Tips for Managing a Virtual Sales Team

Virtual sales teams have become a common way of doing business. Thanks to technology that lets salespeople work productively from home offices or anywhere else in the world, a good virtual sales team is a win-win situation. Your salespeople get the flexibility and convenience of working where they wish, and you get to build a geographically diverse sales team without needing to sink capital into building official “offices” all over the country—or the world. The tough part is building the right team.

Choose the Right Salespeople

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Most good salespeople are strongly self-motivated, but any virtual employee needs to take this trait to the next level. A virtual salesperson often operates without day-to-day supervision and possibly doesn't speak to another co-worker for days on end. Every member of the team needs to be comfortable with this isolation and must be able to keep producing without a manager standing over their shoulder.

Set Consistent Expectations

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Since virtual employees usually decide what tasks to tackle and in what order to tackle them, it's important that everyone understands the priorities right from the beginning. This is particularly important for new salespeople or salespeople who haven't worked virtually before. So when you launch a new virtual salesperson into the world, sit down with them and set some specific goals.

Don't just give them a sales goal, pick some additional metrics as well. For example, you might agree that they will make at least 25 cold calls per day, set at least five appointments per week, and send out 10 thank-you notes per day.

Use the Right Tools

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There are plenty of technological marvels available to help you and your virtual team to work smarter. Get webcams for all of your salespeople (and yourself) and use video conferencing to meet. Set up a CRM that everyone can use from their own computers, preferably a CRM service that doesn't require software installation. Whatever the need, there's probably a software package or Internet service that can meet it.

Stay in Touch

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You've flung your salespeople out into the world, but you can't afford to forget about them. You should set up regular meetings with your team and go over any sales-related issues. It's also a good idea to call or conference with individual salespeople so that you can touch base with them and find out how they're doing.

Know When to Let Go

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Managing virtual employees requires a higher level of trust. When a new salesperson joins the team you'll need to keep an eye on their activities, but once they've become familiar with their goals and comfortable with your expectations, it's time to back off a bit. Good virtual employees prefer a high level of independence—it goes with their ability to self-motivate—so if you barrage them with phone calls and emails “just to check up” you'll be sending exactly the wrong message.

Focus on Results

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When you're 1,000 miles from your salespeople, you can't track what they're doing from moment to moment. The only way to manage your team fairly under these circumstances is to judge them by their results. If a salesperson is meeting or exceeding their sales goals from month to month, give them plenty of praise and don't try to mess with what isn't broken.

On the other hand, a salesperson whose sales are below quota needs immediate help and attention. Schedule a one-on-one meeting and find out what activities the salesperson is pursuing, then set up some activity goals for them and keep an eye on them until those sales numbers improve.