“Really? You’re saying you want to sell to people without seeing them face-to-face? That won’t work properly. You’re wasting your time.”
Well, the truth is: it’s highly effective. And it’s taking sales over by storm.
According to Salesloft, for every outside/field sales rep being hired, there are ten inside/remote sales reps being brought on right now.
Now, whether you’re consciously choosing remote over field sales, or you have to stay home because of some nasty virus, we’ve compiled a handy guide for you that will make you more successful at it.
This guide covers:
- What we mean with remote sales
- What the advantages and difficulties of it are
- How you can sell remotely like a pro
- How to manage a remote sales team
- And as a bonus: How to generate leads remotely
Here we go 👇
What is remote sales?
It may be obvious, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
Remote sales is when you, the salesperson, and your prospect are never in the same location during the whole sales process.
It’s evidently possible that a big part of your sales process is remote and that you’re meeting up with the client once or a few times throughout the process.
For the sake of this guide, however, we’ll focus on 100% remote sales.
What are the advantages and difficulties of remote sales?
Now, what are the pros and cons of remote sales?
Let’s explore this and then discuss how to deal with them in the next section.
The biggest difficulty, and the reason why most old school sales reps believe you will fail, is:
Selling remotely makes it more difficult to connect on a personal level
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s book Silent Messages (1971), communication between a salesperson and a prospect is:
- 7% spoken words
- 38% tone of voice
- And 55% body language
Whether that breakdown is fully accurate or not, the point is: much of the communication gets lost if you can’t see each other.
Thanks to video calling software, you can see each other and read some body language, but this technology by itself never fully solves the issue.
Much of what we’ll discuss in “How to sell remotely like a pro” is how to deal with this difficulty and make the best of it regardless.
It’s harder to stay motivated if you have less personal contact
Most salespeople are extraverts. We need to fuel up our energy by being in touch with others. If you don’t see your prospects, this isn’t easy.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to be as personable as possible (it helps make the juices flow) and also a big reason for building daily habits.
But: remote sales makes you much more productive
Despite the two big difficulties we just discussed, the advantage is huge: remote sales massively boosts your productivity.
First, imagine the day of a field sales person, driving from prospect to prospect, waiting in lobbies, getting coffees, walking in and out of meeting rooms, … It’s a lot of time lost.
When we just started Salesflare I would go on the road to visit prospects. A perfectly planned day with no incidents would mean that I would visit 4 prospects maximum, assuming one hour meetings with each one.
Now, imagine switching to remote sales and staying in the same place. Suddenly you’re able to double the amount of one hour meetings you can have in a day.
What’s more: when I switched to remote sales, all of a sudden these one hour meetings could be turned into 30 minute meetings. A lot of the time we’d normally spend moving around, getting coffee, waiting for something or someone, exchanging pleasantries, … could all of a sudden be reduced to a minimum. My sales capacity was quadrupled!
Other things also got dramatically easier:
- Booking meetings could be done using a scheduling link, as I didn’t have to carefully calculate traffic and buffer times anymore. This instantly cut my email traffic in half.
- It got much easier to switch between conversations and other types of work, as I was spending my time behind my computer anyway.
- And I became less disconnected from the rest of our team, as before it was harder to stay in touch when I was spending my time driving and in meetings.
Long story short: remote sales are way more productive, as long as you know how to deal with the difficulties.
How to sell remotely like a pro
Now let’s discuss how you can deal with the difficulties of remote sales successfully while capitalizing on its advantages. 👇
Be as personable as possible
When people meet you through a screen, make sure you show the human being behind that screen. Create a connection.
The opposite situation is one we know all too well: someone reads something in a Facebook comment, reacts to it forgetting there’s a human being at the other end, and turns into a rude keyboard warrior. Things are said that probably wouldn’t have been said in a face-to-face conversation.
To be as personable as possible, here’s a few things you can do:
- Use video calling over phone calling and always turn on your video, even if just for the beginning of the conversation (internet connections can be bad). It sets a warmer tone for the conversation.
- Be yourself and a bit more informal than you’d be in a face-to-face meeting. Make a bit of time for small talk. It’s good to compensate a bit for the difficulties with creating a personal connection remotely.
