With many organizations being forced to consider the possibility of remote-only work, it’s never been more important to plan for how to keep your team productive while working from home. Although this is a new challenge for many businesses, other organizations have successfully leveraged the remote mode and its benefits, for some time.
At SalesRoads, we are one of those organizations.
In fact, we’ve been entirely remote since our inception in 2006. In addition to perfecting the art of managing a remote office, we have been named a Great Place to Work 4 years running and named to the INC. 5000.
Here are our secrets to motivating and managing a completely remote sales team.
#1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If you’re moving to a remote model, communication management is probably the first barrier that comes to mind. The reality is good communication does look different when working in a distributed environment, but that doesn’t mean good communication isn’t possible.
In fact, simply working to facilitate good communication may result in better workflows than you had in your office. A couple things to consider:
Keep Your Team in Sync With Established Meeting Rhythms:
- Daily Huddle – At SalesRoads, each team has their own 5-minute daily huddle where we state one key goal for the day, anything we are stuck on and need help with, core-value shout outs, as well as a team cheer to end the meeting. It may sound impossible, but we often complete these meetings in 3 minutes, and they function as a barometer for your team and the challenges they are facing on the day to day.
- Weekly Team Meeting– Although the idea of a weekly meeting isn’t unique to remote settings, they take on extra importance in a distributed environment as you have fewer opportunities to bring the entire group together. This is your chance to brainstorm solutions, disseminate vital information, and tackle big challenges that require strategic thinking from the whole team. These meetings are literally the heartbeat of your organization’s work.
Bonus Meetings Tip: Make a habit of recording your meetings and make them accessible to your team. This is incredibly helpful when you go back to execute on whatever work you strategized.
- 1-on-1 s – Are critical to go deep with your direct reports to discuss their work as well as their own personal development. You should be reviewing KPIs in your team meetings as well, but this is an area to hone in on individual performance.
- Quarterly Company Wide Meetings – At SalesRoads, we have company wide meetings on a quarterly basis where we discuss our goals, accomplishments, and developments. As always, things can be slow to disseminate in a remote organization so these meetings are a sure-fire way to ensure everyone is on the same page. We use this opportunity to reinforce core values, demonstrate a common purpose, and create buy-in at all levels.
Best Practices: Text-Based Communication
When working in a distributed environment, text-based communication will inevitably become an essential part of your workflow. Although email and instant messengers are office mainstays, you need to be deliberate in how, and how often, you use these tools. Here are a couple things to be mindful of.
- Text-based communication requires vigilance in your wording. Sarcasm can be easily misunderstood without the benefit of facial expressions or vocal inflection.
- “Another meeting that could have been an email” – or is it the other way around? Yes, email is used for important communication, but think critically on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Sometimes a quick 10-minute meeting can resolve what 10 emails cannot.
- Instant messengers, such as Slack, are vital to facilitate quick and frequent communication. Although it may seem tempting to treat these tools as the digital equivalent of “stopping by,” this mentality can quickly turn your essential communication channel into a nightmare distraction for your employees. Imagine an endless stream of people stopping by your office door to ask questions, you would never get anything done! Encourage your employees to close their messengers when they need to focus on projects, try to cut down on superfluous messaging, and do not use these tools to “check-in” and make sure your employees are working.
Facilitate with Visuals Whenever Possible.
- You’ll quickly find that screen sharing is a vital part of conducting remote meetings. We advise against creating a PowerPoint for every meeting but do use visuals whenever possible. Typing your meeting agenda into a word doc. with key points is a great way to provide clarity for your audience.
- On the subject of screen sharing, it’s amazing how a 3-page email can be distilled into a 60 second video. At SalesRoads, we frequently use screen recordings as a medium for sharing info. that is too complicated for an email, but not worth scheduling a meeting. Some of our favorite tools for screen capture include Loom and Snagit.
- If you’re comfortable, turn on your camera. Although we often conduct voice only calls day-to-day, I have been trying to turn on my camera more often. It can be nice to see your co-workers. It provides reassurance that you’re engaged and listening. Likewise, don’t mute out of meetings unless you have a lot of background noise, it can have the opposite effect of making people feel you are not engaged.
Create Clear Expectations – Give people advanced heads up and clear deadlines. Although this is a best practice in any work environment, it is especially true in a remote setting as you can’t “stop by” your coworkers’ desk or nudge a gentle reminder during lunch. If you need something done on Monday, send the email on Friday (if not Thursday), or it can easily slip through the cracks.
