The 2020 crisis has impacted businesses and people alike. Amid all the challenges and changes that sales leaders are adapting to, one thing that comes to the forefront is the way they have to align their sales strategy with their people strategy. As their teams continue to work from home, they are seeking ways to replicate their in-office culture in a remote environment, including moving customer calls to video conference calls.

Normally, any shift from in-office settings to more virtual work environments happens gradually, with time to make clear plans, educate your team, and train them effectively. But with so many teams that had to transition to remote work at a moment’s notice due to the crisis, there was little time for sales leaders to plan and prepare for this major change. Today, leading a remote sales team is a whole different ballgame, and you are up to bat in the 9th inning with the bases loaded.

But what if I told you that there is a secret to turning these challenges into positive changes that can spur open communication and improve productivity? To discuss best practices in remote leadership, I invited Liongard’s Chief Revenue Officer, Adam Slutskin for a thought-provoking podcast. Adam shared some best practices for MSPs from his experience leading a global sales team to success even in times of change.

Make work FUN for solid productivity 

It is natural for engagement in virtual meetings to diminish in comparison to physical ones, with distractions ranging from children interrupting to dogs howling in the background. Salespeople, who are often social by nature, can likely be impacted by these remote work challenges. As a leader, one way to fight this is by creating a space that allows them to have fun with work. To lighten the mood, encourage them to laugh out loud during daily huddles and collaboration calls. The casual interactions over calls make up for all those post-lunch chats and hallway small talks—all interactions teams miss out on when working remotely.

Also, be sure to make L10s a judgment-free zone as well where everyone can talk about their wins from the previous week and leaders can give updates on goal progress. It should be a safe, yet focused, space where you can help guide your team members to openly discuss not only challenges but also solutions.

Develop a virtual peer-learning system

Coaching a remote sales team is more than just delegating tasks and assigning projects. Many times, your team can learn a lot from each other. It’s your job as a sales leader to create these learning opportunities. Peer learning comes in many forms, including collaboration and collective brainstorming. To put it into action, other than daily morning sales huddles, have monthly learning opportunities throughout the year. Discuss customer surveys or feedback calls during these brainstorming sessions which can lead to innovative changes you can implement to make your sales process more effective, such as revamping your sales playbook and product pitches.

Engage in 1:1 coaching 

As a sales leader, you know that coaching your team as individuals is essential to their growth and success. But for a remote sales team, coaching takes on another level of importance. With time constraints in your own busy schedule, it may be tempting to reduce your coaching efforts to just those who are struggling most with leads. However, regular coaching with each member of your team is the best way for you to keep communication lines open. So, don’t let weeks go by without 1:1s.

If possible, send everyone a general outline of what you’d like to discuss the day before the scheduled 1:1s. This might include some of the numbers on the outreach or deals closed, or a specific sales tactic you want to work on with them. Discuss to find out how targets are unfolding and whether there have been any changes/challenges to individual circumstances. Do not forget to add a personal touch by asking questions such as:

  • What was the best call you had this week?
  • Which deals do you need help with right now?
  • What’s one thing that’s slowing you down?
  • What’s one thing you want to focus on right now?

Even on a video meeting, remember “what we say and how we say it” matters. Do your best not to come across as rude and demanding. Avoid using statements like “I want …” or “You need to …” Be empathetic. Also, be open to all ideas without coming across as dismissive. Remember, a shared laugh during a 1:1 session can sometimes turn into an incredible out-of-the-box idea after further discussion.

Gamify all learning experiences  

Gamification is catching on in the educational landscape, and for good reason. Performer-of-the-month awards, incentives to meet sales goals, and rewards for those who meet milestones are all based on gamification. Gamification works because it’s geared toward the learner. When the employee gets recognition for an accomplishment, it boosts their morale and motivation to keep going for additional rewards. The same gamification can be used to onboard new sales reps and in training purposes

Adam suggests incorporating gamification into company culture by hosting weekly learning challenges where team members can win prizes. He says giving the best learner a shout-out is also a great idea.

Dig deep with sales analytics

Only you know what matters more to your MSP—gross sales, gross profit, conversion rate, total commissions, or customer retention. Set realistic goals around these metrics and KPIs accordingly. Measure these KPIs regularly to make sure you are moving toward the desired goal. Remote teams can benefit from knowing exactly what tools are a part of their sales stack, and regularly evaluating their effectiveness.

When your team is working remotely and not engaging with customers face-to-face, their call activities can be even more important. Call volume, which measures how many calls each rep handled during a specific timeframe, can be especially valuable for remote salespeople who rely on calls to move forward through the sales process. Keeping a close eye on ‘closed deals per person’ can be even more impactful for remote teams. Not only does tracking closed deals help you understand how well your reps are performing to their quotas, but it also provides valuable context your team can celebrate.

Revisit your leadership style 

In these times when the market dynamics, team members, customers, and resources are changing constantly, you, as a leader, should strive to embrace the changing tide and be willing to quickly adapt. Remote leadership is your opportunity to experience a rich array of thoughts and reflect on your leadership style. Trust me, even if you have revisited your leadership style last quarter, you will find some ways to be better at ‘what you do’ and ‘how you interact with your sales team.’ A suggestion: Your new-found leadership style should take a more people-focused approach by focusing on assessing your team’s motivation and valuing their needs—something that will help you escape emotional distancing now and in the future.

Final Thought: Even in remote settings, you need your sales team to consistently win new customers and upsell existing ones. Having said that, leading a successful remote sales team isn’t as simple as challenging them to start selling your product. You need to engage with each team member on a personal level, create a sense of healthy competition within the team, put the right KPIs into place, and provide the team with the best training support to build a revenue engine that fuels long-term growth.