Mike Schultz is the bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 73 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential. Follow Mike on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Sales managers face myriad challenges managing remote sales teams.
When seller and manager are in different places, though, one challenge stands above all else: ensuring sales productivity.
Seventy-one percent of companies don’t believe their sellers manage their time and days effectively. If you want your remote sales team to be productive, this has to change.
Signal “Do Not Disturb” (and Let Sales Managers Know Why)
Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you don’t get interrupted all day. Perhaps nobody knocks on your door, but email, messaging, and phone distractions are incessant.
People are distracted every 11 minutes. Then, after a disruption, it takes an average of longer than 23 minutes to get back to task. All those emails and messages add up to a mountain of wasted time – preventing sellers from focusing.
Sure, you need your team to be available for meetings. However, encourage them to signal “Do Not Disturb” when they’re concentrating on something important. This might mean they snooze their chat, turn off their phone, and close their email when they need to concentrate.
As a sales manager, of course you need access to your sellers! That doesn’t mean they react instantly every time you (or anyone) pings them.
Working on a big proposal? Prospecting all afternoon? If they are, encourage them with their technology (but, even more importantly, in their minds) to signal “Do Not Disturb” so they can focus.
People can wait. You can wait. Priorities can’t.
Get Your Remote Sales Team into the Zone
If you want your salespeople to maximize effort per work hour, encourage them to get in the zone.
The zone (also known as “flow”) is a mental state where an individual performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
To get in the zone, sellers need to establish a daily routine of obsessed, planned sprints.
Sprinting is a form of timeboxing, a common technique in many project-management and software-development methods. Timeboxing allocates a specific period of time (or time box) to a pre-planned activity.
To start, encourage your sellers to work on a specific task for a minimum of 20 minutes using a visual timer (counting up). During this time, there’s no stopping, no distractions, and no task-switching – just intense focus on that one task. If something comes to mind in the middle of a sprint, have them write it down and revisit it later.
Once they’ve mastered sprinting, they can take it a step further and relay. A relay, just like a race, is four consecutive sprints, with short breaks in between.
Sprinting and relaying will be extremely powerful and effective for your team. It will train them to remain focused no matter how hard the distractions come at them.
Time sprinting is one of the most effective ways to boost productivity. Sales managers can help remote sellers block off time on their calendars to plan sprints around their most important sales activities – and hold sellers accountable for sprinting during that time.
According to RAIN Group’s research, extremely productive people are 2.7 times more likely than others to say they are proactive.
Proactivity can be a challenge – especially for remote sellers. It’s hard to get started on big, complex, or overwhelming tasks. Here are a few ideas to help ignite proactivity:
- It’s proven that people who commit to doing an activity on a certain day, at a specific time, and in a certain place are more likely to achieve their goal. Sales managers can help remote sellers be more proactive by encouraging them to add important activities to their calendar. Once the activity is on their calendar, they’re more likely to do it.
- Say, “3, 2, 1…Go” and just get started. You have only a few seconds to get started on something before your brain tells you it’s too hard. Don’t let your brain win. Dig in and get started.
- Encourage sellers to use positive self-talk. When you feel positive, you’re more likely to get started on important activities, push projects forward, and be proactive. Find out what self-talk is holding your sellers back (e.g., cold calling doesn’t work, our solutions are too expensive, we never win against this competitor, etc.) and help them change the statement to something positive (e.g., I have value to bring to this buyer, I can make a plan to beat this competitor, etc.).
If you manage remote sellers and want them to exceed expectations – achieving great sales success – help them adopt these three habits. Those who do will be on their way to achieving their best results.