How Salespeople can Successfully Work Remotely

Working in sales is tough enough without having to also work remotely from your main office. You may feel isolated. You may feel out of the loop when key company decisions or announcements are made. You may worry if your manager likes you or not. Soon, panic may take over, and your sales will plunge.

However, many salespeople find themselves working these days remotely – either in coworking spaces like WeWork and Regus or in most cases, from their homes.

The number of employees working remotely is growing. According to Flexjobs’ report on “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace,” nearly 4 million U.S. employees, or about 3% of the U.S. workforce is now working from home at least half the time, compared to 1.8 million in 2005.

And Sales is one of the top 7 fields with the most remote jobs, according to the report

There is an ongoing debate on whether employees should be allowed to work remotely or not. One argument is that all employees should work in a central location to help create collaboration and an esprit de corps among employees. For example, there are times when salespeople need to engage in ad hoc conversations or buy-in to new initiatives that are hard to create when employees are working remotely.

And while most employers can undoubtedly watch your performance on company-own laptops and phones, and review your orders and pipeline, many still feel it’s better to keep a watchful eye on you in the office.

But many companies – especially start-ups – have no choice but to have you work from home because they can’t afford to lease a large office space. With bootstrapped budgets, many of these companies are a willing gamble and have salespeople work from their residences.

Further driving the trend to have salespeople work remotely is the difficulty of finding and keeping good talent. While companies in large urban areas usually don’t have problems finding and attracting good salespeople, companies in rural areas may have no choice but to offer remote positions.

And finally, many companies, both small and large, prefer having salespeople work remotely in defined territories to save on travel expenses when visiting important customers or prospects, or attending trade shows.

I’ve worked in both the central office and my home. I was given a chance to work remotely in one of my last jobs, but I turned down the offer because I was afraid that I couldn’t do well in my career, and I felt I would miss out on all the office gossip and information.

However, that became a moot point when my employer, which was based in Chicago, closed our location and I was given a choice – move to Chicago and freeze my butt off, look for a new job, or work remotely from my home.

I chose the latter.

In hindsight, I now regretted not working remotely from home when I was given a chance. Yes, at first, I was a little reluctant because I was afraid there would be too many distractions, or my laptop wouldn’t work correctly, or my phone line tied to my direct work number would drop inbound calls. But those fears soon went away, and I quickly adjusted.

I found that I was more productive working from home than in the office. I was less stressful. I also appreciated having more free time without fighting traffic while commuting to and from work. And finally, I avoided getting drawn into office politics.

But if you are hired or forced to work remotely, how can you succeed in sales and make a good living?

Here are some tips –

1). Dress like you’re going to work. Yes, I know that sounds stupid. You may think it’s OK to work in your pajamas, underwear, robe or whatever, but trust me; you will soon regret it. If you dress like a bum, you’re going to feel like a bum. Your attitude towards your work, clients and prospects will go downhill. Yes, you can get away from not wearing shoes, or for women, not putting on makeup.

But don’t allow the convenience of working from home reduce your professionalism. On the contrary, the further away you are from your main office, the more professional you must become if you want to be successful and keep your job.

2). Get the hell out of the house. Staying all day indoors is boring. Sure, you can watch TV or videos online, but you need to get out for at least 30 minutes or so to clear your head, or else you will not be functional for the rest of the day. Take a short walk or run an errand. Maybe take a short break at your favorite local coffee shop. Or better yet, have lunch with friends or clients. But whatever you do, don’t be stuck using the phone of the computer or on the phone all day. Get out.

3). Keep a regular work schedule. It’s easy to fall out of your work routine while working remotely from your home. You may crawl out of your bed and walk straight down to your home office and start working without eating breakfast, drinking coffee, or brushing your teeth. You may tell yourself that you can make up for it later in the morning.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Soon, your work at home will bleed into your home life, and your entire life will be disrupted. At the same time, when 5:00 or so rolls around, you need to leave work behind. Of course, I know sometimes you must put in an extra hour or so. But the biggest mistake I made while working from home is that I ended up burning myself out by working too many hours in the evening without taking a break.

