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How to lead a virtual sales team

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 4 billion of us working from home around the world.

Although restrictions are slowly lifting, you’re probably still managing a remote sales team. You’ve likely been working hard to help your team adapt to the change in circumstances and maintain your sales success.

A recent McKinsey study suggests it’s worth the effort. It found that more than half of respondents feel remote selling is equally or more effective than pre-COVID sales models.

With the right sales team training, virtual sales calls could become the new normal for your business.

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What are the main challenges when leading a remote sales team?

Though the world of remote sales presents huge opportunities for growth, leading a virtual sales team isn’t without its challenges.

Outside of the traditional office environment, it’s easy for motivation to drift and focus to wane. Salespeople are natural extroverts who may lose energy when they aren’t meeting clients in person and bouncing ideas off one another.

New skills
Your team of highly skilled in-person sales experts might need some virtual sales coaching to prepare them for remote selling. Even the most seasoned in-person sales team could do with support as they approach the technology and etiquette around video calls.

Buyer insights
Without your team’s usual in-person meetings with your loyal customers, you might feel you’ve lost your insight into the state of the market, their account health, what action needs to be taken and which relationships need nurturing. This feeling of quiet can be disconcerting.

Deal size
Traditionally, it’s believed to be harder to leverage big deals when operating remotely. The reason being those major wins rely so heavily on great in-person communication and long-term relationships.

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Benefits of leading a sales team

All that said, there are some fantastic benefits to operating a remote sales team. Recent studies show that remote selling is great for your team and for your bottom line.

With smaller outgoings on petrol, flights, dining and equipment, your profit margin is set to increase.

Plus, each representative who isn’t travelling has more time to make calls and build connections. Compared to in-person reps,  remote sales reps do 42.5 per cent more calls, 8.8 per cent more emails, 49 per cent more social media connections and 10.2 per cent more voicemails. These are all opportunities to gather insights, build those big-ticket relationships and, of course, close deals.

Managing your remote sales team becomes easier too. With everyone at their desks all day you can make contact any time compared to trying to call in the five minutes between them leaving a meeting and jumping in their car.

Technology can also make managing your remote sales team more streamlined.

With tracking software, you have more visibility on team performance and action. Meanwhile, schedulers and reminders automate the call and follow-up process. This maximises selling time and ensures all communication is timely and strategic to the needs of the client.

With remote selling your success is scalable. It’s easy to grow your team and reach more customers more often. The output required to onboard a new team member is lower than when recruiting in-person representatives.

Without the geographic restrictions imposed by in-person meetings, your team may have an infinite number of new prospects to contact who would have previously been out of your reach. You can strike more deals more often, which is the basis of a more diverse and therefore more stable business.

Be the solution

Your buyers value your agility and problem-solving. By switching to online selling, you’ll demonstrate adaptability and resolve not to let a global pandemic stand between your team and great customer service.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, less than  6 per cent of companies were prepared to telecommute. If you can stand out now, your buyers will remember you as the business that stepped up in a time of crisis. Even if your product isn’t exactly what your client needs as they ride out this time of economic challenge, you’ll be top of mind when things pick up.

To tap into the significant benefits remote selling offers to your sales team, you need an engaged and capable workforce. Let’s look at how to achieve that.

How can you support your remote sales team?
First off, prepare for some disruption. Everything in the world has changed, from ways of working, your customer’s bank balance and priorities, to the state of the economy. So the most important thing is to be aware and adaptive.

New incentives
A motivated sales force can handle new challenges. Adapt your incentive structure and career progression to keep staff motivated and outcome-focused.

Ensure the goals you set are clear and cover not only revenue but output. It might take a short while for your new remote selling techniques to gain traction. Be sure to reward reps for the calls they place, the meetings they schedule as well as the sales they score.

While your team may have packed up the projectors and samples, they will still need tools to make sales. Technology is a fantastic way to improve your team’s productivity and conversion rate.

Here’s the ultimate tool kit for any remote sales team leader.

