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.
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 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 to 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.