Our friends at Sales Benchmarking Index revealed some interesting data. In 2011, over 78% of all sales professionals worked virtually over 50% of their time. The numbers who work 100% virtually is over 38% and growing each year. Sales Managers need to face the facts. Your field sales people are virtual. No longer can you go into an office and have a face to face interaction daily. No longer can you rely on the non-verbal communication. No longer can Sales Managers rely on running into their sales people ‘in the hallway.’
Recent sales survey data indicates the number one preferred coaching technique is ‘spontaneous’ coaching. ‘In the moment’ interactions are the best form of coaching, deal strategy and performance management. The problem is, it just doesn’t happen that much anymore.
Psychologists indicate 78% of all communication is non-verbal. This means that with a phone call only you are using only 22% of your available communication techniques. And using email only reduces that to only 11%. No wonder why sales productivity has been decreasing. Things are getting ‘Lost in Translation.’
What is the best way to manage virtually? How can I be more effective on the phone?
Four Steps to Improve Sales Management in a Virtual Office Environment
- Tech is your friend. Use Skype or some type of system similar to this. Get "face to face" with your reps once a week. Every tablet on the market has the ability to use a web-camera. Look them in the eye and ask direct questions. Notice their non verbal queues.
- Over communicate. Place your critical one on one meetings and field rides on the calendar. Make them face to face. And then call your sales people randomly twice a week minimum. You must not just tell them you have an ‘open door’. You must reach out to them and be the person who makes the effort and takes the action. Building this trust is critical to working virtually. If you don’t, they have numerous places to run and hide (which will eventually catch up with them—and you).
- Have Checkpoints. Use Job Aids in the sales process and deal strategy is essential. It allows you to ‘virtually’ inspect the work in a short period of time. As a Sales Manager, you can quickly check on the status of their activity and the deal. It will prepare you for the next call making that time super productive.
- Hire Talent. Absolutely nothing takes the place of hiring good talent. But when hiring for a virtual position look for internal motivation. You must get someone who will follow the processes you have put in place. And someone who manages their time. The biggest ‘ah ha’ moment when people work virtually is how important time management is. Time sinks (aka: distractions) are everywhere if you don’t have an office environment to guide you. Remember, world class sales productivity is 50% talent and 50% of the performance conditions you place that talent in.