If you’ve found yourself here amidst your research into remote sales teams, you’ve likely noticed that most information out there focuses very tightly around managing a virtual sales team made up of remote workers who had, up until recently, been based at a physical office.
Yes, the pandemic catalyzed work dynamics and sparked a remote work revolution. It turned entire companies into remote teams and forced a total rethink of the sales process around remote selling. Yes, managing remote employees of any kind introduces a cornucopia of new challenges to managers—and in many ways perhaps even more so to sales leaders, specifically.
But what about building a remote sales team from the ground up—not as a necessary evil in lieu of being able to find sales reps who will come to the office, but as a calculated strategy?
At Iglu, we’ve been fully remote since the days before the iPhone. While we can’t say we invented the remote sales team, we’ve built up decades of experience in and more than a handful of insights on remote sales management that sales managers will benefit from as they lead their own sales team remotely.
Perhaps more importantly though, we’ve learned first hand that with the right approach, tools and sales processes, virtual sales teams can be much more than just a fallback. For us remote sales has always been and will always be our ideal structure. In the right hands and with the right perspective, sales performance at your company can actually benefit significantly from a remote team of sales reps.
“If your product fits and your operations can scale, making contact is all that stands between you and the sale.”
In This Article
That’s why we’re going to cover both sides of the coin. We’ll guide you as a sales manager in how to capitalize on virtual selling, whether you’re already leading a remote sales team or not. If you’re able to visualize the potential advantages of a fully remote sales team, you’ll be able to capitalize on yours or build one that delivers real results for your company.
Here’s What We’ll Cover
- Building a remote sales team
- Best practices for managing your virtual sales team
- Must-have tools, tech & resources for off-premise sales teams
- How to accelerate remote selling for your business with Iglu
Table of Contents
Building a Remote Sales Team
Building any sales team is a serious challenge for most businesses and sales leaders. Finding great team members who fit with your organization’s ethos and mission is an infinitely ongoing process for any company. When it comes to sales, that challenge is multiplied by the implicit requirement that any talent who does fit on a personal level is also able to deeply comprehend and market your products or services.
That’s hard enough as it is. It’s just much simpler—and safer—when everyone is in person… right?
The short answer is, sure, it can be—depending on how you’re set up and whether you’re prepared for the inherent differences that come with managing remote sales.
The less short answer is that it’s not that one-dimensional, and we’d caution you not to confuse simplicity—or potential effectiveness—with comfort.
Advantages of a Fully Remote Sales Team
Plenty of—perhaps most—managers with experience running teams will find familiarity and a feeling of security in having their people all physically in one place. And it does have its perks. It’s certainly easier to spontaneously collaborate when everyone working toward a common goal is reliably in the same physical space.
Communication in general can be easier as well—whether a team member needing support benefits from being surrounded by knowledgeable coworkers, or a sales manager wants to get a quick status update on an account as she passes a sales rep by their desks.
But we don’t actually lose those abilities with remote teams. We just need to adapt to different dynamics, which is an experience that can be frustrating and unnatural at first whether it’s in managing remote workers or switching supermarkets.
The upsides on the other hand are potentially enormous, and it’s easy to argue there’s a lot more to gain by embracing remote selling than there is to lose in addition to your commute.
So what is there to capitalize on?
A Much Bigger Talent Pool
When physical location no longer matters you no longer have to worry about limited potential candidates. You get to zoom out to the scale of the human population before filtering back down to your own core requirements for qualified potential sales reps.
Working remotely no longer has negative stigma from a client relationships standpoint, which means you can leverage talented sales reps based all over the planet, even if your clients are all relatively local.
Statistically speaking the best person for the job based on how you define success isn’t likely to be hanging around in your backyard. Now you have the freedom to find them wherever they are. You also stand to be a much stronger competitor for top talent, since traditionally high-cost perks like prime office space and home comforts are either no longer relevant or already at your remote sales reps’ homes.
Making the switch to virtual sales teams means glitzy office space isn’t the lure it once was. You may even be able to forego physical real estate entirely.
On top of that, with a geographically boundless source of talent you can have your virtual sales team physically based in parts of the world with much more affordable costs of living—some of which also plenty of additional intrinsic perks to residents, whether locals or foreign expats.
Team Member Empowerment
Salespeople tend to be self-motivated, autonomy-seeking individuals. After all, the opportunity to build one’s own “business within a business” is an extremely attractive draw for many professionals who opt to go into sales.
So perhaps even more than other team members at your organization who might passionately advocate for remote work arrangements, your sales team will likely thrive with increased independence and control over their own schedules and surroundings.
Even for those who don’t mind being a part of an in-person community of coworkers, sales is at the end of the day a self-directed process, and capable sales professionals are likely to benefit from experiencing the increased freedom—and accountability—that accompanies remote selling.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit greatly from plenty of support. We discuss that in depth below.
