Once a promising trend, remote sales forces are now commonplace and for good reason. Locating salespeople in or near their territories can produce terrific (and much-needed) cost savings.
But remote sales forces can be uncommonly difficult to manage, and cost savings don’t translate directly into a stronger top line. The far-flung productivity enabled by technology can sacrifice what professional trainers and talent managers call “engagement”: the level of an individual’s commitment to an organization for its products or services and a passion for its purpose.
Overall, a more-engaged employee performs better than a less-engaged employee, according to Gallup. And that goes double for salespeople-well, actually 2.6 times. Gallup studies have also shown that increased engagement has a direct effect on profits.
We see it ourselves with other sales organizations we train. A customized sales process and a common language with which to talk about selling produce better results. Our consultative sales training course FOCIS® supports those behaviors.
We’ve also seen that, if well managed, sales forces can be successful whether they are centralized or remote. At least in part, well managed means well engaged. “Employees that are engaged will be working from the heart,” one sales rep told Gallup.
Here are some of the challenges we’ve seen that remote sales forces face.
1. Transferring product and prospect knowledge is less likely to occur simply because fewer informal opportunities exist. When salespeople are in and out of the same office, transferring information about products, customers, and prospects happens without extra effort.
2. Peer-to-peer sales training is reduced. When experienced and inexperienced reps are located near each other, mentoring relationships develop and lead to more joint sales calls. More face-to-face training as add-ons to regularly scheduled sales meetings can offset a lot of that loss.
3. Establishing and maintaining a consistent corporate sales culture becomes more challenging. However, as Carr discovered, developing a customized sales process can more than offset that. An established process also allows salespeople new to the company to get up to speed faster, in part because common terminology results in faster communication that can almost be
4. Being part of that culture can be especially difficult for individual salespeople. Our suggestion in #2 can do double duty here-that is, schedule training in connection with a significant company date or event.
Sales managers: How are you managing your remote sales force? Sales reps: How do you succeed as a remote sales rep? Call or e-mail us to talk about it. And don’t forget to ask us about our FOCIS® consultative selling course. We’ll be happy to talk about that, too.