Don’t make that mistake.

4). Remove any distractions. Sometimes you may have no choice but to work in your living room, dining room or even or kitchen. Not all of us have the luxury of living in large homes where you can convert a room into an office. But if you can afford to create a home office, do so. In using the long way, you will benefit from the distractions that we all deal with at home. And if you are lucky enough to have a home office, remove anything that could distract you – that includes the TV, radio, or anything that could prevent you from working.

5). Stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. Working remotely can be lonely. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. While your manager may not always be accessible, but you need to insist that you have at least one meeting per week to review your performance, receive updated company information, and make sure your sales are on track. Also, share your calendar with your manager and others so that you know when they are accessible for conversations.

It’s also important to stay in touch with your co-workers too. I know that they, like you, are busy trying to make their numbers, but a quick phone call (not just email or text) can help you gauge what’s happening at the home office.

6). Meet your manager in person at least once a month or quarter. You can do this by either traveling to your company’s main office or by inviting your manager to stop by. If your house is a total mess, meet your manager at his hotel or local coffee shop. It’s essential to make face time with your manager to ensure that both of you are on the same page.

7). Use the right tools. That means making sure you are using a headset and have stable phone and internet connections.  It also wouldn’t hurt to have Skype for conference calls.

8). Are you still living at home with your Mom? If the answer is no, then don’t expect her to clean up your office area. That’s your job. Like any office, make sure office files and information are within arm’s reach, so you don’t waste your time going through your bedroom closet finding critical data right before important meetings.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone. While most salespeople must have the discipline and drive to achieve or exceed their quotas, not everyone is cut out to work alone.  I hope my suggestions will help you.

Credits: Second Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash
and the Third Photo by  rawpixel on Unsplash

Special Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Protect Your Customers during a Merger or Acquisition

As a salesperson, going through a merger or acquisition is stressful enough without having to protect your customers too.

But like it or not, that’s what most of us must go through until the dust finally settles, and you know whether you have a job or not.

When a merger or acquisition occurs, many decisions are being made above your pay grade. Whether it is pricing, products, services, shipping or billing, you pretty much are out of the loop.

Sure, you can voice your objections about price increases, and sound the alarm if product quality is degraded, but really….is anyone going to care?

Is anyone really going to listen?

No.

Upper management has one goal in mind – complete the merger or acquisition as quickly and painlessly as possible so they can get back into the business of earning a profit.

And if that means cracking a few eggs along the way, well that’s the price of doing business.

Your goal? To make sure you’re not one of the eggs being cracked.

Yes, your compensation package may go up or down, and your benefits may be enhanced or reduced, but the one thing you need to always do is this – making damn sure your customers are protected.

So, how do you protect your customers?

1). Be honest – Well, be as sincere as possible without the risk of getting fired. Your customers depend on you to help them ride through the rough patch. It doesn’t matter whether you like some of your customers or not. It doesn’t matter if upper management is treating you like dirt or not. You’re a professional. You must rise above the pain, chaos, and uncertainty and help your clients.

For example, if prices will increase, let your customers know ASAP. If the new owners are planning to replace products or services, let your customers know that too.

It’s better your customers hear bad news from you than from upper management. By getting ahead of negative information, you can hopefully spin it to your advantage. At the bare minimum, you will prevent your customers from getting blindsided.

Better to be honest now with the hope that you might land on your feet somewhere else, then be dishonest and have your professional reputation destroyed.

2). Be a crisis manager – When your customers can’t get straight answers from the billing, shipping or other departments, you better be prepared to step in and resolve problems – quickly. If you do this, your customers will respect you, and hopefully, you will continue to see more orders from them in the future.