- Try using chat instead of emails between video calls. Its interactivity makes for much stronger bonds.
- If you end up calling without video anyway, use sounds that clearly communicate what you’re doing, like a laugh when you’re smiling, a “hmm” sound when you’re thinking, etc. to make a stronger connection. Use your tone of voice abundantly.
- Experiment with tools like Bonjoro to replace some of your messages with video messages. It’ll create much more engagement.
- Bring up important things you remember from previous conversations more than you would in a face-to-face conversation. Don’t limit yourself to business, but also bring up personal interests of your prospect.
- Ask whether you’re pronouncing their name correctly. It shows you care. (My first name “Jeroen” is pronounced “Ya-roon” in case you were wondering. 😏)
Closely track your customers’ interest and interactions
When your conversation becomes digital and you can’t really look each other in the eyes anymore, you need to find other ways to read your prospects’ body language.
That’s where tracking technology comes in. It enables you to read your prospects’ “digital body language”.
Here’s what’s possible:
- You can track when prospects open emails and when they click on links in them.
- You can keep track of when they visit your website, what pages they look at, and how long they look at these pages. (Is it the pricing page? That’s a good sign!)
- You can use very similar tracking in documents and proposals.
- And finally, you can get live notifications of when these things happen, so you can time your follow-up actions flawlessly.
There’s hundreds of email tracking solutions out there. A few of those also offer integrated website tracking. Almost none of them also send you live notifications of the tracking on your phone and/or computer.
Our CRM, Salesflare, however does. You can track individual emails sent from Gmail, Outlook or Salesflare itself (both individual emails and email campaigns), link this up with website tracking, and get handy notifications the way you’re used to from other apps.
For document tracking, there’s a few options we can recommend:
- Want to track a pdf you’re sending over to someone? There’s tools like DocSend and Attach that will allow you to upload them and then tell you when someone reads them online.
- Want to track when your proposals are sent? Proposal solutions like Better Proposals take care of this for you. You’ll get detailed reports of how people read them.
Keep building your relationship via social media
Some salespeople hang out at the country club to strengthen their network. If you’re selling remotely, you’ll probably need to take this online as well. Your virtual country club: social media.
How to start? Just connect with your prospects and customers on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter. Whatever makes most sense in your industry or with your type of clients.
I personally try to connect with every user that gets on Salesflare (provided they use a company email address so I can properly identify them). Don’t believe me? Just start a trial and count the minutes to my LinkedIn request. 😉
Then you can start a friendly conversation. Ask for feedback. Share helpful content on your feed. And if you think of something that will help a specific person: share it with them personally. (But please, don’t send this kind of message at scale.)
Be personable and helpful. Treat your social media friends like real friends, to the extent possible.
Organize your meetings & process with maximum efficiency
Want to maximize your remote sales productivity?
Here’s a series of ideas for you:
- Use a meeting scheduler, like YouCanBook.me or Calendly. It takes away so much of the email traffic if you’re scheduling a lot of meetings. And nobody minds using the link. I always say: “You can choose a good moment to talk via…” and then insert my link.
- Set up automated reminders in your meeting scheduler. Adding a reminder one hour before the meeting has reduced the amount of no show to a minimum for me.
- Use video calling software with a personal link. This allows you to insert that link in your automatic scheduling tool. When the meeting’s starting, just head to that link. Easy!
- Alternatively, some video calling software tools like Vectera allow you to create a room per prospect. You can share documents there and use it as your personalized meeting room with them.
- When someone books a first meeting with you, you can automatically create them in your CRM. For example, we created this Zapier template that easily connects YouCanBook.me with Salesflare.
- Set up automated reminders to add meeting notes after each meeting with a prospect. This is standard in Salesflare, but can also be set up with a bit of Zapier magic.
Build daily habits around sales activity
Do you find it difficult to stay on track when working remotely?
The best way to fix that is to build in some daily habits. Once these habits are in place you’ll find it way easier to stay on track, regardless of your motivation levels on a particular day.
Focus on following up x customers per day, placing x calls, creating x new opportunities, … What makes most sense all depends on how your sales process works.
