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Virtual Management: Coaching Remote Sales Employees

7 min read
May 15, 2018

We are more connected now than ever before. Technology allows us to have face-to-face conversations in an instant, and businesses are adapting to enable remote options within their organizations. This creates a whole new set of challenges for sales managers who are coaching remote sales employees. They must ensure remote sales teams remain engaged, efficient, and utilize the coaching tips without being physically present.

A survey by Virgin Media Business predicts that by 2022, 60% of office-based employees will regularly work from home.

This shift from a traditional work environment might prove beneficial for businesses. A study by Stanford University found that there is a 13% increase in productivity of remote workers.  The key is proper management of remote sales teams.

As the number of remote employees continues to rise, businesses have to adjust how they manage and coach remote employees.

Invest in Coaching Technology

Remote coaching has a number of challenges; one of those should not be the technology. For a manager to successfully coach a remote team, a company needs to invest in the right sales technology that makes it easy to remain connected. That can include cloud-based storage for remote access to documents, mobile CRM access, video conference technology, and screen sharing capabilities. These tools provide sales managers visibility and keep teams on the same page.

Live Call Studio is a great resource to have for real-time feedback and sales coaching without needing to physically be there. A sales manager can join calls and provide coaching tips and feedback from anywhere, at any time.

Provide Clear Expectations

We all need direction. Setting measurable goals and clear standards and expectations is a first step in providing it. It’s easy to get distracted on the internet, especially when working from home (I’m looking at you Netflix). Having procedures and expectations in place helps maintain focus and accomplish goals. When setting standards, a manager should ask themselves, “What is the priority and why? What are the important metrics for success?”

When an employee understands what they need to accomplish, how success will be measured, and why these goals are important, it holds them accountable. If they find themselves distracted, goals and expectations can help refocus and prioritize their time.

Defined and measurable outcomes also make it possible to track progress throughout the year. At each meeting, ask what they have been doing to accomplish each goal, and review metrics to ensure everyone is on the right track. Regular check-ins hold both the sales rep and the manager accountable.

Provide the Agenda in Advance

A meeting without an agenda is like shopping for groceries without a list. It wastes time and money and increases the risk of missing important items. Without the advantage of water cooler conversations in the office, effective meetings are particularly important.  Providing an outline in advance allows remote employees time to prepare for upcoming meetings. It also allows for reps to have input into the agenda and prioritize items to be sure questions are addressed.

Working remotely has unique challenges that a manager might not be aware of. Allowing employees to contribute to the agenda and focus on what they view as important lends itself to a productive meeting for both parties.

In this case, don’t leave the best for last. Important agenda items should not be held until the end. As we all know, meetings tend to run over. Ensure you address the most critical issues by prioritizing them for the beginning of the meeting.

Communication, Trust, and Inclusion

“We need to talk.” We’ve all heard it before, but that doesn’t mean your employees need to suffer the same feeling of dread those four words evoke. When coaching remotely, communication is paramount. Vague, open-ended emails can cause anxiety and misunderstandings. Feedback should be direct and specific if there is an issue or coaching opportunity.

For instance, if a manager notices a lead has been stuck in the same cadence for too long, check in on that specific lead, roadblocks encountered, and solutions attempted. Isolating a single account focuses the meeting, which saves time and allows the rep to review their notes and the manager to focus coaching efforts.

Trust and inclusion go hand-in-hand. One way to build trust is to share the best personal or professional news at the beginning of meetings. This practice helps to develop a deeper relationship, which leads to more personalized, effective coaching. Inclusion in the company culture allows reps to become more personally invested in its success.

Have you ever had a virtual Happy Hour? I worked for a company where virtual happy hours were scheduled monthly, and everyone shared a drink over a video conference to discuss their highlights from the month. The personal bonding time helped nurture a sense of inclusion and connection with the team, and a stronger tie to the organization.

Wrap-Up Each Meeting with a Call to Action

A bias towards action leads to efficient use of meeting time. Meetings should conclude with a list of action items for follow up. Take time to revisit the agenda and discuss meeting outcomes. It’s a great way to maintain engagement and ensure everyone’s time in the meeting is productive.

Here’s something you can try at your next meeting:

At the end of the meeting, select someone at random to give a recap. The possibility of being chosen encourages reps to remain engaged. It also holds each team member accountable for the key takeaways and objectives. Sending a summary email with meeting notes is another practice that enables both managers and remote sales reps to align with outcomes. The notes are also a useful reference document in case there is any question about action items.

Take it a step further with Conversation Intelligence, which automatically transcribes the conversation and documents the key takeaways from the discussion. It also enhances the sales dialogue by enabling recordings and clips to be shared directly with customers. Sellers can get notifications around the specific keywords that their customers are searching for in the transcript. These insights provide a key indicator of engagement and deeper insight into the topics important to buyers.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key, especially when it comes to coaching. Studies show there is an 88% increase in productivity when coaching is consistent. That means an established schedule and routine with clear expectations.

A consistent meeting time with a defined agenda, ongoing training, and regular feedback are all excellent ways to set sales reps up for success. Consistency serves to not only reinforce expectations and goals but also holds sales managers accountable.

Accomplishing goals without accountability is difficult. If there is no investment on the manager’s part then why should the employee make the goals a priority? Responsibility reinforces a structured sales process and promotes a healthy sales organization.

What Did We Even Remotely Learn?

With the increasing number of remote employees, it’s important that a sales organization remain flexible and adapt to the changing market. Often, in the modern sales organization, employees no longer need to be physically in the office to be successful. With the ability to connect virtually, a sales organization can tap into talent pools they previously were unable to.

Having a system in place for coaching and managing remote employees is critical to success. The right sales technology stack, clear and direct communication, and consistent meetings with actionable agenda items will put your organization on track.

Looking for more tips on leveraging technology to coach more effectively? Download our eBook here!

Effective Sales Coaching