Mission possible: managing a geographically dispersed sales team

Sales Tips and Tricks eLearning

sales force management The business dynamics in the past couple of decades have evolved significantly to accommodate virtual teams and workspaces based in different cities, countries, and continents, across time zones, languages and cultures. Global teams have already proved that they can be much more efficient in expanding the organization’s geographic footprint, increasing sales volumes, and enhancing productivity.

Undoubtedly, managing a team that’s spread out in many locations can present serious challenges, even for experienced sales leaders. There are a number of questions that they need to find an answer to be able to reap the benefits a distributed sales force can offer:

  • How do I keep a good rapport with remote sales reps?
  • How do I ensure they are all treated fairly and presented with equal opportunities to grow?
  • How do I prevent them from feeling isolated?
  • How do I keep them accountable and on top of their targets?
  • How do I keep them up-to-date with company and product developments?

With the rise of employee mobility and the growing expansion of organizations into new geographical markets sooner than before, company needs and employee expectations are quickly evolving. To function in cross-functional, virtual teams across the globe, the latter are demanding faster, constant access to data and the freedom to work anywhere, anytime, on the device they choose. At the same time, the marketplace has become a global arena, more dynamic than ever, one that mandates that to win globally, you need to go local and dig deeper into the local specifics of the buyer’s culture and political and economic environment.

Sales managers who lead geographically dispersed teams regularly deal with the below obstacles:

  • Communication challenges
  • Sales team training and assessment challenges
  • Lack of accountability and local leadership
  • Time zone difficulties
  • Cultural differences

To overcome these hurdles and gear up their teams to reap the benefits of location flexibility, sales managers can use the below tactics to lead and successfully manage globally dispersed sales teams:

Hire the right team members

Not all brilliant salesmen and women are necessarily going to thrive in a remote team. Carefully define the profile of your remote sales stars: obviously, they need to be independent, with an above-average ability to self-motivate themselves. Needless to say, strong communication skills are a must-have for every salesperson, but this is even more true for a dispersed sales force where there’s no face-to-face contact with peers and management.

Iron out communication challenges

Install a virtual ‘open door’ policy early on. In the case of geographically dispersed team members, this would mean facilitating their access to you, their best resource, as much as possible. Schedule weekly sync up calls to discuss coordination and targets but also make sure your sales reps have various means of contacting you for a quick question or to walk you through a tough customer case, for example, by incorporating team sharing solutions such as Slack, Yammer, Skype, as well as task management tools such as Trello, Asana and the like. These tools can help make keeping in touch with your sales reps between scheduled calls easy and productive.

Promote a culture of collaboration

Be sure to focus on praising and further developing your team members’ strengths and desired behaviour rather than personalities and mistakes. Inspire cooperation among sales reps by devising a smart bonus system to reflect your goal to create a coherent, collaborative team. At the same time, pay extra attention to team members who are difficult to find or consistently refuse to communicate. Organize quarterly All-Hands meetings to analyse results together as a team and outline the objectives for the new quarter. An on-site get together at least once a year is also highly recommended.

Elect capable regional sales leaders

Carefully handpick and promote your regional sales leaders – they are not only supervising your team members but are also accountable for the success and failure of the local establishments, as well as the ones who will channel sales reps’ feedback back to you. Your regional sales directors’ mission is to replicate your sales model and adapt it to the local market requirements to consistently deliver revenue growth. The key to predictable revenue growth is ensuring that each account executive receives the same quality and quantity of leads every month to achieve and even exceed their quota.

Ensure 24/7 access to product collateral and training

Establish a way to keep all teams on the same page and up-to-date regardless of their geolocation. This can be done through regular webcast updates delivered by the product and marketing teams. Additionally, you can wire up a sales enablement portal where product marketing will be able to upload and share with the sales team various training materials, data sheets, case studies and customer references, product release notes and the like, that will allow sales reps to access them around the clock, on their device of choice. Providing your sales reps with updated product/market information will not only improve their confidence in front of savvy customers but will also increase your sales conversion rate considerably. This task might be a real challenge with a dispersed sales team. A Learning Management System will do the job much better than the old-school classroom training method. Remember to outline your training needs first before selecting a certain solution. See our 2019 Buyer’s Guide to LMS for more.

Establish clear objectives and metrics. Focus on results.

Clear goals ensure that everyone on the team is focused and headed in the right direction right from the start. Feedback is essential for team performance and morale, and it's particularly important in a geographically dispersed context. Stay in contact with everyone, make sure that feedback is fair and consistent and that rewards are equal. Using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timing) framework will help you set the pace and tone of the mandate.

You won’t be able to manage exactly how your reps are getting the job done every single minute of the day. Instead, focus on specific metrics to hold your reps accountable. Consider the following KPIs:

  • # customer calls and meetings
  • # opportunities created
  • # deals closed
  • Average deal size
  • Close rate

Focusing on results will help you lead more efficiently by getting rid of any micromanaging inclinations you may have.

Cultivate a willingness to share responsibility for success and failure

Coach your sales reps to be real team players and take personal responsibility for results, be them good or bad. This also includes mentoring junior sales team members, sharing of knowledge and best practices, personal experience, and so on. To foster the team’s productivity and drive synergies, a virtual sales team manager needs to display a positive attitude and dedication to continuous relationship-building, recognition, and compensation.

Ready to give Melon Learning a try? Not only does it help your sales force accelerate product knowledge while minimizing cost and time spent on training, it accommodates ongoing training and helps sales reps increase revenue through repeated learning.

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