Yes, intervening in customer service problems may not be selling per se, but when the shit hits the fan (and it often does in mergers and acquisitions), you don’t have time to play “it’s not my job” games. That kind of attitude could get you fired — fast.

You need to step in quickly, resolve issues, and hope good Karma will rub off on you.

If not, you better be prepared to rub off a lot of lottery tickets to make up for the lost income you will receive walking the streets seeking a new job.

3). Be selling – don’t use the excuse of the chaos of an acquisition or merger to prevent you from doing your main job – selling. It’s easy to play the victim card and blame upper management for poor sales. But here’s the reality that you’re not going to like – you’re already a victim of an acquisition or merger. So, playing the additional victim card isn’t going to save you.

You need to stay focused. Sooner or later (and you hope sooner), things will begin to settle down, and upper management will take a hard look at who the winners and losers are. Make sure you don’t fall into the latter group.

Selling is tough. But it’s tougher when you are going through a merger and acquisition.  I know that from experience because I’ve gone through several mergers and acquisitions in my career. For example, I experienced so much anxiety during one acquisition, my hair was falling out, and I was losing sleep.

Don’t make the same mistake I made. Stay calm. Stay focused. Stay aware of what’s happening. And do whatever you can to protect your customers.

And if all else fails, leave. There are always other sales jobs. But there’s only one of you. Your health and mental state are more important than any job.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Guest Post: Sales Teams Have More to Worry About Than Just Losing Clients

If you conduct searches on Google and look at popular sales blogs, you will find plenty of articles about what it takes to locate the perfect sales representatives. You will also find information about how to write the best job description for a sales position and how to boost customer retention. Why is it easy to see all this stuff?

You could go to the  HubSpot Sales Blog and find articles about finding and hiring the best Sales Development Rep (SDR). There are two specific blog posts which perform better than any others on there. The titles are “10 Common Sales Job Interview Questions” and “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps.” If you were to check the analytics of these posts, you would see they have organic views in the thousands per month. Organic views are people who find the posts through search engine searches.

Companies worry so much about interviewing to find the best sales representatives. Maybe this is not such a good thing to do. It might be wiser for them to spend more money and time on improving the performance of the sales representatives they currently have. Losing clients may not be as bad as losing fellow teammates and sales representatives of the company.

According to a Bridge Group report from 2018, the average sales representative will have a tenure of 1 ½ years. This is not that great because the average sales development representative will need 3.2 months to achieve maximum productivity. How to reach the highest level of productivity – you definitely should have a look at our tips.

In the year 2010, a survey was conducted on the average tenure for sales representatives, and it revealed that 44% of them had a 3-year tenure. In 2018, only 8% of sales representatives reportedly have this much tenure.

What Makes Sales Representatives Want to Leave?

The main reason they are leaving is that they have very little job satisfaction. According to a study in which Marc Wayshak conducted this year, merely 17.6% of the people surveyed had indicated they have “outstanding” job satisfaction. Another 47.1% of the respondents said they have “good” job satisfaction. The study also revealed that salespeople like their jobs more when they can devote more of their time to activities related to sales. The sales representatives who got to spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities per day were more satisfied with their jobs than sales representatives who spend only 3 hours or less. The former gave their job satisfaction a 3.8 / 5 rating.

Big Expectations for Management and Culture 

Going further into this study, we found out that salespeople care a lot about the effectiveness of management and organizational culture. Sales representatives indicated these things are more important than job flexibility, commission, compensation, and job role.

There are still sales stereotypes in companies. Sales representatives already realize that people don’t like them. In the study by Wayshak, we saw that salespeople used the following words to describe how customers perceive them:

Greedy

Annoying

Untrustworthy

Pushy

The average salesperson’s tenure does not last if it takes to get a decent promotion. This is probably a big reason that sales representatives don’t stay very long.  Sales representatives will have an 18-month tenure on average. As a sales development representative, they will spend about 13 to 18 months before getting a promotion to an account executive position. Most sales representatives are too impatient to wait this long for a promotion. They will leave the company before their bosses consider them for it.

