Coaching and Managing Remote Sales Teams

BY:  Russell Zack
March 29, 2022
9 MIN. READING

Transitioning to a remote work model has proven to be a complex challenge for most industries. A few years ago, remote work was rare, especially in sales. Being able to meet clients face to face and brainstorm with our teams in person felt like an inseparable part of managing a sales team. Yet, when the pandemic struck, it forced us to transition to a remote work environment. And happily, it has the potential to become an opportunity for growth.

I recently spoke about transforming sales coaching in a remote work environment on a panel with Shawn Murphy, RAVP of inside sales at Revenue Grid, that was moderated by Jason Oates, Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder at Live Intent.

You’re invited to watch the panel recording here or, if you’re short on time, here’s a summary of some of the most important things we discussed.

It’s a remote world…

At Second Nature, we’ve been on board with remote work even before the pandemic turned it into an unavoidable reality. As a sales conversation simulator allowing people to practice conversations with a virtual persona, our product is inherently work-from-home friendly.

Unfortunately, being pro-remote work hasn’t always been the most popular stance in the industry. As Jason said, many companies used to believe that, for sales reps, working from home was a no-no.

But the truth is that studies show that, in fact, productivity doesn’t decrease as employees transition to remote work from in-office work. In fact, quite the opposite. One study found that working from home increases productivity by 13%, specifically finding that since March of 2020, productivity rose by 47%.

…Mostly, at least

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all sales teams should work 100% remotely. There’s no denying that people would miss the learning and camaraderie that comes with meeting in person.

As one of my fellow panel members pointed out, as managers, it’s up to us to be mindful of using both remote and in-person time wisely. Creating focused, purposeful time together is crucial (as opposed to just meeting for the sake of meeting), and sometimes we need to be creative about how we accomplish that.

At Second Nature, one of our favorite ways to maximize remote productivity is to ask people to make use of the innovative remote work tools that have recently become familiar to plan ahead and send in prep materials before meetings to save time for everybody, like short video recordings with background information about the meeting topic and points of view.

And setting no-meeting days can allow people to focus on their work and not worry about being on camera, improving productivity and overcoming the well-known “Zoom fatigue.”

 

The difference between sales coaching and managing

Speaking of managers, another question we discussed was the difference between managing and coaching, something key to our industry. For me, this comes down to three things.

  • Coaches need to be specific about the delineation of time. It should be clear that a given time period is being used for coaching, not necessarily discussing the rep’s pipeline, for example.
  • When you’re coaching a rep, you have to ask them probing questions that allow them to step outside the specifics and think about the issue and challenge as a whole.
  • It’s important for coaches to use examples as a way to shape perspective. As David Geffen, music industry mogul, always recommended, a coach should ask questions when people come to him with a problem and then ask them how they would solve it.

Jason also made a great point, saying to coach is to “guide and motivate, to assess, to influence, to help critical thinking, to not give people answers, but teach them how to actually find the answer.”

Maintaining camaraderie on remote sales team

As I mentioned above, something that reps can really miss in working remotely is a sense of connection to the rest of the organization.

At Second Nature, we’ve been very specific about separating the tools we use for social, like WhatsApp, from the tools we use for work, like Slack, so there is a dedicated channel for building relationships. Additionally, we’ve been heavily promoting the sharing of best practices and moments of success, which has been highly valuable for team camaraderie by allowing people to share their personalities and bond with one another.

Empowering sales reps during onboarding and training

It’s no secret that the onboarding process can feel impersonal and cut-and-paste. But people thrive when we invest in empowering them and helping them grow. So how can you do that in a remote world?

We’ve found it necessary to do a few things.

  • Make available much more specific information on individuals and their backgrounds, time zones, locations, and so on
  • Offer preparation materials and documents ahead of time to allow new hires to be prepared for onboarding conversations and using the necessary tools
  • Put an emphasis on formal introductions to replace the in-office ability for people to casually meet in passing. It may be small, but the digital confetti has an impact.

Shawn also offered some valuable recommendations, suggesting to make sure people have their swag, supplies, and documentation delivered to their homes ahead of time, which I believe can also help contribute to their sense of pride in their new role and company. In general, we agreed that, with remote onboarding, it may take a bit longer to get people up to speed, and it’s on us to be patient and check in more often.

One more thing to note is that people love to practice before they get their formal assessment, and it’s important to give them the tools so they can get up to speed and feel ready. Second Nature is a great way to give people an opportunity to roleplay in advance in the safety of their own homes before they get in front of other people.

Motivation and recognition of remote sales teams

One viewer, Jennifer, brought up an important question, asking how our incentive programs have evolved.

I’ve found that we have to be much more overt about focusing on who was successful and how, and distributing that information accordingly. With a diverse remote team, it’s important to make sure that people understand what was effective. Now, more than ever, it’s become even clearer that it’s the little things that matter. Even a chat message telling somebody that they were impressive makes a big impact.

Post-Covid habits we’ll keep

Working remotely has proved challenging, but it has also given us food for thought and developed healthy new habits. Shawn shared that maintaining detachment time is vital to keep a healthy work-life balance, mainly while working remotely.

Remote work during the height of pandemic certainly gave me a higher awareness of commute time and greater respect for my employees’ personal investment in coming to the office in person. Working remotely has been a challenge, but it has also proven to be an opportunity for growth and development both from a business and individual perspective.

Learn even more

A big thanks to Shawn and Jason, as well as everybody who came to the discussion. To learn even more about sales coaching in a remote environment, check out the full video here.

If you want to hear more about Second Nature and how we can help train your sales team remotely, contact us to schedule a demo.

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About the author

Russell Zack

Russ is Head of Revenue at Second Nature

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