What are the skills needed to manage remote commercial teams?
Quarantine brought numerous challenges for all of us. Even those who have been in the market for years now live at a time when the known answers no longer make so much sense. And it was no different for sales leaders in managing their teams, who had to adapt their leadership techniques to a remote model.
As much as sales activities, fortunately, are easily migrated to the home office with the technologies we have access to, this does not mean that leading in this new context is simple.
Among the biggest difficulties are team engagement and motivation, as well as managing activities – without falling into the trap of micromanagement, which takes more time than it brings results. All this, as we know, in a complex scenario for doing business.
In other words: it is not enough to simply change the office from the commercial to the residential address, it is necessary to learn a series of skills and abilities to manage the team in this new context.
Why improve remote team management if social isolation is ending?
Maybe you’re thinking “why do I need to learn to lead a remote team when we’re already heading back to the office?” Okay, maybe social isolation is coming to an end in your city, but certainly the trend towards telecommuting is not.
This is because even before the crisis started, we already had a strong movement of migration to the home office, especially in large organizations.
The pandemic has contributed to dispelling many preconceptions about working from home, as well as many barriers to successful remote sales operations.
Virtual meetings met the demand for face-to-face interactions very well, companies reinvented themselves to conduct training and events online, leaders learned a lot about distance management.
With this, it is increasingly realized that remote work can mean lower costs and greater productivity, in addition to, outside the context of social isolation, it can provide a better quality of life for employees.
So, even if you are already physically in the same place as your salespeople, there is a lot to adapt to be in connection with this new moment.
Also because many companies have already announced that they will make home office by the end of 2020. Others have already adhered to it permanently. Many of your customers and potential customers may be taking the same steps!
What are the skills needed to lead from a distance?
Many skills required for remote team management are similar to those required in a traditional sales area. The big difference lies in the strength gained by sellers’ autonomy.
This needs to be at the heart of your leadership so that the team can achieve results, so you will need to develop some competencies differently!
Any sales manager knows that planning is essential, and knowing how to define sales strategies and tactics is a skill you probably already have.
But in remote work, you have to take it to a new level. This is because, with the team away from the office, the actions, deadlines and goals must be very clear for everyone, with defined focuses for each day, week and month.
This way, even if you may need to be away for a period, the team will have the independence to act within the scope of the planning created by you.
With the team working remotely, the processes also need to be different. From the communication channels used to the way results are monitored.
If you can’t move from table to table to see how each one works, what can you do? The answer is far from monitoring virtually every step of your salesperson.
In this sense, some good practices are having a regular checkpoint with each salesperson, working with data orientation and sharing the contact channels well. For example: Slack or WhatsApp for quick questions, emails for in-depth directions.
Another common challenge for sales managers adapting to the home office is to dose the volume of weekly interactions. At this point, be careful not to communicate too little or too much.
The ideal is to interact with salespeople at least once a week individually and again as a team, in addition to the necessary meetings as needed.
The most important thing is to be able to transmit everything important that happens in the company, with transparency, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. In addition to being able to identify any particular challenges that may exist for performance and be available whenever anyone needs it.
An important tip is also to take some precautions in online communication – especially in writing. Communicate your reactions to any message as clearly as possible to avoid sounding angry, unavailable, or otherwise sounding when you don’t intend to.
At this point, it is worth seeking knowledge about non-violent communication (CNV) methodology.
And since we’re talking about effective communication, empathy is another key competence for the home office. Even more so if the context is one of crisis and social isolation.
It is necessary to practice the skill of putting oneself in the other’s shoes, to understand challenges that may be compromising the work – such as lack of organization, difficulty in adapting, demands such as caring for the children, etc.
Therefore, we once again stress the importance of one-on-one conversations, in which you can build a safe and friendly environment to address these issues and for you to apply leadership and sales coaching techniques.
Ability to motivate
Sales teams tend to have high energy and are motivated by goals, campaigns, and interactions with other professionals. How to take this engagement to the home office?
In remote team management, your ability to motivate salespeople will need to be deployed in new practices. It will be necessary to review team rituals, moments of interaction, exchanges for learning and relaxation.
For this, an important point is to know what matters for each employee and also for the group. Based on the sensitivity to perceive this, it will be easier to trace the most effective actions.
Another competence that many of us have already developed, but which presents itself in a new way in the management of remote salespeople.
In a distance leadership model, it is not only important to be able to solve problems, but also to know how to identify them quickly and lead to their resolution with the least impact.
In other words, if there is a conflict between people on the team, you need to have an open channel with them so that they can bring up their challenges. And it will also be necessary to settle the disagreement without relying on the resources that exist in face-to-face interactions.
Flexibility to change
Well, if you are a sales leader learning about remote team management, it already demonstrates that you have the flexibility to change.
And, in the remote model, this is really important. Mainly because we’ve become more dependent on technology, which changes quickly or brings new features that we need to get used to.
You also need to be flexible to adapt processes, to learn new practices and change the way you currently manage your team.
None of the skills listed above will have such an impact on your management if you don’t have a very well-developed self-knowledge skill. In remote management this is particularly important because we have more difficulty reading people and environments in virtual interactions.
And, no matter how much feedback comes (at your request or proactively), it is important to be able to identify yourself where your strengths and weaknesses are to lead the team towards success.
In addition to skills: count on technology!
We mentioned that technology is a key part of managing a sales team working in a home office. It doesn’t just bring challenges that you need to adapt to, however.
In fact, technological tools will be your greatest allies for a leadership capable of bringing the best results in this new scenario. From solutions for video calling less susceptible to instabilities to CRM systems, which will allow you to see the performance of each salesperson in a clear way, so that you don’t have to surrender to micromanagement.
Your openness to learn about these technological solutions and try them out can even help you develop some skills that are so important for your leadership!
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