen as something more achievable and bring in much higher results. Usually surpassing the goal itself.
Virtual Teams Need Clear Communication
There is a fine balance, when working with virtual teams, between having too much and not enough communication. Put in place a clear schedule or meetings and check-ins and be clear about your availability expectations for the whole team. Ensure that communication channels are known to everyone.
A weekly team check-in via a video conferencing channel is a must for any sales team. It sets the mood for the week and brings a team together. Depending on your sales model, your team might like an end of week team too to see how everyone’s weeks went. A Friday afternoon meeting can be more relaxed and an opportunity for them to speak candidly to share advice and wins.
Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of ways you can approach this. I’ve already spoken a lot about creating a Slack channel, but there are other options if they best suit you, such as Microsoft Teams. If you can, use platforms like Zoom to connect via video. Using video is important because you don’t just see your team as words on a screen, and they won’t feel like it either.
Invest In The Right Tools
Hand in hand with a previous point, all sales teams work better with the right tools. This is an essential investment for success. A virtual team will need the technology to perform their roles. You might supply the hardware or a stipend for them to purchase what they need locally. Likewise, a well made, cloud-based, CRM is a must for managing pipeline and client relationships.
A central CRM for the whole team also allows the company to retain control of client information for reporting and administration needs. There are out of the box and bespoke tolls available for sales teams. However, you must know the needs of the whole business before investing or you could end up spending twice as much.
Encourage the Use of Information and Knowledge Sharing
When working in an office, employees come together and help each other out. Traditionally over the water cooler, people will chat and confirm they have an issue, and another employee may be present who can help them out. This is the very essence of information and knowledge sharing, and it’s essential if you want a thriving team.
This is obviously much more difficult to encourage in a virtual team, but it’s just as important that you try. By encouraging social bonding between your virtual employees, you may make it easier for people to air their issues, and for people to respond and help.
For example, you can’t be on hand to answer problems all the time, so if you have a communication channel like a Slack channel, then people can post when something happens, and other employees can get involved in helping to answer the question.
This is especially important when you have new sales reps working with older, more experienced reps. They can share knowledge and help each other progress and do the best they can. This is how a team is nurtured.
Manage KPIs And Team Performance for Virtual Sales Teams
Business management legend, Peter Drucker famously said that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Your teams’ key performance indicators (KPIs) will allow you to manage their performance but also give insights into the processes of the business. Highlighting areas of improvement and success across the board.
Communicate and discuss KPIs from the start with any new team member. It is vital that they understand the reason for the KPIs and how and when they are expected to report them. For virtual sales teams, this open approach will prevent them from feeling micromanaged and give them the freedom to do what they do best.
Quarterly business reviews discussed in a virtual conference with the whole business will show your sales teams how their own KPIs feed into the bigger picture. Further motivating them and keeping the virtual team well informed.
Boosting Employee Engagement for Virtual Sales Teams
All work and no play make for disengaged virtual teams. Employee engagement must be proactive and inclusive. As discussed, regular team meetings are a must. In addition, plan a calendar of informal get-togethers, to be held via video conferencing, that are just for fun. With a little imagination these can be wildly different.
For example, have quarterly theme nights where each team member receives a courier package of goodies to enjoy (food and drink), wear (fancy dress), or use (game) during a team night call. Tell them not to open the package until everyone is online. Employee engagement, achieved by social meetups amongst other methods, is proven to increase sales. A recent study by Gallup, found that profitability increases by 21% in well engaged teams. So get your calendar out and start planning.
Don’t Forget Yourself!
Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to think about yourself and how you fit into everything that’s going on surrounding the creation of your virtual sales team. Setting up a team in a thorough way isn’t something you can just do by yourself; but is something you need to create as a team.
Think about all the other departments that will be involved and how they will integrate with not only the creation process, but also continue to work with the team once it’s stable. Communication is imperative, and realizing your limits will help your team be the best it can be.
Guest submission by Kristin Herman (a business consultant and project manager at UK Writings online writing services.)