How Can Sales Managers Retain More Sales? The quick answer is to hire additional sales representatives who have a lot of experience.

In a report from Bridge Group, it revealed that hiring sales representatives with additional experience increased their average tenure. It also increased the amount of time they maintained full productivity on the job. Don’t make the mistake of hiring some new business development representative who just graduated from college because they will work for less money. It is smarter to invest more money in hiring an experienced sales representative. That way, they will know how to make you money faster without needing any on the job training.

Train Your Reps on Organizational Management and Culture

When Wayshak did his study, he discovered that sales representatives find the most value in having great managers to work with and a great organizational culture. Meanwhile, he saw that sales representatives were not concerned so much about compensation. Therefore, salespeople need to be trained in a way that makes them support the culture of the company and the sales team.

According to a CSO Insights survey, a sales leader will devote 20% of their day to assisting their sales team with closings. This is a no-win scenario because the sales representatives don’t feel like their careers will develop this way. The deals may not even work out either.

Promotion Communication

Your sales representatives must be regularly informed about their work performance and chances for promotion. The millennial generation makes up the current sales representatives out there right now. According to a survey by Deloitte, 25% of millennial sales representatives want to quit their current sales position within 12 months. Another 44% indicated they want to quit within 24 months.

You need to try to retain your sales representatives. Always let them know how they’re doing so they don’t wonder about it. Talk to them in person and give them feedback on a regular basis. If they know you’re considering them for a promotion, they will want to stay.

Managing the Performance of Sales Reps

According to a sales executive named Norman Behar, sales performance management is more important than leadership and sales coaching skills.

Most companies assume that their managers can manage sales performance effectively. This is not a good thing for them to do, though.

People may perform well as sales representatives, but that doesn’t mean they will perform well as sales managers. It takes an extraordinary ability to motivate sales teams to generate more sales and revenue.

Companies spend too much time worrying about sales results instead of sales behaviors. It takes certain behaviors to make the results happen. In the survey by Wayshak, 81.6% of the best-earning sales representatives spent 4 hours or more doing activities related to sales. These activities included sales meetings, prospecting, follow-ups, and referrals. These are all behaviors, not results.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are what drive this issue today. The systems conduct measurements in real-time, and the results get reported afterward. Majority of salespeople prefer a transformative way of using CRMs – automation tool, sales bots which regularly allow getting reports about sales deals closed, show which deals are the most promising and update any necessary information easily due to chat interface.

Closer bot can become a great assistant for you, so you can leave all routine work for it and focus on the most important – on closing deals.

It can be helpful to watch this data as it comes in. However, the information is based on things that have already happened. It doesn’t measure underlying behaviors which affect future outcomes.

Behavior Management

Sales representatives typically set goals for how many pitches to make in a given period. You should not track this behavior, though. The survey by Wayshak showed that a mere 7% of the best-performing sales representatives indicated they pitch often. Meanwhile, 19% of other lower performers reported they often pitch too. Therefore, pitching is not a behavior that will determine your level of success.

Sales organizations need to consider the primary objectives they should watch for and which behaviors will help achieve them. Just remember to monitor results while managing and monitoring behaviors. After all, the results are the lagging indicators, and the behaviors are the leading indicators.

To help you understand what makes behaviors and results differ from one another, consider the following example:

If the result that your company wants to achieve is “acquiring new customers,” then your key behaviors will be:

– Establishing meetings for the first time with potential customers.

– Providing the sales pipeline with more opportunities.

– Planning out the territory and making a thorough list of potential customers (for example Closer bot shows on who to focus, what the most promising deals are).

– Making plans for accounts which outline the primary influencers and decision makers.

