The Remote Sales Playbook
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by Steli Efti, CEO
Last updated March 24, 2021
Here at Close, we’ve been running remote sales (inside a fully-remote company) since 2014. More than that, we’ve helped thousands of teams around the world transition to remote sales successfully, and in this chapter we're going to share some of our best remote sales tips to help you exceed your sales goals.
Building trust and developing relationships with your prospects may seem much more difficult when all you’re looking at is a screen. These tips will help you develop your virtual sales skills, as well as tips for becoming a more valued remote employee.
When you're relying on a variety of apps and communication channels, things can get lost in the shuffle. That’s why following up is essential: both with your prospects and with your team. Be vigilant with keeping tabs on stakeholders. If a task or email is left untouched, ping the stakeholder again. Resurface stagnant tasks. Don't ever assume people are up-to-date and in sync unless you get explicit confirmation.
Live by this mantra: if you’re not following up with someone, your competition is.
We know that remote work can be somewhat crazy, and it’s true — sometimes time will get away from us. But as a remote sales rep, you need to be extra vigilant with your prospects’ time. Be on top of any upcoming meetings by setting up reminders. You can also ping your prospects with quick reminders, and thus preempt no-shows with a friendly confirmation the day before a meeting.
Pro tip: Since Close CRM integrates directly with Zoom, you can schedule, set up, run, and review meetings in one place. Also, you’ll get an alert message inside your CRM when a meeting is coming up, helping you stay on track with your remote sales meetings.
Also, sales reps can keep recordings of their video meetings to go back and watch their prospect's reactions to different phrases or arguments, or get a better feel for how the meeting really went.
When relying on text channels like Slack or email, always over-communicate. Use very clear, unambiguous language. Don't be afraid to reiterate or ask for clarity. Written communication tends to lack a lot of the nuance compared to spoken words. If you fear there might be miscommunication, schedule a quick video call and set the record straight.
Use online collaboration tools like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Office 365 whenever possible. This will cut down on versioning hiccups, work overlap, and keep everyone in sync.
Although we lack the strong connection that comes with talking in-person, using video on your sales calls and making sure to make 'eye contact' by looking at the camera can help you build trust with prospects, even though they've never really met you.
Another hack to simulate eye contact on video calls is making sure your webcam is at eye-level. If you’re using your computer’s built-in webcam, set your computer a bit higher so you’re not looking down your nose at your prospects. Or, use an external webcam that can mount on your monitor.
In the digital world, it's easier for prospects to get distracted and for the conversation to stray. By sending an agenda before the call, you can make sure your prospects are on par with your gameplan and ready for a meeting that's truly productive for both sides.
If you're selling remotely, chances are slim that you'll casually bump into your network as you go about your daily life. So, learn to rub shoulders with your peers and potential prospects online.
For example, join relevant LinkedIn groups or Slack channels, start posting more and engaging with posts on LinkedIn, and set up virtual coffees with people in your network to get some good one-on-one time.
Remote salespeople often speak to prospects who are not in their time zone. As a salesperson, it's your job to be aware of what time it is for your prospects before you set out to call or send emails. Whether you're talking to someone across the country or across the ocean, make sure to check what time it is there. You can do this easily by setting up multiple location clocks on your phone's home screen, or by using a scheduling app like Calendly to set meeting times that make sense for everyone involved.
Managing your time is important, and we've got calendars for that. Managing your energy is even more important. Structure your day and your schedule in a way that takes the most advantage of the energy you have.
For example, instead of forcing yourself to sit at your desk for a certain number of hours during the day, set a schedule to get up and go for a quick walk to boost your energy. Focus on methods that work for you personally to make the most of the energy you have at different times of the day. Just knuckling down and forcing yourself to do the work is one way of doing things, but to stay consistently productive and build a sustainable work schedule, personal energy management is key. I talked about this in more detail in episode 294 of the Startup Chat with my friend Hiten Shah
Set time aside right at the start of the day to dig into activities that advance your sales, such as prospecting, cold calling, or meeting with prospects. This focuses your mind on work from the get-go, instead of letting yourself get distracted with other, less important tasks.
In remote sales, it's often not possible to pop in and say hello at the office of your prospects. So, try new, creative ways to add personality to your communication. For example, write emails the same way you talk — with pizzazz and personality. Or, include a personalized video to your prospects so they can hear you talking to them.
Your company is probably producing loads of top-notch content to attract your target audience. Whether that's in-depth blog posts, guides, free tools, or anything else, are you taking full advantage of these resources? Get familiar with the content your company is producing, and use that content to provide real, genuine help to your prospects. Give them something they can learn from, and they'll develop more trust in you and your company.
At the end of your workday, which tasks did you accomplish? Was there anything leftover that should get pushed to tomorrow? What tasks are due tomorrow, what meetings do you have scheduled, and what calls do you need to make? Set aside just 10 or 15 minutes at the end of each day to go over what you've accomplished and plan for the next day. Then, in the morning, you can dive into the most urgent tasks.
