Work from home...work from anywhere...work remotely. All terms that have become part of every company's lexicon in recent years, but skyrocketed on Google Trends over the last few months.
Obviously the pandemic treated office space like Omar Little’s morning strolls through West Baltimore in The Wire; but once-a-century global tragedies aside, companies have long been considering making the permanent switch to a partial or full remote workforce for a litany of economic reasons.
While some roles/teams can make the commute from the bed to a makeshift workspace look easy; others take some real elbow grease and investment to become truly effective from anywhere. One of the most difficult functions that come to mind is sales.
For social proof, I have had to take my own personal odyssey to become a more effective sales professional from a distance. When your role is embedded in border-line obsessive communication and constant rejection, you need to have some safeguards/structure in place to keep yourself motivated each day. At first, your joining Zoom calls like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, but after a few weeks these tips really helped me focus:
1. Create/define a separate office space
Anyone just getting started working remotely, myself included, are so excited to answer emails and make calls from the couch while watching The Office for the 23rd time. By the end of the workday, I could tell you the exchange rate of Stanley nickels to a Schrute buck but had only responded to three emails and forgot to make a single call.
You have to be intentional about consistently sitting at a desk or workspace during normal working hours and focusing mentally. Your brain needs to associate work-mode with a specific setting. If you want to have a prayer of hitting quota while working remotely, you cannot upend your routine. Establish your workspace and stick to it.
2. Set daily goals
Sales is all about metrics and pipeline. When you show up to an office each day, people see you putting in time and results tend to be secondary. Remote employees ONLY have their results to speak for them. When people don’t see you every day, they will naturally wonder if you are accomplishing anything.
Set daily goals and metrics to hit and demonstrate progress/results each day. Can be a number of dials/conversations, emails sent, appointments set, demos run, agreements reviewed, etc. Anything to be able to show movement of the needle and keep the faith of your team.
3. Structure your day
Even though the commute from bed to office is 25 steps, this doesn’t give you autonomy to hit snooze with impunity and skip the shower. Just as it's important to define your workspace, it is also imperative to stick to a schedule. Wake up early and consistently block time to clean your inbox, prospect, strategize, meet with potential customers, breaks, etc. If you don’t respect/protect your time, you will fall behind and find it increasingly difficult to close deals before the end of the quarter.
Create a separate calendar (Google or wherever) dedicated to outlining chunks of time to do each task and move them around to fit your main calendar that day. That way you can toggle on/off and still receive notifications to start the task without it making your main calendar look like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece.
4. Invest in tools
Just like you would invest in a car to get you to the office, professional clothes to wear, courses to level up, your company needs to invest in proper tools to take you from a hostage of your remote prison to a consistent quota-buster.
From personal experience I suggest the following:
- WiFi extender. Seriously, you DO NOT want to be on the laggy end of a closing call.
- Messaging/video call apps. Plenty of options out there but Slack and Zoom are the main go-to’s these days.
- Task manager. I’m old school and have always leaned towards post-it notes for this, but I have known Things or Google Tasks to be super helpful.
- Conversation intelligence platform. If you don’t want to use your personal number to call prospects, you can hook up a mobile VoIP provider. Lots of options out there. If you are using a VoIP and don’t have a conversation intelligence tool connected to it yet, you are missing out on extremely valuable insights your prospects give you on every call and coaching opportunities to improve your remote team. (I’m biased, check Pickle out).
5. Take mental/physical breaks
While it is always important to get up from your desk periodically and take a lap in the parking lot or around the office, anyone working remotely needs to be especially conscious of this. According to a Fishbowl survey, you tend to work 55% more hours when outside of the office. New phenomenons like Zoom Fatigue are becoming very real side effects when you spend most waking hours on various video calls.
As mentioned prior, schedule your day and add in frequent breaks to get up and get some fresh air. I would recommend using the Pomodoro Technique for daily time management habits.
6. Team collaboration
Sales teams thrive on competition and team support to get through the constant onslaught of interactions and frequent rejection. Motivation is key to any successful sales professional and working remotely just makes keeping a team together more important than ever.
Turn something arduous like cold calling into a team activity. I recommend blocking off times for Batting Cages. Essentially a few reps hop on a video call and trade dials for a set period of time. It makes the uphill battle of cold outreach more enjoyable and gives you another social outlet, especially when you would normally be staring into the void alone in your home office.
Also, leadership needs to set daily competitions to keep things interesting.
7. Lead, don’t manage
Lastly, and most importantly, sales leaders that are running a remote sales force need to emphasize the “lead, not manage” mantra. Your team will be way more motivated if you are joining them in the trenches and taking the time to check in with each rep personally and doing a mental health check.
There are a lot of pressure points in this new reality that is piling on to the already extraordinary stress levels of your average sales rep. Check-in frequently and practice empathy, just like you should be during any discovery meeting with a prospect.
While there are countless other bits of advice to adjust and even thrive as a remote sales professional, this is the foundation that has helped me out so far.
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