What is Remote Sales?
It may be obvious, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Remote sales is when you, the salesperson, and your prospect are never in the same location during the whole sales process. It’s evidently possible that a big part of your sales process is remote and that you’re meeting up with the client once or a few times throughout the process. For the sake of this guide, however, we’ll focus on 100% remote sales
What are the advantages and difficulties of remote sales?
Now, what are the pros and cons of remote sales? Let’s explore this and then discuss how to deal with them in the next section. The biggest difficulty, and the reason why most old school sales reps believe you will fail, is:
Selling remotely makes it more difficult to connect on a personal level
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s book Silent Messages (1971) communication between a salesperson and a prospect is:
- 7% spoken words
- 38% tone of voice
- And 55% body language
Whether that breakdown is fully accurate or not, the point is: much of the communication gets lost if you can’t see each other. Thanks to video calling software, you can see each other and read some body language, but this technology by itself never fully solves the issue.
It’s harder to stay motivated if you have less personal contact
Most salespeople are extraverts. We need to fuel up our energy by being in touch with others. If you don’t see your prospects, this isn’t easy.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to be as personable as possible (it helps make the juices flow) and also a big reason for building daily habits.
But: remote sales makes you much more productive
Despite the two big difficulties we just discussed, the advantage is huge: remote sales massively boosts your productivity. First, imagine the day of a field sales person, driving from prospect to prospect, waiting in lobbies, getting coffees, walking in and out of meeting rooms, … It’s a lot of time lost. I would go on the road to visit prospects. A perfectly planned day with no incidents would mean that I would visit 4 prospects maximum, assuming one hour meetings with each one. Now, imagine switching to remote sales and staying in the same place. Suddenly you’re able to double the amount of one hour meetings you can have in a day. What’s more: when I switched to remote sales, all of a sudden these one hour meetings could be turned into 30 minute meetings. A lot of the time we’d normally spend moving around, getting coffee, waiting for something or someone, exchanging pleasantries, … could all of a sudden be reduced to a minimum. My sales capacity was quadrupled! Other things also got dramatically easier:
- Booking meetings could be done using a scheduling link, as I didn’t have to carefully calculate traffic and buffer times anymore. This instantly cut my email traffic in half.
- It got much easier to switch between conversations and other types of work, as I was spending my time behind my computer anyway.
- And I became less disconnected from the rest of our team, as before it was harder to stay in touch when I was spending my time driving and in meetings.
Long story short: remote sales are way more productive, as long as you know how to deal with the difficulties.
Tips for remote salesreps
1 – Add value in every interaction
You must be even more conscientious about time spent communicating with prospects, buyers and customers. Acknowledge that they’re busy and, like you, they are trying their best to adapt to a new environment. Recognize the impact of current events on their businesses, their initiatives, their teams, and their families. Advance planning for any interaction (e.g., calls, emails) is critical to ensuring you’re prepared to use those “golden minutes” effectively and efficiently.
2 – Sales content is critical
What you send to buyers and customers (e.g., white papers, proposals, FAQs, specifications) becomes especially important and must communicate the organization’s value in a clear, concise manner. Assume that readers will not have time to search for the nuggets of meaning and relevant information. Summarize documents using bullet points when necessary, and point to relevant sections.
3 – Leverage remote working tools
You’re probably already using tools for chat, virtual meetings, email, and phone. Now is a good time to polish the skills you use to communicate virtually as it can be challenging to “read” a customer’s reaction when interacting virtually. Active listening is a requirement to ensure you understand and address buyer and customer needs.
4 – Use video
Use video whenever possible and appropriate. Research shows that a video call is much more effective in attracting (and keeping!) participants’ attention than a phone call. One vital skill is to actively engage everyone in the meeting — especially if it’s a combination of remote and in-person attendees.
5 – Get dressed for success
This may seem obvious, but the act of getting dressed is like putting on your sales uniform. It moves you into a sales “mentality” — much like a doctor putting on a lab coat. Working in a bathrobe or pajamas might seem like a luxury, but it sets the wrong tone for both you and your customers.