Make sure you place limitations on the number of primary results that you wish to watch. If there are a lot of outcomes that you want to happen, that will cause many more behaviors. Let’s see an example of this. Suppose a sales company wants to watch 15 results. If each one of these results is connected to 4 behaviors, then sales managers must manage and monitor as many as 60 responses. This could never be maintainable.

If you want to be practical about this, direct your attention to 2 or 3 of the results that are most crucial. From there, you can manage the 8 or 12 behaviors that correspond with these results and drive them forward.

The 4 Ways to Practice Performance Management

After you have achieved the results you wanted and identified the behaviors which correspond with them, sales managers should focus on performance management.

Here are the four steps they need to do this:

1) Tell the salespeople what the expectations of their performance are.

2) All specific behaviors should be managed and monitored.

3) The results need to be monitored.

4) Standard feedback should be given.

Regarding the new customer acquisition example, the sales manager is now able to tell their salespeople how many customers they are expected to obtain, and which behaviors will allow them to achieve these results. And, of course, they will be told the timeframe in which they are supposed to do this.

Sales managers need to give feedback to their salespeople on a regular basis. The input should encourage the salespeople based on the key behaviors they have attained and/or the gaps which exist in their performance. For instance, a fundamental behavior could be something like setting 20 appointments for the first time in one week. Differences in performance might be failing to provide account plans to the sales manager.

In the end, sales managers still care about results. They need to realize that behavior management is how those results will be achieved. If you can tell the difference between results and behavior, then it will be easier for your sales team to succeed at keeping sales representatives happy.

Author: Vlad Goloshuk is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on B2B sales tech. He is the founder of Closer.bot (a slack bot designed to minimize sales reps time on CRM updates) and also a CEO at Brightestminds.io (a B2B lead generation agency).

How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine (workshop)

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, I want to encourage you to attend my friend’s workshop on “How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine.”

Richard Rothstein, a sales consultant, will be conducting the workshops twice next week. The first all-day workshop will be on Tuesday, July 24th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. The next workshop will be held on Saturday, July 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. Both workshops will be held at 1776, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. View Map

The registration fee for either workshop is $500.00. The seminar is an excellent investment for any entrepreneur or start-up owner who is planning to start selling his products or services soon. It’s one thing to have a great idea and product or service; however, it quite another to begin selling it in the open market. Richard can help guide you through the pitfalls and challenges that all new business owners face in today’s hectic and fast-paced sales environment. I would encourage you to attend.

In Sales, Promises vs. Reality

promises not being keptYou’re starting your new sales job. Promises were made. But soon, you discover that you have been lied to by upper management.

Maybe you didn’t get the sales territories you were promised.

Maybe you didn’t receive the compensation package that you were expecting.

Whatever the reason – do you stay, or do you go?

It depends on your situation.

My advice – stick it out for a while and see what happens. For example, there may be a change in management that could work to your advantage. Or another salesperson may leave, and you could inherit some of his large leads or accounts. Or, the compensation package may change. Or, one of your primary competitors could go belly up, and you and others on your sales team could receive more business.

Success in sales, like any profession, is due in part to hard work and smarts…but sometimes it’s mainly due to luck.

As we all know, sometimes it’s being at the right place at the right time when the stars (and dollar signs) are aligned that really matters.

For example, I knew a woman who became a sales manager and earned a lot of money because the entire sales team left. Fed up with what they considered to be the owners’ eccentric decisions and mismanagement, the whole team all walked out the door – expect her. She stuck it out.

success or failureEventually, the owner realized he was over his head, and hired a business manager to run the day-to-day operations. He also hired a team of top-notch employees to help run and manage the production and shipping departments.

With the business finally growing, the owner didn’t forget that woman who stayed with him during the hard times. As I mentioned above, she not only became the sales manager but also collected about 80% of all the significant accounts and was financially successful for several years – until the owner sold his business to a competitor.  As a result, the entire sales team was sold down the river. A year later, everyone was laid off. (But that’s a different story).

