6 essential tips to manage your field sales remotely in the face of uncertainty

The new reality has caught companies and whole industries off guard. The challenge is not only about moving meetings to online and sending documents via email - it's about сhanging people’s behavior. We can’t manage field sales the way we did before. Remote becomes the new normal and we must adapt to these new realities. 
There are multiple things that we can't control, but let's stay positive and focus on things that we can control and ways we can adapt.

1. Move from campaign-based to 48-hours and weekly planning

With today's social media and cable news outlets, we live in a time of the 24/7 news cycle that impacts both customers and remote salespeople, with a sense of uncertainty.
That’s why experts from McKinsey recommend leaders to move from long management cycles to defining specific goals for the next 48 hours, adjusted continually, as well as weekly goals, all based on the company’s agreed-on planning scenario. 
You should install a simple operating cadence and discipline that focuses on output and decisions, and does not tolerate meetings that achieve neither.

Remote management cycle

2. Measure how many calls, messages, and demos salespeople do daily

While working from home, salespeople can be easily distracted by their family, neighbors, cats/dogs, household tasks, cooking, etc. These distractions reduce their performance, affecting sales results, which are already influenced by consumer behavior changes.
To separate those these factors, start measuring how many calls, messages, and demos salespeople do daily. That will give you a clear picture of the factors behind net sales fluctuations - whether it's salespeople not putting enough effort, using the wrong channels, or an adjustment to your marketing strategy and offering is required.
To start, you can use Google Forms to collect daily data from your team. Your salespeople will need to fill in a simple form each day and all the data will be automatically composed into charts. 

This approach is simple and straightforward, however, it multiplies sales routine. Keep in mind that the data inside these reports might not be precise due to the naturally occurring human factor, that is always present.

Experian found that companies lose 12% of their annual revenue due to BAD data. Therefore we advise using google sheets as a temporary option and eventually make the switch to a more automated approach because it will make your users happy.

3. Provide more user-friendly tools to your field sales

Most CRM solutions like Salesforce or SAP are cloud-based so salespeople are able to work with them remotely but their biggest disadvantage is that their interfaces are too cumbersome for independent direct sellers.
For example, a few years ago a leading Network Marketing company halted the rollout of their CRM and announced a $125 million write-down for associated software costs. $125 million for a tool that was so hard to use that salespeople left the company in droves.

Provide your sales field with a simpler solution that will allow them to do everything they could in the original CRM, but with a more straightforward interface and only the necessary functions. The more frequent your tool is used by the sales field the more precise data you get.

It’s like a TV remote control with 10 essential buttons compared to a 100-buttons airplane dashboard:

4. Train your salespeople to fight distractions

According to the research from the bestseller “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, if you do several tasks simultaneously - up to 75% of your time and attention are lost on switching between different contexts - work tasks, children, dogs/cats, cooking, etc. 
For example, if you made some calls to your customers but got distracted by your children - it will take additional 5-10 minutes to switch back to calls and recover your concentration.
The more distracted you are, the more time and attention you waste on switching between tasks:

Illustration

The best solution to prevent distractions is having a place in your home where you can close the doors, lockout the kids, the dogs and just concentrate.
Providing training, through webinars, to your salespeople to improve their task management skills (we recommend “Getting Things Done” methodology) and helping them to become advanced Calendar users is a great way to improve concentration remotely. For example, advise salespeople to split their day into several continuous intervals with a single type of task for every interval.

5. Separate communication channels

When most of your team is under the same roof, information spreads quite naturally without any additional intervention. When you have to notice something, you can simply come to your teammate and tell him it in-person.
The biggest challenge you likely face at moving your team into the remote is to keep all team members on the same page. Messengers like Slack or WhatsApp are great for instant communication but in chats, it’s so easy to lose the important notice among tons of messages.
The ultimate solution is to separate communication channels, e.g. messengers for quick questions, email for important updates. Also, the good idea is to ask the team to confirm reading the email by sending a reply (even with a simple 👍).

Communication channels separation

6. Use Kanban-based workflows to stay tuned on the team's progress

We recommend using Kanban-based workflows like Trello, Asana or Cotano in order to have a bird-eye view on your team's daily activity and tasks. Having a single dashboard for your sales team allows them to plan, assign and manage tasks. Here's an example of how it works in Cotano:

In conclusion

To summarize, here’s the list of actions and tools that you can use to boost your team's efficiency:

    Move from campaign-based management approach to a day-to-day planning cycle
    Measure how many calls, messages, and demos do salespeople daily (use Google Sheets, CRM solutions or sales assistants like Cotano)
    Provide your field salespeople with more user-friendly tools to save control over the situation remotely
    Train salespeople to fight distractions and improve their task management and planning skills
    Provide team collaboration and alignment to get things done and meet deadlines
    Visualize current progress with Kanban-based services, such as Trello, Asana or Cotano

P.S. We are here to share with you our 10+ year experience in Enterprise CRM solutions, sales productivity, and coaching. Click to book a 15-min call with us.