Remote Sales Management- Lessons Learned
By Gretchen Gordon
“Adapt or die” is a favorite quote from one of my favorite movies, “MoneyBall.” The concept is attributed to Charles Darwin, whose actual quote is: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
So, how have you adapted during the crisis? How have your people adapted?
If you have never managed in a remote setting before, then the COVID-19 crisis likely taught you a couple of things. Whether you manage remotely after this or not, the takeaways are important to prepare you to adapt.
What I learned during the crisis about improving sales leadership are ideas I believe are timeless, but may be more obvious during the remote work prompted by the crisis:
1. More interaction is better.
If a remote work environment caused you to set a daily huddle and do scheduled check-ins with the sales team, great. Do it and keep doing it. Salespeople don’t necessarily need to be micro–managed, but they need to know you are paying attention, and that you care. Even the best salespeople need a cadence with their manager. Do not stick your head in the ground. Think fast, meaningful and focused when interacting with salespeople, whether in the office or via phone or web conference. You could institute stand-up meetings, meaning they are so short nobody needs to sit down. Whether in the office or while everyone is at home, keep the cadence going with briefer but more frequent interaction.
2. Reset goals and devise plans to achieve those goals often.
Whether in a crisis or not, if salespeople are not focused on goal achievement – meaning personal goal achievement – they will be subject to distraction. We know that those salespeople who set personal goals and then have a plan to achieve those goals are better hunters, more motivated, sell value better, make fewer excuses, and are better at following a repeatable sales process. Salespeople should be encouraged to think and dream big. Then they must devise a plan of how they will achieve those goals, and how much income they need to generate to realize their dreams. That is easily turned into a plan of attack of what they need to do every day.
3. Get back to the basics and follow a repeatable sales process.
We know that simply following a process produces greater sales results regardless of the sales skill of the salesperson. Some report that sales increase by as much as 15% just by following a process. Since during the crisis there were no joint calls being made, it places a premium on planning sales calls and debriefing sales calls. That is a great discipline regardless. If salespeople could improve their skill in planning out their calls and debriefing how the sales call went after, they would improve. If they could reduce their reliance on a sales manager to swoop in and fix everything or tell them what to do, that is a huge win.
4. Narrow the focus and improve a single skill at a time.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis I harped on individuals controlling what they could control and on making the period a time of growth rather than stagnation. I am pretty sure that is decent advice at any time. Unfortunately, we tend to be running so fast and hard that we try to do everything at once, then get discouraged. Instead we should focus on one selling skill at a time. Improve in that one area. Set up a sales self scorecard and have salespeople track their improvement in focusing on that one skill. Once they have mastered that, move onto the next skill for improvement. The same technique works for management skills as well. I recently saw a wonderful interview with the late Kobe Bryant. Notorious for outworking others, Bryant said, “Think about how much better you’ll be if you do it every single day.”
There really is no such thing as stagnation. We are either improving or regressing. Too many salespeople (and their managers) get comfortable and ultimately regress. Take on the mantra “adapt or die,” even during “normal times” and benefit from continuous improvement, whether in calm times or times of crisis.