Of course, it’s always a good idea to do your homework before you accept a job offer. Yes, you can read reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed. But there have been numerous times when employers will “urge” their employees to write positive reviews to order to attract gullible employees.

Can you trust your gut? Not always.

One of my friends was working as a consultant for a tech start-up. The owner offered him a full-time job with benefits. With a family to support, he accepted the job offer. After all, he had been working as a consultant for a while, and he thought he knew the business. Or, so he thought.

It turned out to be the worst decision he ever made. But he stuck it out for about six months and decided he was happier being a consultant again.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

Promises don’t always turn into reality.

But if you stick it out, sometimes those promises may come true.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

What Girl Scouts Can Teach us about Selling

With so many Girl Scouts selling cookies near my work and grocery store, I have to assume that the Girl Scout cookie season is upon us again. (Girl Scouts sell cookies Girl Scouts selling cookiesfrom January through April, but in some  cases, they may sell them in September).

For most of us, selling is a career that we either start as soon as we graduate college or mid-life when our current job isn’t panning out.

But for most young girls, selling Girl Scout cookies is a Rite of Passage that begins at an early age.

(Full Disclosure – My mom was a Girl Scout leader, and all four of my sisters sold Girl Scout cookies).

What can we learn from Girl Scouts?

Here are some observations

1). Location, Location, Location – it’s no accident that many Girl Scout troops will set up a tabletop display near a busy street corner, a grocery store, or shopping center. They know that location is the key for selling. The more people traffic, the better chance you have to sell more cookies.

(I once saw a Girl Scout troop hold a cookie sale in someone’s front yard. Despite all the cheering scouts, it appeared they didn’t get too much traffic).

2). Product – unless you are a con artist who can sell ice to an Eskimo, selling requires having a good product. Being a connoisseur of Girl Scout cookies, I can testify first hand that the cookies are delicious. (My favorite is Thin Mints®).

3). Free samples – I notice that some Girl Scouts have taken a page out of the professional salesperson’s handbook and are offering free samples. That’s a great idea. It’s an excellent way of driving foot traffic to your location and increasing sales.

4). Branding – at most Girl Scout table displays, I notice a lot of signs. This is not a coincidence. In this busy and hectic age, you must attract attention of busy shoppers and pedestrians. Large colorful signs tapped to a table, or better yet, waved by girls, is a right way of drawing attention and more sales. Also, having a large stack of boxes of cookies on display will help people quickly see the variety you are offering, and enhances your branding too.

5). Variety – According to Girl Scouts’ Meet the Cookies, there are 12 brands of cookies this year. There is a debate on whether companies or organizations should offer too many products or not. Think 1-800 Flowers with its large display of flowers and other gifts. Too many products can be overwhelming.  But given that most people expect a lot of variety when it comes to snacks or desserts, 12 different types of cookies appears to be a good fit.

6). Referrals – most of us have worked in offices where at least one employee has an order sheet in the office kitchen for people to sign up for orders. If it’s the boss or manager, some employees may feel some undue pressure to order cookies to secure favor and harmony in the workplace. But for most of us who like cookies, it’s the convenience of completing a form and knowing that our favorite snacks will be arriving soon.

7). Enthusiasm – I’ve never passed by a Girl Scout cookie display without witnessing enthusiastic girls (and sometimes the adults are more excited than the kids). Enthusiasm is contagious. It also helps with sales.

(Several years ago, I saw an overweight man sitting in an office lobby behind a display of Girl Scout cookies. His arms were folded. He had this overconfident smirk on his face, as if he was expecting people would rush to buy the cookies. That didn’t happen. With his arms folded, no display and no real enthusiasm, he wasn’t very approachable).

8). Dress for success – most Girl Scouts wear their uniforms when selling cookies. This is important. It shows professionalism and credibility on their part, and underscores that they are raising money for a good cause.

There you have it.

Most Girl Scouts may never be salespeople. But we can learn a lot from their techniques in selling cookies.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career