Working remotely is a priceless benefit for many employees. But that benefit comes with a cost; simple activities like having lunch with colleagues or going out for drinks after work may seem to exist in a distant, even alienating universe.
As it turns out, though, a little loneliness can beget a lot of productivity. A recent study from Stanford finds that remote workers are 13% more productive than their counterparts. Employees often cite perks like improved work-life balance, more flexibility with childcare, and lower stress levels. Last year’s Global Leadership Summit predicted that by 2020 more than 50% of all employees will work remotely, and the trend of decentralizing work is only getting stronger.
Salespeople, of course, constitute the majority of remote workers in most companies. The nature of their work demands they be constantly on the move. Despite being a remote arm, they have the same needs and demands as any other employee. They want their work to add value to the company and fit into the organization’s vision for the future, beyond driving revenue. They want to feel appreciated for their efforts and enjoy opportunities to grow and develop.
For many sales organizations, maintaining a large remote salesforce can be an arduous task. Almost always working outside of the office, salespeople are at an increased risk of becoming isolated and disjointed from their team. If, as a sales leader, you fail to find actionable solutions to this looming possibility, the consequences might be dire: should your sales team grow separate from the organization or lose a sense of urgency about its health, you might lose the power that keeps the engine going.
Try implementing these simple tips and tricks to prevent your salespeople from seeking work elsewhere. They’re designed to make the work environment more inclusive and your salespeople more focused.
- Promote clear communication and offer positive feedback. Although it sounds cliché, the value of communication in large companies is still vastly underestimated and/or poorly implemented. Poor Communication often causes unintentional problems that have less to do with a lack of good will than with unintentional oversight. Enter unintentional problems. Often, managers and leaders get so busy that they forget to pass on the same information to off-premise employees as they do to those on site, or unconsciously limit communication, delivering only the news that nobody wants to get: e.g., extra assignments, tighter deadlines on projects. Receiving only negative feedback or partial updates from the office can discourage employees and disconnect them from the organization. To counter this effect, managers should share positive results and offer individual praise. This will help them feel included in the existing team and culture. Moreover, efficient communication between management and employees allows sales reps to focus on selling and managers to focus on strategic initiatives at a higher level.
- Increase visibility and mobility. The importance of communication extends further. Take this scenario: we all know how stressful it is to wait for a paycheck at the end of the month. Imagine how much more nerve-wrecking it is to work on commission, not knowing if you’ve reached your targets. Keeping salespeople in the dark about their progress or innately pressuring them to call management and ask how close they are to reaching their objectives can lead to a lot of anxiety. But mobile visibility into earnings and commissions can be facilitated through various means. As more and more companies choose to work in the cloud, employees are increasingly logging in securely and accessing large amounts of relevant data from remote locations – even from their phones. Not having to wait until they get home or to the office to check on their progress heightens employee focus and lowers employee stress.
- Improve interaction. Once you’ve tackled the issue of visibility into earnings, it’s time to shift your attention to social interactions. Or, rather, the lack thereof. The fear of missing out has substance when it comes to employees who work outside the office. Yes, they may be able to take their dog for those much-needed daily walks. But missing everything from impromptu office outings to private jokes, these employees tend to lack an onsite, expansive social circle. It’s unlikely that they know other remote colleagues who have similar issues. The use of an SPM solution with an integrated mobile social app can turn this kind of situation around. Productive instant messages or email conversations, along with the spreading of inside tips and best practices, are encouraged. You can also keep remote workers feeling like part of the team (because they are) by maintaining regularly scheduled team meetings, including them in ad-hoc on-premise meetings, and publicly recognizing their contributions, just as you do for your onsite employees. Praise through different internal and/or external social means (company e-mail, Yammer groups, Intranet etc.) makes a world of difference when it comes to employee satisfaction. That virtual pat on the shoulder or fist bump from HR or direct managers – visible to all the employee’s peers – is energizing. A robust platform can also facilitate supportive, motivating interactions between employees. Liking posts and congratulating each other on different projects helps remote employees feel more connected and eager to succeed.
- Set clear expectations. Faulty communication and sporadic interaction between management and salespeople is also responsible for unclear expectations. In large or multinational companies, business objectives and expectations from upper management change all the time. Usually employees who work on premise receive information first – whether through hearsay or directly from their manager. Make it a rule to send out memos on the spot to all employees when making even the slightest changes in the established benchmarks. Yes, it’s a little extra work, but well worth the outcome: when a manager sets clear priorities for his employees, about 38% of workers feel more engaged and strive to increase their work performance. Frequent video calls between managers and the remote sales team, detailed reports that are delivered to each employee about tasks and goals, and real-time updates about performance and commissions will also motivate your field sales reps and help them stay on task.
- Boost competitiveness. Another key ingredient for a motivated and productive sales team is competitiveness. Remote sales reps run the risk of losing interest in projects and losing focus more rapidly than employees who work on premise, where the dynamic of the office itself promotes healthy competition. How to solve this one? Instituting a smart incentive plan makes it possible to establish a performance-driven culture among a field sales team. A flexible and generous incentive compensation plan should include challenging, timely, and accurate goal-setting. Ideally, the compensation plan should also be strengthened by strategies designed to unlock the innate qualities of salespeople. Salespeople are naturally competitive and love to win, so games that are tailored to meet individual or team sales goals naturally appeal to this group. Like many of us, salespeople crave and prioritize a promising career path. Any solid compensation plan should include a map of their professional journey. And don’t forget to include increasingly popular non-cash incentives in the compensation strategy. It’s becoming increasingly clear that money is no longer the only way to keep sales engaged, productive, and aligned with company strategy. For example, things like setting up an internal competition to win a vacation, based on performance, or giving employees the choice to donate their cash bonuses to their preferred humanitarian cause can be effective ways of boosting employee performance and securing their commitment.
Remote sales employees need increased attention from management to stay motivated, engaged and productive, and management needs the insight and savviness to know when modifying processes is necessary for the overall health of the organization. Automating core operations such as the rewards and benefits system or the goal-setting process, and increasing visibility into quotas and commissions, enables you to give your employees what they need while significantly lightening your administrative load. But the many benefits of automating don’t stop there. The long lasting value of investing in smart solutions today will far outweigh the effort and money you put in at the beginning.
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