Pro tip: Close helps reps organize and focus their tasks with their individual Inbox view. Use the Inbox to check upcoming tasks and plan your day.
When working remotely, it's easy to get distracted by the communication buzz in Slack. So, when you really want to get down and dig into some full-focus work, turn off notifications. Block off time in your shared Google Calendar so your teammates know not to schedule meetings with you during that time, and set your Slack status to show you're in the middle of something and won't be responding to messages right away. By setting these expectations with your teammates, you can sit and focus with notifications off, without stressing about what messages you might be missing.
If you were the kind of person who listened to podcasts during your commute or read books on the train on the way to work, you may notice that remote working has stagnated some of your learning. To combat this, set aside specific times for work-related learning, such as taking a walk mid-morning and listening to a podcast episode.
Like it or not, working from home comes with its own unique set of distractions. That's why it's especially important to maximize the time you spend working. Use remote sales tools that give you the biggest results for the least investment of time, such as a Power Dialer that allows you to call more prospects faster, or the Predictive Dialer in Close CRM that only connects you to the call when someone answers. That way, you’re not sitting for hours listening to dial tones, rings, and voicemail messages: You only hear the “Hello.”
Remote work forces all of us to be more intentional about how we communicate. Since managers have less context and data on their team, individual reps need to take more responsibility to manage-up. As a rep, have the confidence to speak up with your own ideas. Help your manager have more context by taking the initiative to talk about what’s working and what’s not for you. This will help you level-up your sales career.
There’s nothing like pulling out the whiteboard and drawing up a visual version of your ideas. This kind of collaboration gets everyone involved, whether you’re brainstorming with your teammates about better ways to pitch or mapping out key pain points and solutions with a prospect. Tools like Miro allow you to create mind maps, workflows, and charts alongside your team, working synchronously inside the virtual whiteboard.
Most sales reps are still terrible at giving a great product demo remotely. I can't tell you how many demos I've had to interrupt after two minutes because the presenter was just guiding me through a list of predefined talking points and screens that weren't relevant to me at all. Learn how to design and deliver a powerful demo, by starting with something that really wows the prospect, keep your demos under 15 minutes total, and learn how to captivate your prospects' attention.
Be humble and vulnerable to admit you don’t know everything. There are other reps on your team who are probably better than you at certain aspects of the sales process; so, proactively ask for help or jump on a call with them to see how they do it in real life. Also, speak up to your sales manager when you feel you need coaching or training on a specific topic. They’ll appreciate the guidance when it comes to your next coaching session, and your willingness to learn will help you become a more valuable member of the sales team.
Sales managers working remotely have less context on how their team is doing emotionally, mentally, and even physically. So, everything a remote sales manager does must be more intentional and planned. A good remote sales manager is organized, on the ball, and using the right tech to track the right activities and metrics.
Let’s dig into some specific ways to do all that:
Since everyone "lives at the office" so to speak, it's easy to blur the lines between work and personal life. As a sales manager, make sure you respect time off and encourage people to get offline after a long day.
Getting everyone in a remote meeting can be tricky. If some people can't make it, video record the meeting and publish it internally for later viewing. This will also help remote reps who take time off for themselves to resist the temptation to jump back into work ‘just for one quick meeting.’
The cloud is your new workspace. Make sure all documents and sales enablement resources are organized and accessible to stakeholders. Instead of storing files locally and sharing via email, upload the file to the cloud and send links. If a file or comment is relevant to a specific task, drop it in your project management app (like Asana) instead of sharing it in Slack.
Of course, for sales managers a regular pipeline review meeting is necessary. Regularly purge your CRM and sales pipeline of deals that are cold or dead. This empowers your reps to focus only on the deals that are more relevant right now.
Remote life can be hectic. The last thing you want to do is delay a meeting for someone running late from an errand. Start your sales meetings on time and worry about absentees later. It's also important to end meetings on time. Employees aren't in the office, but they still have tasks to get done and don't have all day to sit in overdrawn meetings.
Zoom and Google Meet have powerful screen share functionality—take advantage of it. When leading a meeting, create a PowerPoint as a visual aid for your talking points. It'll make communication more clear, plus you can make the document available later for anyone who missed the meeting.
Employees might be working at home, at a coffee shop, or in a coworking space, and this makes your data much more vulnerable than usual. While the location and work schedule is more relaxed with remote employees, security shouldn't be. It's critical that you keep your data safe and secure. Require everyone to use a password manager, 2-factor authentication, and VPN where necessary.
Employees need strong leadership and structure, especially if they're not used to working remotely. Create a team-wide gameplan every two weeks and keep everyone informed. Do your best to stick to it, but be prepared to adapt — and adapt quickly where necessary.
When team members transition to a remote workspace, they may need to purchase dongles, a headset, office supplies, and more. Make sure there's an easy way for them to expense the purchases to the company or for the company to purchase items on their behalf.