Try setting these goals in collaboration with your sales manager. Your manager might even set input-level sales quotas and it’s good when they’re aligned. Which brings us to the next point…
How to manage a remote sales team
Set clear goals & manage on input-level sales goals first
Want to keep your sales people on track while working remotely? (You got it, this is the same point I made just above, but then from a sales manager’s perspective.)
Setting clear goals will help. This makes sure that your sales people know exactly what is expected of them.
A word of caution however: while you might immediately think of revenue goals, it’s highly unlikely that setting these alone will keep your sales team motivated. What keeps them motivated is seeing constant progress and deals might only be closed every now and then.
The best way to solve this is by setting input-level goals or quotas. This can be the:
- Amount of calls placed
- Amount of meetings scheduled
- Amount of meetings done
- Amount of emails sent
- Amount of chat conversations had
- Amount of leads talked to
Make the team coachable by sharing everything in one place
One of your most important roles as a sales manager – if not the most important one – is to coach your sales team.
Apart from tracking the numbers (as in my previous point), you’ll need to get insight into the conversations your team is having with your prospects. Otherwise there’s no way you can help them improve.
What’s best is to start sharing everything in one place. You can also ask your sales reps to CC you on every email, but your mailbox will be flooded and you’ll still miss part of what’s going on.
Get a CRM that pulls in the full conversations with prospects, including all the emails, meetings, calls, notes, … and how these prospects interact with your emails and website (using tracking).
Another thing a CRM will help you with is visualizing your sales team’s pipeline of opportunities.
Why that’s important: it won’t only help your team to keep track of what they’re working on; it’s also a great starting point during coaching sessions with your team, which brings us to the next point: 👇
Organize weekly sales pipeline reviews (& daily stand-up meetings)
Many of our customers organize weekly or biweekly sales pipeline review meetings with their sales team.
This has a few advantages:
- You can align on the next steps that should be taken with prospects.
- You can run through the pipeline and make sure it’s all up to date. You might change the stage, probability, or value of an opportunity. Or get it out of the way if it’s not relevant anymore. This will result in a better overview and better revenue forecasts.
- If there’s any other issues, these can be identified and discussed.
If you want to take it one step further, you can introduce daily stand-up meetings, as is a habit in tech startups and software development environments. Share what you’ve done the day before and what you’re going to do today.
Stand-up meetings create transparency on what everyone’s doing, greatly increase communication within the team, and also provide a moment of reflection on what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do.
When you’re remote, weekly sales pipeline reviews are best done using a video conferencing tool, like Zoom or any other one. You can turn on video and share screens to make it engaging.
Stand-up meetings can be done in writing, for instance in a specific Slack channel, or can also be done live in a video call. Whatever works best for your team!
Build in watercooler moments & promote camaraderie
A simple thing, but easily forgotten: when working remotely you can easily miss the connection with the rest of the team that comes naturally when you work in the same room or stand together at the watercooler (or the coffee machine).
Want to introduce these moments for informal chats within the team in a remote setting?
You can always plan a recurring video call around lunch or at some dedicated point of the day, where you can chat about things that are not related to work. Or if daily is too often, you can organize this on a weekly basis as well.
If you’re using a team collaboration platform like Slack you can also add some channels that are a bit less serious. We for instance use:
- #random: for just about anything
- #party: for parties and get-togethers
- #jingl: for music videos; we have a funny habit of finishing sentences with song lyrics and… we made an internal Slack app that shares a YouTube video for that song when we use the /jingl command (don’t judge us)
- #interesting: for interesting articles
Go crazy 🤪
Invest in a digital toolset that improves collaboration
Throughout this article, I’ve mentioned a lot of handy tools you can use to maximize your collaboration in a remote setting.
Here’s a quick summary of all tools mentioned:
- A CRM to keep everything in one place, without needing to input too much data. Our customers would probably recommend Salesflare to you 😉
- A video calling software like Zoom, or if you’d like to set up dedicated rooms with documents and a whiteboard etc: Vectera
- A tool to quickly send video messages like Bonjoro (or Loom if you want to record your screen too)
- A meeting scheduling tool like YouCanBook.me or Calendly
- A document tracking tool like DocSend or Attach (or if you want to send and track proposals: Better Proposals)
- A team communication platform like Slack
- A shared & collaborative space to deal with documents and files like Google Drive
- An automation platform to integrate it all, like Zapier or Integromat