Do remote sales teams actually work? SaaS companies have had an additional challenge when scaling up the last few years – deciding where their teams will work. The pandemic sped up a shift that had been slowly, but steadily, growing up until 2020 – that of remote work. In case you’ve missed it, remote or virtual work exists when teams work from their homes or other chosen workspaces, rather than coming to an office every day.
The question of which is preferable isn’t going away any time soon. Now that we’ve proved so much CAN be done from home – employees aren’t keen on returning to the commute. But SaaS leaders shouldn’t be worried – in fact, virtual sales teams may be better for the health of the company if the operational capabilities are in place.
In this blog, I’ll discuss:
When deciding whether to adopt an in-office, hybrid, or remote work model for your SaaS business, don’t discount the advantages of remote work based on a CEO’s online groan.
Adopting a virtual or remote model is actually brilliant for a company’s overhead – no office space, no lighting and internet bills, no filling the break room with snacks every week just for it to be empty 24 hours later.
Remote teams also have the flexibility of working across time zones – a great advantage for finding new customers, as someone’s always available for a meeting in their time zone. If you’ve ever tried scheduling a call with New Zealand only to realize it’s tomorrow night there, you’ll understand just how advantageous this is. If not, well… look up a time zone converter and get back to me.
That flexibility also extends to who you can hire. When you’re not bound by the few kilometers surrounding your office, you can hire skilled salespeople you never would’ve considered before. With experience so different from the rest of the pack, they’ll add a diversity of knowledge that can only add to the overall skill level of the team.
Some of the same advantages I’ve pointed out in the last section, can also prove to be challenges for virtual sales teams.
Communication barriers can exist when your team is working from all over the world. Implementing asynchronous communication methods, however, can help overcome these barriers.
With varying time zones, teams must be innovative to keep everyone in the loop on important communication. This will also keep teams feeling like they’re still working in a collaborative environment.
Managers, especially, must be mindful of the time-zone issue. Tailoring your workday to overlap with several time zones will ensure you’re available to as much of the team as possible. Record meetings that are outside that overlap, so that everyone can watch during their working hours, and be sure to be responsive when there are questions or clarifications requested so that your team doesn’t feel left in the dark.
Despite the rants about returning to the office, there are some things you just can’t deny about office culture. The collaboration that can happen when the entire team is in one room, for example.
The most-lamented loss of in-office work models – by teams themselves – is the social aspect. Not the pizza party jokes on social media, but the “water cooler” talk and popping into someone’s office to ask how their vacation was or get that update on their messy breakup.
Managers looking to create this socialization for their teams should do so intentionally at the beginning of meetings. Implementing monthly virtual happy hours was much appreciated by many during the pandemic, as workers looked for ways to have social interaction without leaving their homes.
Even though we can leave the house again, there’s no denying that remote workers miss the social aspect of the office – even if that’s the only thing they miss!
Building a successful remote sales team starts with the recruiting process. Managers should look for the same qualities and experience they’ve also sought out. However, the work environment does require a few additional considerations.
Hiring managers seeking the high-quality talent required to be successful in remote work environments should be aware of the challenges the environment presents. They should also take steps to ensure they’re working to support their teams’ needs, including the need for flexible work times.
By getting to know the candidates’ needs during the recruiting process, managers can make a determination of if they’re a good fit, and how to best support them once the new team member is onboarded.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of questions SaaS managers should consider asking their remote sales candidates:
When hiring a remote sales team, managers should account for the lack of direct oversight over how their team spends their time by setting clear expectations. Defining success metrics and deliverables is obvious, but virtual teams also need to know how they should expect to communicate and be communicated with.
What are the tools for communication your company uses? Make sure all new members have the correct access on day one.
If you expect responses via email or Slack in a certain timeframe, have that conversation up front. It’s not fair to the team member if you never laid out the expectation, to then be held accountable to it.
Talk about boundaries – yours and theirs. This is especially important across time zones – if they reach out to you at midnight, because it’s in their working hours, they shouldn’t expect an immediate response.
Have resources in place so your team can find as many answers as possible. Strong SOPs, that everyone can access, help empower employees to find answers on their own. Implementing a mentorship program or accountability programs for those with similar working hours will both help your team continue moving the needle when you’re not working and foster teamwork and collaboration.
By setting up open lines of communication on day one, you’ll be able to stay abreast of changes in the working environment and support your teams across the globe. Managers who fail to do so, may find themselves wondering why a hire didn’t work out, when they could have gotten them the support that they needed much earlier.
Sales can be overwhelming, so be sure to implement tools to reduce overwhelm for your remote sales team.
The growth of communication tools the last few years has made remote work as easy to manage as in-office. Giving remote sales teams the tools to communicate throughout their respective days removes the barriers that would otherwise exist.
Use a tool to keep track of deliverables. This way, when things aren’t moving along as expected, you can see who is on track and who isn’t and support your sales team accordingly.
These tools can also be used to celebrate wins and metrics. Celebrating your team’s successes is even more important with a virtual workforce, as often managers can fall into a trap of only communicating when things are bad.
Employees are more apt to stay through tough times when they are receiving development opportunities. By creating a structure for these programs, managers will increase the engagement of their teams, while also queueing up their next generation of leaders.
By the same token, newer salespeople often need mentoring while adapting to the company culture, or even the niche if it’s new to them – finding leads may even be different than their past sales roles. Identifying the veteran sales leaders on your team and placing them in mentorship roles with your new team members is a great way to increase retention rates.
For the remote workforce, it’s easier to become disengaged – you’re not seeing your peers every day, so when things aren’t going so well, what’s to stop someone from leaving?
Building opportunities to grow and get support is critical for virtual sales teams, who are often battling external forces when setting sales calls and closing new deals.
Recognizing that your virtual team works differently, extends to how they’re motivated. By adapting your approach, you can still motivate your sales team at a high level.
Compensation structures should be built to be won. Create goals that are challenging enough to push your sales team, and hard – but not so high that they feel deflated at the start of each quarter.
A tiered commission structure is a great way to push your team to continue to push themselves to new heights – because their rewards will reflect the level of success of the company.
Taking the time to celebrate is important to your team. When we regularly reward great results, we see an increased level of engagement and motivation from our teams.
And it’s not just about work! When your team members accomplish amazing things outside of work, it’s equally as important to recognize those wins. Did someone run a marathon? (Better them than me!) Get married? Celebrating your virtual sales team’s nonwork achievements will have lasting effects on your culture – one’s that monetary incentives can’t buy.
The tools you’re using to communicate for work can also be used to create a sense of community among your remote sales team. Creating channels for fun on Slack, for example, gives your employees a space to let their hair down and get to know each other the way they would if they had an office to chat in.
In conclusion, the question of whether remote sales teams work or not may not have a simple answer. While there are benefits to having remote teams, there are also possible challenges that need to be addressed.
The success of such a team depends on various factors, such as communication, technology, and leadership. By addressing these potential challenges before scaling up, SaaS leaders can have confidence that they’re creating a virtual work environment that leads to success.
salesmentor solves recruitment problems for B2B SaaS companies – with Sales Talent as a Service, Daniel Feander recruits, hires, onboards, and mentors your virtual sales team to success.
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