Effectively managing remote sales staff across different locations can be challenging, trust me, I’ve done it before. As a former senior software sales professional and global VP with over 30 years’ experience, I’m well aware of all the challenges facing managers looking to lead professionals in disparate locations, who are culturally diverse and often speak different native languages.
But how do you effectively manage remote sales staff?
- It’s challenging enough to build relationships between managers and their teams at the best of times, let alone when you’re not based in the same office. Even technology platforms like Skype, for example, are fraught with difficulties as it can be hard to ascertain engagement levels via video. You can also never be certain who may be in earshot of the conversation. The solution? Have regular face-to-face meetings backed up by conference videos to establish greater team unity.
- Ensure that remote workers – who may also be travelling extensively – receive extra care, attention and support from the organisation’s office-based staff.
- Consistently and regularly check in with remote workers to see if anything is causing them undue stress. You should also be vigilant and aware of any potential signs of conflict as certain cultures can be reluctant to ask for help or escalate an issue which they might feel could be seen as a minor matter by their manager.
- The remotely located employee may see no sign of their employer for weeks, and you must therefore proactively ensure that pay and expenses are made on time and that the individual is aware of who they contact for assistance if anything does go wrong.
- Effective communication is of critical importance. This means you must guarantee that the employee has access to quick and reliable email, phone services and data if they’re travelling. You also need to ensure that IT support is easy for the team to access.
- Slow responses to emails can create unwanted tension. Remote workers can get frustrated if their questions aren’t answered quickly so look to outline rules for email based conversation as well as encouraging team members to engage via telephone or video.
- Encourage teams to build closer relationships by creating smaller working groups of two or three team members to work together on a specific project or task.
- Email communication must be as clear as possible to avoid any misinterpretations. For example, the subject line should specify whether it’s for information only or if action is needed. If the requested task is at all complex or critical then it should be followed up with a phone call to confirm that the message was fully understood. Ideally, email should only be a secondary process to follow up initial communications.
- Praise team members for their achievements and successes and make it specific so that they understand the sincerity and reason for the praise. This generates a good feeling and encourages an “achievement oriented culture.”
- Publish regular news of the team’s progress against their objectives and aim to keep all staff up to date on news of the organisation. Without this engagement, remote teams can feel excluded.
What actions do you think managers could take to ensure the happiness and engagement of their remotely based staff?