6 – Have a work buddy
When you are a remote worker, hallway, kitchen, and watercooler conversations don’t happen as readily. I highly recommend having a formal “sales buddy” who you virtually spend time with a few times a week. This can help maintain communication and cultural norms and reduce any feelings of isolation.
7 – Keep the business end at the start of the day
World leaders and giants of industry often share common traits: ambition, self-discipline and the ability to prioritize, just to name a few. But the real secret of their success is that they make the big and tough decisions in the morning when the mind is sharp and fresh. These are habits that the best remote salespeople also live by. They dedicate their mornings to strictly sales-related tasks, i.e. anything that can directly lead to a sale. Otherwise admin, social media, emails, chores, children and all the other the distractions of working from home can drain your energy and distract you from the end goal – and that’s selling. So begin the day with some prospecting or strategic planning. Meet clients over a morning coffee. Block your mornings for sales calls. And you’ll find it works both ways. Your clients might also be more willing to engage in the morning.
8 – Make it routine
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is the flexibility it offers. But sometimes too much flexibility can be a bad thing. Flexible work does not mean structureless work. With a routine, you can inject a bit of structure into your workday. Before firing up your computer, try to leave the house in the morning, just as your neighbors do when they scurry off to their day jobs. Walk your dog or drop off your child at daycare, and return to your home office just as the rest of the world arrives at their cubicles. Another great idea is to assign a strict time during the day for emails. If you’ve adopted the first habit outlined above, then mid-morning might be best, just after the heavy lifting is out of the way. Just keep in mind the locations and thus time zones of your clients. No one wants to receive an email at midnight. In saying that, you could always use an email tool to delay the dispatch of emails. Block specific times of the day for specific tasks, monitor your productivity (time vs output) for each block and play around with the arrangement of the blocks over the day to achieve the most productive workday schedule. Also, try to recognize the usual meal times. This will help you avoid feeling isolated as well as encourage structure and stable productivity in your working day. And to prepare you for the next day, knock off at around the same time every day. Head out for a jog or meet friends for an after-work drink. So when you return, you’ll return home and not to your home office.
9 – Implement processes
The best sales managers engage in a similar practice when managing a remote workforce. The terminology is just different. Instead of ‘routine’, they call it ‘process’, ‘protocol’ or even a ‘remote employee handbook’. Processes ensure that the whole remote sales team works not just in the same direction but in the right direction. That is especially important when the remote salesforce is spread over different countries and time zones. A remote employee handbook that clarifies and systemizes sales tasks, such as lead generation, demos, follow-ups, and sales proposals, helps both the remote salesperson in terms of efficiency and the manager when it comes to monitoring performance. There are many remote work management tools out there (e.g. ClickUp and Asana) that are great at synching and managing sales tasks across teams.
10 – Leverage tech and engage
Some of the greatest ideas have been hatched in the office kitchen, around the coffee maker or at the water fountain. Most companies (think Google) try to design their offices to promote these moments, that is, synergies and cross-fertilization among employees. But what if you’re working from home? Professional social networks like Salesforce Chatter are really effective at keeping remote employees connected. Conferences and quarterly meet-ups provide the type of personal interaction that really helps to consolidate team cohesion. But they’re not cheap nor regular. Video communication software, on the other hand, can add that personal touch to remote employee communication for little money and hassle. So arrange a video meet-up once or twice a week to share successes, tips and updates.
11 – Focus on the outcome
Time is a state of mind, as they say. The same could be said for deadlines and remote work. As a remote salesperson, you are a master of your own time – and not the opposite. After all, this is one of the main distinctions between remote work and the standard structured job. What does this mean? It means that a task stamped with a week deadline doesn’t necessarily require 5 business days to complete. You’d be surprised how much you can achieve by simply relabelling the deadline in your mind. The quicker you complete a task, the sooner you’ll be able to move onto the next, and the next and the next until it becomes a habit. All of a sudden you’ll find yourself always finishing tasks ahead of time, increasing your chance of making more sales. It’s a practice that sets the best salespeople above the rest.
