Four Steps to Improve Sales Management in a Virtual World

March 21, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Our Sales Benchmarking has revealed some interesting data recently.  In 2011, over 78% of all sales professionals worked virtually over 50% of their time.  The numbers who work 100% virtually is over 38% and growing each year. 

Sales Managers need to face the facts:  Your field sales people are virtual. No longer can we go into an office and have a face to face interaction daily.  No longer can we rely on the non-verbal communication most of us are used to having each day or week.  No longer can Sales Managers rely on running into their sales people ‘in the hallway.’

This poses a big problem.  Recent sales survey data that we have performed for our clients indicate the number one preferred coaching technique is ‘spontaneous’ coaching.  ‘In the moment’ interactions are the best form of coaching, deal strategy and performance management.  It just doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Psychologists indicate 78% of all communication is non-verbal.  This means that with a phone call only you are using only 22% of your available communication techniques.  And using email only reduces that to only 11%.  No wonder why sales productivity has been decreasing.  Things are getting ‘Lost in Translation.’

Sales Leaders ask me constantly “How do I fill the void?” What is the best way to manage virtually?  How can I be more effective on the phone?

Four Steps to Improve Sales Management in a Virtual World

  1. Tech is your friend.  I don’t mean to occasionally use  a webinar, email and/or  phone call.  But really use it; get Face to Face with your reps once a week.  Every tablet on the market has the ability to use a web-camera.   Look them in the eye and ask direct questions. Notice their non verbal queues.  Make Skype your friend.
  2. Over communicate.  Place your critical one on one meetings and field rides on the calendar. Make them F2F.  And then call your sales people randomly twice a week minimum.  You must not just tell them you have an ‘open door’.  You must reach out to them and show them the action.  This way they will reach out to you.  Building this trust is critical to working virtually.  If you don’t, they have numerous places to run and hide (which will eventually catch up with them—and you).
  3. Have Checkpoints.   The use of Job Aids in the sales process and deal strategy is essential.  It allows you to ‘virtually’ inspect the work in a short period of time.  As a Sales Manager, you can quickly check on the status of their activity and the deal.  It will prepare you for the next call making that time super productive. 

    One of the most popular and effective job aids is a Compelling Event Assessment. Most reps struggle with uncovering and strengthening a compelling event.  (I know I do). This tool helps me tremendously. Download the Compelling Event Assessment Tool Here.compelling event assessment sales management

  4. Hire Talent.   Absolutely nothing takes the place of hiring talent.   But when hiring for a virtual position look for internal motivation.  You must get someone who will follow the processes you have put in place.  And someone who manages their time.  The biggest ‘ah ha’ moment when people work virtually is how important time management is.  Time sinks (aka: distractions) are everywhere if you don’t have an office environment to guide you. Remember, world class sales productivity is 50% talent and 50% of the performance conditions you place that talent in.

The world is turning virtual. In a recent Talent Assessment we did for a client, 90% of all sales people officially worked remotely.  And the number one complaint of sales managers was being out of touch with their sales reps. Even insides sales people are beginning to work from home. Learning how to manage these people is key to Sales Management success.  Use some of the techniques above to be successful.  But don’t just think its ‘business as usual’.  Your productivity will decrease dramatically.

Attend our next Webinar around Generating Leads inside your current key customers (AKA:  Account Development).  You can then inspect your reps virtually to see if they are maximizing their time to increase revenue.

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Topics: Sales Management

Posted by Dan Perry

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