Many professionals are comfortable working remotely, especially sales team members. For the employees who were surveyed, 86% felt they were most productive when working alone. Without the distractions of noisy coworkers and impromptu desk meetings, a remote work environment increases productivity. But the question is how to manage remote sales teams.

Although the benefits of flexible working are clear, managing a remote sales team can be more challenging than in a traditional office setting. A lack of face-to-face communication requires sales managers to make more of an effort to engage team members and build trust. 56% of employees believe managers need to adapt their skills to manage a remote workforce. Sales managers must create an environment where remote teams can thrive and succeed.

Managing a remote sales team comes with its own unique set of challenges. However, with the help of technology and defined procedures, managers can overcome these obstacles. Here’s how to manage remote sales teams and set them up for success.

Keep track of work activity.

When salespeople aren’t in the office, it’s challenging to check the progress of tasks. However, some accountability processes make it easy to track projects. Ask employees to put together a weekly work list that details their leadership development activities, plans of action, and goals. This keeps everyone accountable and lets managers know who is working on what.

It’s crucial that salespeople manage their time wisely and invest their efforts in the right opportunities. It’s unproductive to spend time and resources on leads that aren’t likely to yield high returns or convert prospects to customers. Managers can use tools to track the sales activities of their remote employees.

Badger Maps, for example, collects valuable data from physical sales visits. The app integrates with CRM tools and automatically adds data and reports to the system. Sales managers can also use Time Doctor, a software that tracks where employees spend their time, to improve remote team efficiency.  

It’s essential for sales managers to keep track of daily and weekly projects. However, they should be careful not to micromanage employees as trust is vital in a remote work environment.

Establish clear expectations.

Employee engagement is more likely to increase when managers set clear expectations. According to a Gallup study, 38% of highly-engaged employees agreed that their managers help them set work priorities.

Managers should provide each employee with a report that details specific tasks and ideal performance goals. Go over sales objectives and procedures for finding leads, cold calling prospects, following up, and closing a deal. It’s essential that managers encourage remote sales employees to meet higher performance levels.

Hold a weekly one-on-one call or have a quarterly meeting with the whole team to discuss expectations. Being available opens the door for any questions or concerns that employees may have but are unable to express in person. Setting clear expectations and listening to their concerns ensures everyone is on the same page.

Promote collaboration.

Even if remote employees are working thousands of miles apart, it’s still essential to provide an environment that fosters collaboration and engagement. Weekly calls are an excellent way to catch up, brainstorm ideas, and share success stories among the entire team.

For instance, a salesperson can share a new market they’ve tapped into or the strategy they used to convert a hesitant customer. Employees on different teams can learn from one another and become more motivated after hearing their team members’ achievements.

Encourage employee engagement.

Employees that work remotely can get lonely. Hold annual meetings or retreats where employees can get together in person. Encouraging social interaction helps build healthy relationships among remote workers. Additionally, managers can have sales team members work in pairs to reduce any feelings of isolation.

Building trust is also essential in any remote work environment. Be sure to talk about other topics aside from work. Discuss hobbies, pets, or family. Managers should open up to employees and show them who they are outside of work. Remote sales teams may never see each other in the office, so it’s a good idea to connect in different ways.

Provide the right tools.

Managers should supply remote sales teams with the necessary tools to help them succeed. Having a robust CRM is crucial for team members to follow up with leads and for managers to monitor their progress. Managers should encourage remote employees to update potential and existing customer information as often as possible.

Another way to help sales teams manage their time and track tasks are by providing a project management tool. A project management tool offers greater visibility into the status of each project and encourages remote team members to collaborate. For example, Trello can be used to store sales resources and provide a clear view of the entire sales cycle. From lead status to customer onboarding, all employees can access the Trello boards to manage their tasks.

Managing a remote sales team isn’t easy, but there are numerous ways to create a work environment that enables everyone to succeed. From building trust to encouraging employee engagement, managers that put forth the extra effort will reap the benefits of a remote sales team that maximizes productivity and closes more deals.

David Lloyd

David Lloyd is the CEO of The Intern Group, an award-winning international internship program.