Culture defines what your company stands for, how your employees feel about your business and how they interact with your customers. Culture is woven into the fibers that make up your brand. Building a strong culture requires a genuine commitment and intention around caring for your people across the organization with strong support and sponsorship at the senior executive level.
Building a sales culture adds another layer because it requires the perfect blend of building trust and driving accountability. Because we all love a challenge, let’s add the remote component to the mix. Adding the remote work option offers access to more talent and overall customer experience. It also requires an additional investment of time and focus to building and extend the culture.
The Origins of Remote Sales Teams
Let’s look at the beginning of remote work or to the ability to “telecommute” as it was originally coined. The invention of the personal computer back in the 1970’s and the adoption of the World Wide Web in the 1990’s made remote connectivity possible and working remotely a reality. As technology improved, the quality of connectivity also improved. In the early 2000’s, broadband was a game changer Early in my career, I had the benefit of working for two early adopters of the telecommuting movement, AT&T and American Express. Most of our sales teams were remote and had geographical synergy to where the opportunity existed.
Cost Benefits of Remote Sales Teams
There are some compelling statistics to support the mutual benefits of this work environment that have stood the test of time. For employers, remote workers are typically more productive, have less office distractions, often work more hours than their in-office peers, which typically results in less overhead cost. For employees, working from home offers some mental and health benefits as you can swap your stressful commute time for a quick workout, improved work-life balance, etc. Great companies reinvest their savings in overhead cost into technology solutions and have dedicated culture building programs to drive employee engagement.
Building A Remote Sales Teams Culture
Building a culture in a remote sales environment requires a strong arsenal of tools that facilitate efficiency, transparency, and communication. It starts with hiring the right type of individual. Hiring the wrong person can cost upwards of six to seven figures in lost revenue opportunity in addition to the expense of their salary and benefits. Validate their experience, past sales results, and examples of demonstrated discipline in working remotely. What resources have they been accustomed to, and do you offer similar resources? Prepare your questions focusing on behavior-based type questions. As you prepare, remember STAR – Situation(S), Task(T), Action(A), Result(R). Listen for concrete fact-based answers of experience and try to not be sold. Remember salespeople, even the bad ones can put on a great sales presentation. Verify references from previous employers. Make sure that they understand what is expected and required for the job. This covers the spectrum of the day-to-day of the role – hours, training offered, types of prospects, administrative requirements, standing meetings, booked appointments, and expected activity. Gain buy-in and an understanding of what will be expected.
Key Pillars Building Culture in Remote Sales Teams
With the right team of individuals in place, the right tools to drive productivity and a good sales process you are about sixty percent of the way there. The missing forty percent comes from building an extension of your organizational culture. Here are the three key things needed to develop a great sales culture: Communication, Support, and Trust.
First, communication is a must. Helping everyone understand the focus and priorities of the organization, the role that they play to help achieve these goals and the measurable milestones along the way. Schedule a regular time for everyone to come together via video conference if possible. This is a great opportunity to communicate things that are relevant to the entire group, build rapport, get to know everyone, share best practices, and celebrate wins. This is where you will bond, unite, and develop your creed. Some teams have daily calls, others weekly or every two weeks. How do you decide? This is a great opportunity for everyone to weigh-in and cast their vote. Time zones can be restrictive, and you need to be sensitive to very early calls for West Coast, lunch time for the East Coast. With geographically spread-out teams, I find close to end of day for the East Coast on a Wednesday or Thursday tends to be best. Fridays are usually not a good idea as people may take and extended weekend, etc. The cadence of these calls will vary based on the tenure of your team. Experienced teams may not need as much time as a new hire. This is where the one-on-one (1:1) can augment nicely. The 1:1, is meant to be a dedicated time to connect with each of your direct reports. This is where you can discuss, specific sales and work questions, work on their development, provide coaching, get to know them better and build self-esteem.
Second, providing support includes making sure that the team has the training, tools, and knowledge that is needed to complete the job. In some instances, this may include equipment like a computer, printer, etc. For some, it might be helping the team create their version of a value proposition. Salespeople need measurement and guidance so providing visibility into how they are measuring up to the task. As the leader, you must have your pulse on the activities and their yield – meaning sales. Not monitoring activity could result in too much time being spent on the wrong tasks. Surprisingly, some salespeople aren’t always keen on all parts of the sale. Some love prospecting while others only like to close a sale. Depending on your organizational structure this might be okay if there are sales development reps to do prospecting. Having said that, any salesperson who resists on prospecting their own leads, will ultimately, have less appreciation for these leads. When you experience the no, after no, after no that come from prospecting, you will appreciate the value of a qualified lead. Your job as leader is to help the team efficient and effective ways to complete tasks. Remember working smart vs. just working hard.
Last but not least is build trust. A well-known international author best known for his sales trainings, blogs, and best-selling books wrote about trust. In “The Little Blue Book of Trust,” Jeffrey Gitomer says, “Give Trust. You become trustworthy by giving trust.” This is key inbuilding a remote sales culture. You may ask, how do I give trust to my sales team? You recruited, properly interviewed them, and trained them, create an environment with checks and balances that allows you to give trust. Spend time with your team and listen to their point of view. Use stories so they can get to know you – be humble. Offer more support to those that need it as this builds trust. Be honest and transparent, don’t manipulate. This doesn’t mean that you should be a pushover. Instead set aggressive goals and support your team’s success. Hold them accountable to the same level – no favoritism. Earning their trust, will build a strong culture and it will also help them learn how to give trust themselves. Gaining trust with prospects builds a bridge to closing sales.
No single one of these actions by itself builds culture, these need to be executed simultaneously. It requires commitment and consistency, but your efforts will build a strong remote sales culture. It is worthwhile as trust becomes the strong fibers that make up your brand and will fuel your organization’s success.