Top 5 Mistakes Companies Make Managing Remote Sales Teams
Remote sales offices are established typically with the single purpose of growing new markets and revenue sources for the company. Anything that hinders that mission is by definition hindering company growth and impeding efforts to grow revenues.With that in mind I have put together a list of common mistakes I have seen repeated many times so you can at least recognize and correct them or at best avoid them.
Mistake 1: Not enough support resources. This mistake is almost always preceded in a sales meeting by the phrase “You sell it and we will figure out how to deliver it/get you the resources to get it done.”As an employee in this situation a giant flashing light and klaxon should go off in your head warning you of the impending danger. Negotiate for specific technical resources with timeline commitments before you accept the position or ask and understand how your sales efforts will be supported. If it does not pass the smell test in explanation, you should never expect it to pass the smell test in execution.As a company, you risk damaging your reputation, losing customers, destroying your remote sales teams integrity in the market, and doing irreparable damage to the remote teams morale by failing to execute all post sales responsibilities.If a company cannot truly support a remote sales team that is going to need company resources to deliver the products and services they are selling, the company is better off not opening/closing that field location and terminating/relocating that sales resource to a market the company can support with certainty.You cannot fight a war to win revenues without establishing clear lines of support.
Mistake 2: Treating every office the way you treat the home office sales team. Remote offices are almost always setup to expand the corporate empire based on the success of the home office. It is a massive mistake to manage a new office in a new remote city the same way you manage your home office sales team.In your home city it is likely that your company has established a certain momentum aiding ongoing sales efforts. This momentum is often a compilation of several factors including having an established local brand, a number of years in business, culture, established customer base, local references, local advertising and publicity, tradition, and typically, local ownership ties.It is a fundamental mistake to set across the board sales targets and objectives for the sales teams facing radically different established momentum. This is not a matter of simply waiting for a new market sales resource to ramp up, it requires a fundamental change in how you attack that market. S
Mistake 3: Not understanding the unique requirements of new markets or of markets in different stages of development and managing them all the same.
In establishing a remote office, a company is typically:
Expanding into a new market where their services have not been offered before.
Opening a remote office around a key client.
Opening a remote office to manage some existing accounts with hopes for growth.
Making a tactical decision to rapidly expand, block a competitor, arrive in a market ahead of a competitor or grab a key location.
The strategy for every office needs to be unique to its individual market situation. Even McDonalds, with world wide name recognition and a reputation for producing a consistent product makes adjustments to their menu and process based on the unique qualities of the market they are entering.
In a new territory where there is no name recognition, I focus on territory planning, earning core anchor accounts that can be used as references, and deploying heavy support resources to make sure the first few engagements are successful ones to make sure the first few steps in a new market are solid ones as we begin to build our name. That is radically different than my market approach with the home office.
Match management focus to individual market needs to establish remote offices in new territories.
Mistake 4: Expecting remote office staff to be able to generate the same volume of reports/ admin/paperwork as the home office.
Where there are sales professionals there is paperwork. Expense reports, pipeline reports, call reports, travel logs, presentations, proposals, RFPs, etc.
While there may be a standard procedure for preparing and completing necessary paperwork don’t automatically assume that what works for the home office is even necessary or will work for smaller remote offices. In many cases there are additional official or unofficial support resources that assist in keeping the sales machine running in the home office. Burdening a remote office with excessive admin requirements can destroy morale and limit their time/ability to do what the office was established to do, sell.
Mistake 5: Micro manage remote resources.
In retrospect, I probably should have put this one first because this has been the death of so many remote sales organizations and the HQ based managers that are tasked with managing them. Micro management has no place in managing remote sales teams.
Yes, the remote sales team is going to be out of the daily purview of management but that does not mean there needs to be any extra controls put in place to make sure they are doing their job.
In fact, there should be far fewer controls on them than there are on the sales team at HQ. If you want the specifics of why, send me an email and I will break it down for you. Pick four or five metrics preferably built into existing sales reporting tools to use to manage your sales team.
It makes no sense to try and manage where the remote sales team is and what they are doing every minute of the day. If your sales team is making their numbers legally and ethically, who cares where they are.
If some team members are not making their numbers, use activity metrics and their call ratios as a comparison to determine where/why they are struggling.
I have managed remote offices, opened remote offices and carved up new territories and can tell you from personal experience that there seems to be a tendency to treat remote sales offices as somehow of lesser importance than HQ. Perhaps that is because of the revenue disparity between the established home office and the developing remote office or the lack of daily interaction, I am not sure.
Remote offices are your growth strategy. Remote teams should get at least the same amount of attention as the home office sales staff, but in truth I think that a remote office team needs more ongoing attention to run at its peak.
We nurture babies more than adults. We tend to the needs of puppies more than the adult dogs they become. We pay more attention to young plants than we do old established trees they grow to be. That same methodology should be applied to growing and managing remote offices.