Expand Into New Markets
When you build your sales organization around remote team members, you gain the power to totally rewrite the playbook. If you look at remote selling as a necessary evil, or a complication you need to contend with, it will never be anything but a hindrance.
But if you see it for the potential power-up that it is, you can grow in ways that never would have been achievable otherwise.
For example, why not strategically base your team members in new markets you’re otherwise well-equipped to expand into? After all, if your product fits and your operations can scale, making contact is all that stands between you and the sale.
Even if market expansion isn’t your primary objective in the short-run, basing team members close to key strategic locales will only help you to grow roots in the background until you’re ready to make an active push.
On a similar note, having remote sales managers and sales reps based abroad means your company can theoretically make sales calls around the clock.
You’ll also be able to reach potential clients whose time zones don’t align with that of your company’s headquarters, and provide timely service to customers who may have otherwise passed on considering you out of concern you wouldn’t be able to service them effectively long distance.
Remote work is much more than just allowing your team members to work in a remote setting. It’s about fundamental flexibility. If you do it right, you can take advantage of major efficiency gains. Think Uber or Airbnb but for remote salespeople.
Eliminating the traditional 9-to-5 at the office means people are able to meet their time and output commitments on their own schedules—often with bandwidth to spare that they’d love to find a way to monetize.
As a sales manager, you can capitalize on this by bringing on limited-capacity sales reps who you either structure as part-time or according to modest sales targets. So you can expand in multiple markets a bit at a time at a pace that benefits both you and your team members.
What to Consider Before Setting Out to Build a Virtual Sales Team
Putting all the benefits of a virtual sales team aside for a moment, setting out to build one does require some preparation on the side of any soon-to-be remote sales manager.
It’s certainly a mental shift at a minimum if you’re coming from a traditional in-person sales process. And beyond your own readiness for remote sales, you need to consider whether your company is.
Is your company culture conducive to embarking on this new chapter? Will company values encourage leadership to be supportive of remote employees? Are you prepared to measure sales success and monitor sales activities without having an in-person overview of your entire team?
These are all things that need a cold, hard analysis before you venture out into remote sales leadership. Really dive in and be critical here. Asking the tough questions and challenging other company leaders to make sure everyone is on the same page now will pay off massively when your
Step By Step: How to Build a Dream Remote Sales Team
If you’ve assessed your organization and set clear expectations for your new remote sales strategy, it’s time to get out there and assemble your team. But jumping into an arrangement with a promising new group of remote reps would be a misguided first step.
Without a physical office environment and the intrinsic support that comes with being surrounded by other team members, you’d be sending your new virtual sales team out to market at a significant disadvantage.
Before you start paying salaries (or draws) and bringing capable people into your company’s fold you’ll benefit from laying the foundation for their success.
Step 1: Develop Your Marketing Arsenal
Peter Drucker famously said, “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”
And of course it should. But in the lead-up to that prosperous future in which all of your customers come to you, perhaps we can settle for using great marketing to support our selling process and empower our sales teams.
So before you form your team of virtual selling champs, set them up with a powerful arsenal of collateral that will help them hone your messaging, reach potential customers with strong value propositions, and close deals on their own.
Spend some time working on leveling up assets like:
- A strong, modern product/service-focused website
- Product/service one-sheets
- Email templates
- Presentation decks
Investing in brand authority marketing by creating a focused and useful blog and other valuable materials people can benefit from will also streamline your sales process and keep a steady flow of potential customers coming to you.
Step 2: Find One A-Level Sales Rep
Good leadership is key to any good sales team. But effective sales leaders don’t have to be actual sales managers.
What will benefit you more than mid-level sales management between you and your remote employees is one or two high-producing, reliable remote selling pros who can lead by example.
In this new remote environment, your organization will need some degree of certainty and reassurance. Your newer remote sales team members will need a model for success—someone on the same mission as them and in the same circumstances, who’s demonstrated that it’s achievable.
Whether this A-player is in a management position or not, having a proven, capable salesperson on board and part of your sales organization will motivate newer sales reps and passively push everyone toward their sales goals just by being there.
If they’re more actively engaged in team meetings and collaborative sales activities, all the better. Either way though, they’re an ace in your hand and will make a big difference in securing your business as you pursue a new remote selling strategy.
Step 3: Establish Clear Expectations & KPIs
Self-direction and motivation are great attributes to look for in building your virtual sales team, but they can’t stand alone. As we’ll discuss further below, accountability is key. With a distributed team it’s even more important that everyone knows the exact definition of success and desired performance.
Highlight key metrics you’ll be using consistently to assess everyone, and keep them visible.
On the qualitative side, be sure everyone knows what kinds of contributions are expected of them before you see them off to go hit their sales quotas.
