Managing an Inside Sales Team Virtually
When I first started managing those teams remotely, I made the mistake of assuming that I could treat them like mid-market and enterprise reps in that they knew what they needed to do, and they would get it done. I quickly learned that is unfortunately not the case! You’ve got a workforce that is used to structured start/stop times with concrete daily goals that are closely managed. I’ve outlined a few things below that helped me maintain the same structure and rigor around metrics.
- If I hear you, I need to see you: With body language making up 55% of communication, it is important that you are seeing who you are speaking with. Internally, it helps you understand the mindset of an individual. Are they dressed and ready for the day? Or in a pair of sweatpants looking tired? Externally, it is much harder to say no to someone you can see vs. someone that is just on the phone.
- Trust the results: Understand that when working from home, people aren’t going to be as regimented in their schedule throughout the day and that is OK. Make sure that the results are what you focus on and provide the team a bit of freedom when it comes to making a schedule.
- Maintain communication: When making the transition from in-person to virtual management, you need to maintain the same frequency of communication. Don’t forego a two-minute conversation just because you can’t walk over to that person. Give them a quick call via any means of communication (Slack, Zoom, MS Teams, etc.) and have that conversation. For the first few quick calls, this will feel forced and unnatural and you need to fight through that. Not having the quick check-ins resulted in small things getting missed that could have easily been caught had we had a “normal” work environment.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- Set them up for success: Make sure that they are properly set up for their in-home office with the tech needed for them to be successful. If your reps are used to two monitors and they are being told to just work off their laptop, they aren’t going to be as productive. Spend the extra $$ on their home setup via expense accounts and make sure they are comfortable. Most folks really enjoy getting new technology and it provides a bit of a boost in morale. Don’t believe me, check out all these “rona rigs” that people are posting online!
- Start the day together: Run a morning stand-up to make sure that the team gets off on the right foot. This can be a quick, ten-minute meeting allowing you to go around the horn and get everyone’s top priorities/objectives for the day. It forces folks to be at their desks/keyboards at a designated time and allows you to take a pulse of the team.
- Adjust scripts (email/phone): Most folks are working from home, so you’ve all got something in common in terms of adjusting. Use your situation as a tool; make it a point to call this out in emails as an ice breaker and on phone calls as a conversation starter. I always like the, “Apologize if you hear my dog in the background. She’s quiet 95% of the day and generally chooses to chime in when I get on important calls like this.” You can use that one if you don’t have a dog and it works just as well!
In closing, it is important to remember that this is going to be difficult at the beginning and you need to establish a new normal. Put the effort in to go over the top on communication and rigor as it is always easier to lighten up versus tightening down. With the tools available today, everyone should be able to act as if they were in the office – so don’t let this slow you down!