December 29, 2010 by Bob Hill
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter - Sales & Marketing, Latest News & Views - Sales & Marketing, New Research, sales management, training
Allowing salespeople to work off-site as a way to boost productivity and decrease costs may be a beneficial move, but it comes with a whole new set of rules, according to a pair of business experts.
Darleen DeRosa and Rick Lepsinger, co-authors of the book Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance, conducted extensive research to determine what the best practices were for managing an entire sales team of off-site employees.
“Today it isn’t uncommon for companies to have as many as 50% of their employees working on virtual teams,” Lepsinger pointed out in a recent press release, asserting that the rules of engagement are very different when you’re managing an outside sales force.
One of the biggest management pitfalls, according to DeRosa: Recycling the same best practices that seemed to work well when all of your employees were working in the same office.
OnPoint Consulting, the company which DeRosa and Lepsinger represent, conducted a study of 48 off-site teams to understand the success factors of top-performing organizations.
The good news: More than 70% of virtual sales forces included in the study achieved better results than they had when all of their salespeople worked out of the same office.
The study revealed four specific things every manager must do in order to develop and manage a successful off-site sales team:
- Have clear goals, objectives and direction. Goal setting (and effective follow up) is much more difficult when you don’t have salespeople in the office on a regular basis. Remedy that by scheduling regular conference calls or meetings (either in the office, at home or even at a local coffee shop) to review key goals and objectives. Also make sure reps have instant access to key metrics, reports, updates and other statistics that keep them focused on the right things.
- Make sure salespeople understand their role. Salespeople are supposed to be a reflection of the organization they represent. With that in mind, make sure your salespeople understand the company’s mission and values. With an off-site team, it becomes even more important for managers to join reps on sales calls from time to time and make sure they’re not only on point, but also representing the company’s core values in an appropriate manner.
- Instill a strong sense of trust and collaboration. A whole should be more effective than the sum of its parts, which is why it’s important to have off-site salespeople work with one another on specific projects, creating a cohesive unit where everyone has a positive feeling about the company. Encourage salespeople to partner with one another on major accounts, and schedule events so everyone can be in the same place at the same time and everyone gets an opportunity to know one another. More importantly, communicate with each of them as often as possible to strengthen the bond between manager and employee.
- Watch out for performance peaks. One of the most alarming trends DeRosa and Lepsinger uncovered was that the sudden freedom and change motivates salespeople in a whole new way — but only for a short period of time. After the one-year mark, a lot of these operations tail off, as salespeople begin to take short cuts, get lazy, lack discipline or simply start to miss the day-to-day structure of an office environment. The keys to succeeding long term with a virtual team are very similar to the keys to succeeding with an on-site team — consistently look for new ways to engage and motivate employees, while spending a significant amount of face time with each member, training and developing them so their skills (and their desire to get the job done) remain intact.
Source: The book Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance, by Darleen DeRosa and Rick Lepsinger.