Clearly outline expectations related to:
- Team communication (check-ins, approval requests, collaboration efforts, etc.)
- Deliverables (recurring reports, occasional presentations, organizational feedback, etc.)
- Use of project management and sales tools
- ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s of client meetings, messaging, commitments, etc.
- Time management and logging (if applicable)
- Participating in in-person events
Step 4: Look For the Right Qualities
Not every salesperson is well-suited for remote selling. There are those who need direct oversight and continuous guidance and those who are perhaps a bit too ambitious and may sell well on their own but could cause the business problems by making irresponsible commitments or using messaging that contradicts with your company’s image or values.
Both of these types might be sustainable with in-person oversight, but could be detrimental on a virtual sales team.
When hiring remote selling professionals, qualities like accountability, maturity and loyalty are even more important than they are in a traditional work environment.
You need no-nonsense, business-minded individuals who want to earn by producing for you—and at the same time respect that they’re part of a larger collective. Prioritize people with leadership potential.
Step 5: Invest In The Right Tools
Even the best salespeople will struggle if sent out into the world to sell for you using only the tools they already have. On the flip side, managing a team in a remote setting who are all using totally different tech, systems and processes to do the same job will be all but impossible.
To foster collaboration and constructive team dynamics it’s critical to equip your team with the instruments that can give them an edge—and standardize your sales process.
Read on below for our recommendations on the best tools for any remote sales team.
Managing a Remote Sales Team
You’ve built the team. Now comes the easy part… right?
Truthfully it can be easy—at least no harder than managing a traditional sales team. But to sustain remote selling in any organization you need to be aware of and able to overcome common issues that can otherwise interfere with success.
Best Practices for Effectively Managing a Remote Sales Team
Create a Virtual Work Environment
This tip has a lot of overlap with employing good tools, but it’s specific to how they effect a remote team collectively. One of the biggest challenges many sales managers face when leading remote teams is creating and fostering the team dynamic.
That is to say, even if you compile a group of capable salespeople who thrive in a remote selling environment, you don’t automatically have a team.
In order to benefit from the collaboration, mutual support and reciprocal encouragement that comes with a true team, you have to provide a remote work environment that encourages collectiveness, discussion and sharing.
Using collaborative project management software like ClickUp and an integrative chat app like Slack will go a long way in sparking this for you. But it’s what you proceed to do with these tools that really matter.
Keep in Contact
Make a habit of communicating frequently and regularly with individual reps as well as everyone as a group. Small rituals like sending out a good morning GIF can go a long way toward fostering friendly relationships and making it feel natural for your people to talk about things both big and small.
More practically, be sure to check in with your people and discuss their work, regardless of whether they come to you first or are due for a formal review meeting.
Having regular all-hands meetings is also critical. With a remote team, structure is inherently more abstract, so creating routines that reinforce “showing up” amongst your talent is key.
Leverage a Proven Sales Process
Best practices are integral in any organization and even more so for a remote team. When it comes to selling, standardizing how your people move through your sales pipeline—including when cold calling prospects or running a sales meeting—will level up their ability to close.
It will also ensure sales activities are handled in accordance with company policies, and reduce the likelihood that any one sales rep oversteps or creates a negative impression for your business.
Bring Sales Reps and Sales Managers Together
As we mentioned above, being in a remote setting doesn’t mean you should never see each other. In fact, maximizing face time amongst your reps is a great way to boost employee morale, encourage creative ideas, and collectively develop your team dynamic.
Depending on how physically remote everyone is, it can be a great idea to bring everyone (or several people in smaller groups) together at least a handful of times each year for some healthy in-person interaction. This can be in the form of a retreat, offsite (or onsite, depending on your perspective) meetings, casual social gatherings, or one-to-one visits.
If you’re short on physical proximity, video calls can work great for some of these things as well. Have different reps lead presentations or strategy sessions. Bring everyone together to triage one person’s unique client challenge. At the very least, be sure to celebrate wins with everyone, so that each rep feels like they have a stake in the company’s success.
Learn Together; Grow Together
Take advantage of the explosive trend toward online learning to simultaneously build team dynamics and expand your professional capabilities.
Having everyone commit to the occasional seminar—followed by group discussion or applying lessons in real business—can be a great way to keep everyone on the same page, building trust and leveling up.
If your team responds well to this kind of thing on a one-off basis, consider enrolling everyone in a short online course. Be sure to get buy-in from your team on the topic and outline reasonable expectations for the outcome, focusing more on the team building benefits than actual performance.
Offer Plenty of Resources, and Additional Training As Needed
A great set of self-directed high performers will still benefit greatly from more passive forms of help. The truth is that even people who work exceptionally well on their own still need help, stimulation or just a helpful signpost once in a while.
