With so many people now working from home, building a remote sales team seems like a no-brainer. Since the start of 2020, 90 percent of B2B sales activities have moved online. With lower overhead and initial gains in productivity, leaders were optimistic about the future of remote work. But as the year comes to an end, the bloom is off the rose.
In a recent survey, 70 percent of sales people said remote selling wasn’t as effective as in-person selling. Some of the problems reps cited were limited interactions, passive presentations, and audience multi-tasking. These are just a few of the nuances to remote selling that many new entrepreneurs don’t understand. If you don’t proactively manage these issues, you’re likely to see fewer sales, longer sales cycles and higher turnover among your staff.
Here are four of the biggest remote-sales challenges and how to address them:
- Salespeople are hesitant to reach out during a pandemic.
The current crisis has undoubtedly made sales more challenging. Many reps are reporting that clients are working with smaller budgets, resulting in lower sales volume and trouble closing. The best sales reps are considerate, intuitive individuals, and they don’t want to appear insensitive or pushy by trying to close a deal. But sometimes your reps may assume prospects don’t want to be contacted when they actually have needs that aren’t being met.
Solution: Encourage reps to check in and listen.
While it’s true that many clients have seen their budgets slashed, people’s scope of need is broadening. Customers and employees are moving online, and businesses are scrambling to adapt. Hopefully, your company can provide a solution, but you won’t know if you never ask.
Another assumption your reps might be making is that prospects don’t want to hear from them now. In fact, your prospects are probably starved for social interaction, and they may be more receptive to a conversation.
Encourage your reps to keep reaching out. Try using email tracking tools to know when emails have been seen or not. Even if it doesn’t seem appropriate to close, checking in never hurts. Above all, it’s important to spend time listening — even if a prospect wants to talk about his family’s home-schooling challenges rather than filling his next order. People won’t remember a quote six months from now, but they will remember how you treated them.
- Virtual presentations tend to be lackluster.
With sales teams speaking with prospects virtually, creating compelling presentations is a huge challenge. Prospective clients working remotely are more distracted than ever, and a traditional PowerPoint is anything but engaging. Sales reps surveyed said that prospects multitasking during presentations was a huge hurdle with remote sales.
To keep prospects engaged, it can help to create customized product demonstrations. This allows them to see the product in action. However, creating live demos has always been time-consuming — not to mention nerve-wracking.
Solution: Invest in demo software.
Investing in codeless demo software allows your sales team to create their own customized demos without involving developers. Reps can tailor their presentation to each prospect’s unique challenges and create a more engaging experience.
- Salespeople are spending less time selling.
Sales productivity is at an all-time low, with reps spending just 34 percent of their time selling. The rest of their time is eaten up with email, data entry and prospecting. (Scheduling and attending meetings is another big time sink.)
With a fully remote team, it’s easier for these time-consuming activities to eat up a larger chunk of the day. (For instance, there’s no one around to see that a rep is always scrolling through Facebook or getting sidetracked on YouTube.) It doesn’t help that the No. 1 tool for remote sales — email — is also one of the biggest time-wasters.
Solution: Automate administrative tasks
Many of sales’ most time-consuming tasks can now be fully automated. Research shows that sales automation boosts productivity, shortens the sales cycle and increases closures. The key is investing in the right tools and training your team on those tools.
Data entry can be streamlined with a better grasp of the CRM. Scheduling meetings can be automated with Calendly. Lead gen can be simplified with tools like Autoklose, ZoomInfo and LeadFuze.
- Impersonal team interactions can drain motivation.
A perennial challenge with remote employees is a lack of meaningful communication. There are plenty of phone calls and emails, but these conversations don’t go very deep. This is becoming more problematic with so many people already starved for human connection. There is a shadow crisis of apathy, depression and loneliness, which can drain employee motivation.
Solution: Use video to have more personal interactions.
Remote sales people have exactly the same emotional needs as those working in an office. They need clarity around job expectations, accountability and feedback. Now more than ever, they need real human interactions — for their mental health as well as their job performance.
In a fully remote environment, you must make an effort to have more frequent and personal interactions. According to Andre Black of Allego, salespeople should get comfortable “sending video messages instead of emails and holding live video meetings instead of voice-only calls — even if they’re in casual clothes.” This can help foster a culture where real and frequent human interactions are the norm.Technology makes a fully remote sales team possible, but it also exacerbates existing sales challenges: Prospects are more distracted. Salespeople need help with time management. Most importantly, your salespeople need guidance and support. Just remember that employees are human beings — whether they’re on the sales floor or your computer screen.