12 – Be as personable as possible
When people meet you through a screen, make sure you show the human being behind that screen. Create a connection. The opposite situation is one we know all too well: someone reads something in a Facebook comment, reacts to it forgetting there’s a human being at the other end, and turns into a rude keyboard warrior. Things are said that probably wouldn’t have been said in a face-to-face conversation. To be as personable as possible, here’s a few things you can do:
- Use video calling over phone calling and always turn on your video, even if just for the beginning of the conversation (internet connections can be bad). It sets a warmer tone for the conversation.
- Be yourself and a bit more informal than you’d be in a face-to-face meeting. Make a bit of time for small talk. It’s good to compensate a bit for the difficulties with creating a personal connection remotely.
- Try using chat instead of emails between video calls. Its interactivity makes for much stronger bonds.
- If you end up calling without video anyway, use sounds that clearly communicate what you’re doing, like a laugh when you’re smiling, a “hmm” sound when you’re thinking, etc. to make a stronger connection. Use your tone of voice abundantly.
- Bring up important things you remember from previous conversations more than you would in a face-to-face conversation. Don’t limit yourself to business, but also bring up personal interests of your prospect.
- Ask whether you’re pronouncing their name correctly. It shows you care. (My first name “Jeroen” is pronounced “Ya-roon” in case you were wondering.)
13 – Closely track your customers’ interest and interactions
When your conversation becomes digital and you can’t really look each other in the eyes anymore, you need to find other ways to read your prospects’ body language. That’s where tracking technology comes in. It enables you to read your prospects’ “digital body language”. Here’s what’s possible:
- You can track when prospects open emails and when they click on links in them.
- You can keep track of when they visit your website, what pages they look at, and how long they look at these pages. (Is it the pricing page? That’s a good sign!)
- You can use very similar tracking in documents and proposals.
- And finally, you can get live notifications of when these things happen, so you can time your follow-up actions flawlessly.
There’s hundreds of email tracking solutions out there. A few of those also offer integrated website tracking. Almost none of them also send you live notifications of the tracking on your phone and/or computer.
14 – Keep building your relationship via social media
Some salespeople hang out at the country club to strengthen their network. If you’re selling remotely, you’ll probably need to take this online as well. Your virtual country club: social media. How to start? Just connect with your prospects and customers on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter. Whatever makes most sense in your industry or with your type of clients. Then you can start a friendly conversation. Ask for feedback. Share helpful content on your feed. And if you think of something that will help a specific person: share it with them personally. (But please, don’t send this kind of message at scale.) Be personable and helpful. Treat your social media friends like real friends, to the extent possible.
15 – Organize your meetings & process with maximum efficiency
Want to maximize your remote sales productivity? Here’s a series of ideas for you:
- Use a meeting scheduler. It takes away so much of the email traffic if you’re scheduling a lot of meetings. And nobody minds using the link. I always say: “You can choose a good moment to talk via…” and then insert my link.
- Set up automated reminders in your meeting scheduler. Adding a reminder one hour before the meeting has reduced the amount of no show to a minimum for me.
- Use video calling software with a personal link. This allows you to insert that link in your automatic scheduling tool. When the meeting’s starting, just head to that link. Easy!
- Alternatively, some video calling software tools allow you to create a room per prospect. You can share documents there and use it as your personalized meeting room with them.
Sources – links
This quick guide on remote selling tips is a free mash-up of the following blog articles:
Seven Tips for Selling in the Age of a Pandemic https://www.siriusdecisions.com/blog/tips-for-selling-in-age-of-pandemic
How to succeed in remote sales https://remote-how.com/blog/how-to-succeed-in-remote-sales
Remote Sales: How to Sell Successfully From Wherever You Are https://blog.salesflare.com/remote-sales
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