The annual turnover rate for sales professionals is 34.7% according to Bridge Group, based on a survey of 342 B2B SaaS companies. One of the main reasons for this high turnover rate is stress. In a 2019 survey, 67% of sales professionals agreed that they're close to experiencing burnout. Keep in mind that this was before a global pandemic led to a drastic shift to remote work in the sales profession, it's likely that now, even more sales professionals experience higher levels of stress.
As a remote sales team manager, it's your responsibility to keep tabs on the mental and emotional well-being of your reps. Are they overwhelmed? Are they exhausted?
Make sure to celebrate small wins, coach your reps, and create an internal support network which enables reps to elevate each other. I've shared more in-depth advice on how exactly to do this in my post on protecting reps from burnout.
Slack is perfect for quick, off-the-cuff communication and collaboration. But with important communication, tasks, or projects, rely on Asana or email. This will be especially helpful if you need to backtrack at a later date.
The key to working well remotely is making sure that everyone has a shared understanding of the company’s remote working expectations. Document your remote work policies and make them accessible to everyone.
While it's normal to expect your employees to work a certain amount of time per week, remember that time spent working doesn't equal time spent productively. That's why it's more important to focus on the results of your remote sales team rather than the actual hours they spend on the job.
Use your CRM (like Close) to track activity metrics, such as the number of cold calls made, emails sent, and new leads added. When you compare this activity week-over-week or month-over-month, you’ll be aware which reps need an extra boost to be more productive.
Remote work equals autonomy, and that's one reason many people are attracted to it. High-performing remote salespeople work when they are most productive and able to focus: one person may start at 6 AM because it allows them to work while others in their household are sleeping, or another person may take time off in the afternoon to be with their family and log back on after the kiddos are in bed. Be flexible with the schedules that work best for your team.
Watercooler conversations are a natural part of the office and you can replicate it in Slack. Create a dedicated channel for your team to chat about non-work related topics. You can also set up virtual happy hour video calls to encourage teams to gather online with no agenda. Hang out, chat, and enjoy each other’s company!
Tools like Donut are meant to facilitate and improve team building as we saw in the last chapter. You can use tools like these to get the conversation rolling and help your virtual sales team connect, even though they’re apart.
Sales teams can be organized in different ways, and each of them can have their advantages. The traditional “island mode,” where each rep is responsible for every step of the sales process. This can work well if you have a basic, more transactional sales process that doesn't require much managerial involvement. The “assembly line model” is where you have specialized roles within your organization that pass on prospects as they go to the next stage. This often works well for large organizations that put an emphasis on predictability and scalability. The “pod model” where you have multiple teams that each are made up of specialized roles, which allows for a lot of flexibility and agility. You can learn more about structuring your remote sales team here.
While answering emails and responding to messages on Slack is important, make sure your team has leeway with their own focus time. Don't force them to interrupt their workflow just to answer a quick message from a teammate (or from you). Encourage your team to set blocks of time in their schedule when they're unavailable for calls and offline for messages: This is their ‘focus time.’
To keep your dispersed, remote team aligned, make sure that everyone has a clear picture about where you are now, and where you want to go, both on an individual level and on a team-wide level. That's where defining KPIs and deciding which sales metrics to track is crucial. With the abundance of data that's accessible at the click of a button, many sales managers fall for the "more is better" fallacy.
In fact, if you feed your team too many metrics, they'll eventually stop caring about any of them. Instead, focus on a few metrics that are a really good indicator of how your team is performing and what needs to be done. Check out our guide on sales KPIs.
Use Zapier to connect tools and get more of the background work done automatically. This will set aside more time for your sales team to do work that actually translates into sales. Check out the integrations you can use to level-up your sales team with Close.
While you can't ring a bell on the sales floor anymore, your remote team can still do much to celebrate each other's wins. It's up to you as a sales manager to encourage those mini-celebrations. For example, you can connect Slack to your CRM, so every time a new deal is closed, a celebration message goes out to the team:
Salespeople tend to be extroverted, and many suffer in a remote setting because of the isolation that inherently comes from working from home. As a manager, it’s your job to make sure this doesn’t happen. By building a predictable routine for your sales reps to meet, you’ll encourage them to be regular communicators with the team.
Aside from your daily or weekly standups, set up regular meetings to dissect a specific call recording, go over sales scripts, practice overcoming objections with each other, and more. And connect with your team on a human level too—show your reps that you've got their back when they're going through a personal crisis. This will help the team build camaraderie, and build their collaborative spirit.
Even when your entire team is working in the same room, it's not uncommon for reps to lose faith in your sales approach. When reps don't hit their quota, doubts can easily creep in: Does the market even want our product? Are our prices too high? Is our sales strategy effective?
Remote sales teams can be just as successful and happy as in-office teams. In fact, when done correctly, remote sales teams can actually perform more productively than their in-office counterparts.
So, take this ultra-long list of remote sales tips and turn them into your remote team’s best practices. Build a process that works and stick with it.
Want to learn more about how other remote sales teams are crushing it from home? Check out the next chapter for even more resources from today’s top remote teams.