  • A unified communication platform through which you can stay in touch, coach your team through the selling process and track their progress.
  • Network access to all the information your team needs to inform their buyers.
  • Sales enablement tools for automated planning and reporting to give your reps more time on client calls.
  • Buyer activity tracking to track email opens, website views, and document interaction helping you target the right customers at the right time.

Make sure any new technology you implement is quick to use and low on administrative duties. The idea is to free up your reps’ time, not weigh them down with extra digital paperwork.

The remote selling field moves faster than in-person. Your customers expect quick results and near-constant availability. Your new team communication needs to reflect that.

Switch from weekly comms to daily meetings. This will give your team more purpose and direction. The extra sharing of information empowers them to make quick and accurate decisions every day.

Communicate your expectations clearly. Not just sales objectives, but also procedures. Be clear on the elements that each sales call should include. Show them what a product demonstration should look like and explain the new patterns for negotiation. Coach your team on time management to ensure they get the most out of each call.

As well as your daily briefings, diarise regular group and individual calls to maintain your expectations and deliver regular reports and updates. This will help you to build trust but also demonstrate your availability without micromanaging your reps.

Finally, remember that team communication is a two-way street. Listen to what your team members want and need in order to succeed. Collect data on their experiences as well as customer feedback and use it to improve your processes and techniques.

Team spirit
If your team is used to being out in the field, they’ll likely feel isolated to begin with. This may be accompanied by a little demotivation or even discomfort if they feel their old skills are redundant in this new selling field.

Your team meetings are a chance to build motivation and share success stories and ideas to expand their skillset. Offer the chance for watercooler moments to help your reps maintain a sense of team spirit and focus on a common goal. A good way to do this is to have a more informal Slack channel.

Sales team training

Even the most experienced sales team could benefit from some virtual sales training. In a McKinsey study, one digital solutions provider increased revenues by 4 per cent by upgrading their sellers’ skills.

It’s important to recognise that remote selling requires new skills that your team may not yet be familiar with, from the technical to the interpersonal. Our article How to excel at remote selling is a great starting point to understand some of the key differences your team will be experiencing.

If you don’t have time to upskill your team yourself, we offer a dedicated virtual sales team training programme. The course helps remote sales representatives hold calls that lead to conversions.

Inner Leader’s Virtual Sales Team Training

On this training, your team will learn:

How to set up for an effective sales call
An effective sales call starts from the moment you say, ‘Hello.’ Make sure that your team are primed for success with top tips on the most professional setup for a relaxing and enjoyable experience for your clients.

The psychology behind virtual selling
Whilst some in-person sales skills are transferable, there are a whole host of new ideas and techniques that your sales team will need to make sure their virtual selling has impact. Your team will delve into how to adapt their existing skills for the remote sales world.

How to use non-verbal communication
Your team will discuss how to use video calling technology to their advantage to keep the flow of non-verbal communication alive between themselves and their prospects. They’ll look at which non-verbal signals work best and when to use them. Finally, they will look at how to read their clients’ non-verbal cues on a video call and how to respond accordingly.

How to prepare for, open, close and follow up after a call
With virtual sales, it’s all in the planning. Your team will learn how to prepare themselves for a successful call. They’ll also look at how to open effectively and close decisively for a memorable conversation. They’ll learn the secrets to the all-important follow-up and how best to add value to their customer’s experience.

How to build a rapport over video
Many sales reps who excelled at client lunches and coffees miss this aspect of in-person selling. Here, your team will learn how to recreate that sense of bond-building on video calls. They’ll look at how to use probing questions and other techniques to build a genuine and trusting rapport with their buyers.

How to interpret buying signals and close the sale
Considering closing the sale might look a little different in the online sphere, your team will map out what an effective close looks like. We’ll describe how to interpret different buying signals and how to manage objections in the online space.

The result
Team members emerge with confidence in their remote selling skills as well as a toolkit of tips and tricks to maximise their client-facing time and make the sale.