Sales managers tend to be hands-on people. With so much responsibility on their shoulders— from ensuring their team members are meeting quota to supporting, encouraging, and coaching reps—they may need to be in the center of the action. These days, with countless sales teams working virtually, many managers find themselves in their home offices and away from their teams, but they still are expected to lead with the same level of effectiveness.
Here are a few tips to help sales managers adjust to the new normal:
1. As multitaskers used to controlling the sales environment, remote sales managers may struggle with the irresistible urge to check in with their reps. After all, there are deals to complete and quotas to meet. While you may want instant updates—and you can no longer casually walk up to a rep’s desk—be judicious with check-ins. Set deadlines for tasks but trust your team members to find their own best pace, and let them know you are always available if they have questions or need help.
2. In the office, communication is easy. We can take for granted how much a wave or nod can remind sales professionals they are appreciated. In virtual meetings, offer your team praise and encouragement. It gets lonely working in isolation, and while no one wants a boss breathing down their neck, everyone can a use a pick-me-up. Also, in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Webex meetings, incorporate aspects of virtual training and coaching, such as breakout sessions and whiteboarding, to keep team members engaged.
3. With the increased dependence on emails and texts, sales managers should remember that tone doesn’t always translate well to electronic communication. While your team members may be used to your sense of humor when face-to-face, it can be easy to misconstrue someone’s tone in the absence of facial expressions and body language. Reread texts and emails before you hit send.
4. As everyone who works remotely knows, technology will fail. One or more of your team members will be unable to log in to a meeting or lose internet access. When tech fails in the office, as when someone accidentally “breaks the internet,” tech-savvy team members step in to help. Working remotely, be patient with team members who may be alone, isolated from the world, and in the middle of a panic attack.
5. With much of a sales manager’s day devoted to the collection, interpretation, and dissemination of data, ensure your team members have the access they need to stay productive. Your CRM is an essential tool, and all team members need to be proficient in how to use it—be it daily data entry tasks, reading and analyzing their lagging and leading KPI reports, or simply having their telephones and email applications synced with the software. Working remotely, any deficiencies in the proper use of your CRM will be readily apparent and, similar to our previous point, will require some coaching to fill the skills gap and get the sales rep back on track. .
Whereas working remotely used to be reserved for special situations, such as illness or school closure, it’s a fact of our new normal. As comfortable as it is to lounge in sweatpants with our cats and dogs, co-workers and sales managers must guard against the difficulties that arise when we can no longer pop into an office to ask questions. For sales managers used to being in control, it can be especially difficult to navigate a virtual workforce. With patience and understanding, you can keep remote team members as productive as they are in the office.