That’s why it’s imperative that you keep informative resources of all kinds handy and easily accessible. These can go far beyond internally-created materials and include things like:
- Process maps
- Employee handbooks and internal company documents
- Informational articles
- Competitor research
- Proven practices professed by thought leaders in your field
- Videos of all kinds (motivational, informational, etc.)
In addition, be extra alert with remote sales teams as to who may benefit from a little extra training. Just like with team-based educational activities, it’s incredibly easy (and affordable) these days to get someone set up with a course or even an online mentorship program. Take advantage so your people never feel helpless.
Build a Culture of Both Trust And Accountability
This is a big one that can’t be overlooked. The only way remote sales teams can work is if everyone can be relied on to carry their weight. That means entrusting team members with their own performance. It also means holding them to it.
This is something you should make clear right from the beginning, and remind individuals about as needed.
With remote reps, both empowerment and responsibility go hand-in-hand. Be liberal with the space you give your team (beyond just physically, which will be pretty uncontrollable anyway). Then use the KPIs you establish with them all during onboarding to hold them accountable for performance.
Stay Nimble, Open-Minded, and Focused On Results
Perhaps above all, managing remote sales requires flexibility and the ability to zoom in and out to different levels of oversight as situations change.
Managing virtual sales teams has its challenges, but at the end of the day what matters is that you’re able to make remote selling deliver value for your business.
While it’s important to be “in the trenches” with your salespeople as a coach, mentor, guide and yes, boss—it’s just as crucial for both the company and your own mental health that you’re able to roll with the punches and keep moving forward.
After all, virtual sales teams enable all kinds of new opportunities, but they also mean new complications you can’t always solve. The more people integrate work with their personal lives, for example, the more of a personal twist each person’s style of work will incorporate.
Sometimes the best thing for your business and your sanity will be letting small things slide. As long as results are where you want them to be. Where you draw the line with this one is entirely up to you.
The Best Tools & Resources For Empowering Your Virtual Sales Team
Just because your virtual sales team won’t be coming together very often in a physical office doesn’t mean workspace is irrelevant. Your company’s tech stack includes all the core tools you use to facilitate your systems, processes, communications and insights.
With a remote team it also becomes the primary vessel for your company culture. Your tech and tools comprise the virtual space in which you and your team will operate on a daily basis—making them the literal replacement for your physical office. So smart choices are key.
Here are some of our top recommendations:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is pay-to-play for any sales organization. The best solutions go far beyond contact management and allow you to capture data, issue proposals, track your pipeline, run marketing campaigns, and even automate large operational processes.
There are plenty of options out there, but in our experience and research we’ve found the following 3 to be the standouts:
Task & Time Management
Another layer you’ll absolutely need is for task or project management. Managing accounts and opportunities is one thing, but actually getting work done internally requires discipline that software can often make very easy for… let’s call them “administratively adverse” salespeople.
The best solutions will be aces at automating your company’s SOPs and tracking both tasks and time.
In particular we recommend:
ClickUp and monday.com even straddle the border between project management and CRM, with many companies opting to use one or the other for both functions.
Collaboration & Cloud Storage
Smart use of CRM and project management tools can integrate key resources and assets directly into your company’s sales operations processes. But you still need someplace to keep everything—and build new materials.
This is pretty straightforward for businesses just building their stack and not yet looking for an enterprise-grade solution like an ERP.
When starting on your virtual sales team journey it’s best to keep as much within the realm of the known as you can, so we recommend keeping it simple, with solutions like…
There are plenty of other industry-specific tools that may also be well-suited to your business, so be sure to do your research and try out a variety of solutions before forming SOPs around any one product or service.
Once you’ve built your operational foundation and recruited your first round of talent, it’s time to go to market and get to work. Remember that accountability is key, and if you’ve found the right people that should be perfectly fine with them.
This is where all the other work you’ve done coalesces for you.
- With a collaborative team environment they know they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
- With clear expectations they agree in advance to a precise definition of success.
- With great tools and open communication channels they can be in touch with you and their team members as much as, if not more than, in-person groups can.
- Proven processes and a digital library of resources lend guidance to team members whenever they need it.
- Well-designed marketing collateral supports your team both in the background and actively during sales ops.
- Regular meetings, occasional meetups, remote learning sessions and frequent victory celebrations bring you all together toward your common goal—and keep everyone rowing in the same direction.
- A flexible, results-oriented mindset allows mental space to accompany the physical, and ensures your team’s performance is what drives decision making.
Iglu Can Help You Capitalize on Remote Sales Today
If you’re ready to capitalize on the advantages of remote sales—from lower HR costs and risk to easier scalability, access to new markets and a broader talent pool—Iglu can help you jump start your very own virtual sales team today.
Even if you’re just sketching out your plan, we can help you visualize a path to success on a free consultation call. Get in touch with us today. We’re eager to work with you.