#2) Boost Morale and Combat Loneliness
Although most employees love the idea of working from their home office, it can be isolating if you don’t take the proper steps to ensure people feel involved and invested in as people. Things we do to build a sense of community and inclusion are:
- A Virtual watercooler where people can share their favorite recipes, pictures of their pets, vacation photos, personal news, birthday wishes, and whatever else would otherwise be reserved for the breakroom. Although some companies use weekly newsletters, at SalesRoads we simply set up an extra Slack channel and one employee is nominated every day to ask a question. At the end of the day, they nominate someone else to ask a question the next day!
- Send E-Cards and celebrate your team. We all love getting birthday cards and being in a virtual environment doesn’t stop that! Sending e-cards for birthdays is an easy way to let people know you’re invested in them as people. You should also shout-out accomplishments like exceeding quotas or landing big sales. Acknowledgement goes a long way in keeping your team happy. You can even take the extra step of sending gifts to contest winners. In fact, I once made cookies and sent them to a top SDR. They were famously received as “Kreiger’s Cookies,” which were so popular we had to bring them back for another contest!
- Take your employees out for lunch! Seriously, being remote doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy lunch with your employees. I just launched a new initiative to take a handful of employees out for lunch every month. It’s a small gesture but ordering delivery for your employees and having a digital lunch event is a great way to stay in touch with your employees. You never know what great ideas your employees will share when given the opportunity.
#3) Create an at-Home Office Environment
There are pitfalls to working at home, both personal and professional. The first pitfall is not creating a professional environment that facilitates productivity. Ensure family members who are in the house understand that you are still working and ask them help eliminate distractions. Bolster yourself by creating an environment that is productive for you. Some people may choose to dress like they are heading to the office, while others prefer to dress more comfortable. Whatever your preferences, just make sure they facilitate productivity.
The other pitfall is blurring the lines between work and home. When you work from home, home can start to feel like work, and this will tax your mental health. By creating those boundaries, through your dress, environment, and interactions, you preserve the benefits of working from home while ensuring you remain productive.
#4) Build a Culture of Trust and Accountability
There are many benefits to working from home, but it requires a certain level of trust and accountability to truly flourish. The biggest joy of work from home is the freedom it brings – the freedom from a heavy commute, the freedom to walk your dog over lunch, and the freedom to grab your kid off the bus. But this joy erodes to anxiety, for yourself and for your employees, without a culture of trust and accountability.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to build a positive culture early on, it can be nearly impossible to rectify if you try to force your previous culture into your remote environment.
Trusting my employees is something I’ve grappled with as the founder of an entirely remote company and although I have been burned before, by employees misrepresenting their hours or workload, I’ve committed to trusting my team and holding them accountable for their results. This can be a hard mental shift for executives who have become accustomed to visually verifying the efforts of their team.
So often, successful executives get in the way of their own team by trying to dictate how and when work should be done. We all know the perils of micro-managing, but the reality is we all have those tendencies and they can be exacerbated by a remote environment. Make your expectations clear, trust your team to work diligently, then get out of the way!
Accountability is the other side of trust; this is where you measure your employees’ output and hold them accountable for their work you trusted them to do. I’ve found that time and time again, my employees go the extra mile because they are personally accountable for their KPIs and performance. By making expectations clear, there is no room for excuses and, to the contrary, innovation abounds. Trust and accountability are the building blocks of your remote team. Invest in these core values for your own sanity!
Quick Tools List:
Good habits are only half the battle when it comes to remote communication, you also need the right tools to collaborate in a remote office. Your exact tech stack will need to fit your organization, but some essentials for every business include:
- An instant messenger for short and quick communication. We mentioned Slack as the tool we use but Skype, Discord, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts are other options.
- A platform for external and internal meetings. Popular providers include Zoom Meetings, GoToMeetings, UberConference, and Skype. It is worth considering that some platforms require you to download their software, so going for an online-only solution can be a means of reducing the burden on your client, but they tend to be less stable.
- Softphones for external calls. Although much of your internal communication may be done via an instant messenger and email, you still want your sales team to have work numbers where external parties can reach them.
- A central calendaring system so your team can coordinate dates. Many email providers have a built-in calendaring system, but other options like Calendy or YouCanBookMe are good options.
- A cloud solution for sharing and collaborating on documents such as GSuite or Microsoft Online.
- A tool for screen recordings – Loom and Snagit are both free options.
Although there are some hurdles to managing a remote sales team, our 12+ years of success at SalesRoads demonstrates our successful commitment, We have found that not only is a remote environment entirely possible, but your employees will be happier, and in turn be more productive. Should you need help stabilizing your pipeline in a remote environment, or simply want advice on how to conduct remote sales, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or reach out at salesroads.com/contact.