What Do My Sales Reps Do All Day?
One universal challenge of managing a remote sales team can be summed up with the simple question, “What do my sales reps do all day?”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and most sales reps are working from home, it’s even harder to answer that question. Let’s say I’m managing a remote team of five or six sales reps; how do I know if they are engaged and productive?
We want to trust that everyone is working hard. And we want to have empathy. Their children may be home from school. They may have elderly parents. They may face frequent interruptions or have a less-than-ideal work environment. Still, we have to hold our team accountable. Research consistently shows that communicating clear performance expectations is a great starting point.
We’ve listed guidelines for setting expectations in a previous blog post. But how do you know if you’re clear about what you want your team to do (behaviors) and what you want them to achieve (results) when you have so few in-person cues?
Confirming expectations can be as simple as asking. Have them share their understanding of the expectations with you. Does their response align with your goals? If not, have them share their perspective so you can respond and clarify any ambiguity.
Checking in with Your Team
1 | What are the results they are expected to achieve?
Keep in mind that while results are important, they are lagging indicators. Look at it this way: If you want to lose weight, you can’t do it just by getting on the scale every day. It’s achieved through diet, portion control, and regular exercise. Monitoring the pounds is just a starting point.
2 | What are the behaviors that drive those results?
This gets to the heart of your sales reps’ day-to-day activities. Behaviors are the leading indicators you will want to monitor and manage. Rather than asking, “How many sales calls did you make last week?” focus on learning more through a conversation: “What sales calls did you make last week? How did those calls go? What do you see as the next steps?”
3 | What are the metrics?
Too often, we see that the metrics are focused exclusively on results. If you’re only looking at lagging indicators like results, you may be disappointed to learn at the end of the month that your sales team failed to achieve their goals. That’s like waiting until the end of a game to see that you lost instead of making adjustments during the game that could positively impact the outcome.
Instead, start tracking metrics earlier in the sales process. What is the number of quality appointments per week? How many outbound attempts did they make? How many proposals were reviewed with customers? What’s the status of opportunities in the pipeline?
4 | What are the time frames?
When you set expectations, you should have not only metrics, but a time period in mind. That way, you’ll know if they are behind, ahead, or right on track. Did they achieve the results and behaviors you expected? Did they do it in the time frame you laid out?
If they are off track for monthly results, what do you see regarding their sales activity levels? If you determine they should increase their sales activity to achieve their goals, communicate your expectations, follow up to make sure they stay on track and offer plenty of positive reinforcement.
Steering Clear of Micro-Management
You may find that you need more frequent one-on-one check-ins to monitor and manage a remote sales team. For these meetings, conversations are always more effective than interrogations. Experienced sales reps will bristle when they perceive they are being grilled. Too much scrutiny might also frustrate newer team members with whom you haven’t yet developed a close relationship.
To avoid micro-management, start your conversation with the reo by asking open-ended questions and express your willingness to help. Be sincere and focus on adding value beyond what the sales reps can do on their own. Streamline processes or remove unnecessary obstacles.
COVID-19 has brought on many new challenges (personally and professionally) for sales teams. By asking these four questions, you can create and open line of communication with each member of your sales team and help keep them on track. You may also find out that they are more productive than you might have expected.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.