The Myth of Remote Culture: A Tale of Two Anecdotes

Two People Playing Tug of War Representing Remote Culture vs Office Culture

As the founder of an entirely remote company, I’ve long fielded questions about our culture here at SalesRoads. Often, they come from a place of skepticism; “How do you create a high output sales environment without the buzz and intensity of a sales floor?”

Admittingly, there is something special about after-work happy hours, ringing bells, and buzzing phones.  These environments build comradery while injecting friendly competition, both are important pieces of sales culture, but so much of this can be recreated in a virtual environment and if your revenue depends on the promise of an after-hours drink, how stable is your revenue?

Perhaps these questions are euphemisms for, “How do you monitor your employees to ensure they’re working without having them in one place?” Once again, I would contend that your sales output is fragile if it hinges on a manager’s ability to physically see their employees. Don’t buy into antiquated patterns that stifle innovation. After all, the biggest innovations are always radical before they’re normal.

So then, how does SalesRoads do it? After 13 years in business, two times named to the INC 5000, and four times a Great Place to Work; I’ve learned that a positive sales culture is entirely possible without the need for a sales floor, and I’ll use two examples to illustrate my point.

Example One: The Paranoid Manager

I was recently made aware of a Fortune 500 company that was forced to pivot its SDR team to a remote model. Managers now randomly call each SDR three times per shift to ensure they’re working. Not only this, but they increased the number of required activities to try and cover for lost revenue.

This behavior baffles me.

Firstly, if your managers feel they need to monitor their staff then they hired the wrong employees. Secondly, if your managers spend all their time micromanaging, how do they find time to complete real management activities? Where is the time for coaching, reporting, and strategic thinking?

This environment lacks everything a good office culture should have. There is no trust, it’s filled with anxiety and paranoia, and if there was any semblance of comradery there before, it has certainly been shattered.

The SDR that told me this story is now actively looking for another job and I can guarantee you that if your sales rep is looking for another opportunity, you are not getting their best work.

Example Two: The Generous Employee

We’ve all recently faced a truly unprecedented challenge. A challenge we never imagined, but somehow it still found its way into our local stores, our homes, and our nightmares. The challenge, of course, is a shortage of toilet paper 🙂

Amidst the social media fodder and jokes, however, is a real problem for many Americans. It’s one of the many distractions pulling our minds away from work but also one of the things that somehow connects us in a time of tribulation. So when I heard that one of my employees who lives in a rural community that had yet to be affected by any shortages had gone to Walmart, bought supplies, and mailed them to one of her colleagues who was being affected, I laughed, I sighed, and I felt a great sense of pride in the culture of trust, comradery, and community that we have here at SalesRoads. There is no doubt in my mind that this generous employee is invested in her work, and not only because of her consistent performance, but because of her investment in our SalesRoads family.  

These examples may be nothing more than anecdotes and they may be apples-to-oranges comparisons, but they are real stories that illuminate the choice we have as leaders. We can fill an already anxiety-ridden moment with more stress, or we can support each other in moments of crisis. The way we respond is a reflection of the culture we chose to create.

So, when people ask me how we maintain a high output sales culture without the buzz of a sales floor, I think about the investment our employees make in our company, in each other, and in their work. I can’t think of a better barometer for culture than employee engagement, and so far, the results speak for themselves.

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