How to Manage a Remote Team (4 Fears You MUST Overcome)

With teams suddenly going remote in response to COVID-19, sales leaders are now managing sales teams that are 100% remote.

While many sales leaders express concern about not having the right systems in place to run a remote team, what they’re really worried about is: Will my team perform in this new environment? Will they respond quickly to shifting priorities? And how can I keep them motivated?

At Pathlight, many of our customers already manage remote teams throughout the world. In the past few weeks, our team has been working around the clock to help our other customers transition to this new reality.

RELATED: Keep Your B2B Sales & Sanity Intact During the Coronavirus Outbreak

In this post, I will share the top four fears sales managers are facing and how to conquer them to lead your team to success.

Fear # 1: Will my team continue to be productive remotely?

As a manager, your #1 job is to inspire and support your team to achieve their sales goals. A major disruption like COVID-19 can make it difficult to stay productive.

With the ground under our feet shifting daily, even hourly, how do you keep your team productive in these distracting times?

RELATED: 18+ Working from Home Tips: How to Set Up & Thrive with Remote Work

Set daily or weekly performance goals.

Fortunately, sales teams are used to working with hard, measurable goals. Help your rep break down the week’s objectives into meaningful, achievable chunks. Assign targets at the beginning of the week and check in frequently.

Set achievable daily or weekly milestones.

Assign your team achievable mid-week milestones. At Pathlight, we call them “mini-goals.” Asana has this great post on how to think about milestones vs. goals. Milestones allow you and your sales rep to track progress to their weekly goal without feeling overwhelmed.

Establish templated daily reports.

Create a simple but effective daily report that doesn’t take too much effort for your sales team to complete. It can be as simple as

  • What I did today
  • What I plan to do tomorrow
  • Where I need help

Setting up daily reminders on Slack is another useful way to help your team stay on track. Reps can sync them with Google Calendar to get reminders throughout the day.

Fear # 2: Are they focused on the right priorities?

It’s easy to feel disconnected from your team when working remotely. If the organization’s top priorities aren’t top-of-mind for your reps, it’s easy for them to be working hard on the wrong things.

So how do you keep them focused on the right things?

Say it, and then say it again.

Repetition is your friend in times of crisis. Your team needs to know their top priorities like the back of their hand. Start every weekly team meeting by emphasizing your core priorities. Make it catchy and fun!

At Pathlight, our Q1 priorities are called HAMS (hiring, announcement, make money, ship). Or make a catchy video like the Tiktok hamster PSA on coronavirus.

Related: How to Use TikTok for B2B Sales: 5 Winning Strategies

Daily standups are a must.

It’s critical for your sales team to feel like a team, even if they are not in the office. Seeing everyone on Zoom — hearing a quick update on what they worked on yesterday and plan to work on today — will keep the team moving in the right direction.

You can also host an asynchronous standup on Slack.

Have a “no surprises” policy.

One of the key tenets of good management is “no surprises.” Don’t be surprised by your team members missing their quota. As a manager, your job is to anticipate and plan ahead for your team’s success or failures.

Set minimum and maximum goals for your team and identify early warning signals:

  • Is the daily call quota being met?
  • Are stale accounts increasing?
  • Are follow-up emails being sent?

Set up automatic reports for these early warning signal metrics so you can course-correct quickly.

Fear # 3: How can I keep reps motivated?

Let’s face it, we all have bad days. But if your rep has a bad day at the office, you can take her out for a cup of coffee or make a silly joke to help her bounce back.

Working from home can feel lonely, and fears of whether she is still a valued team member can create unnecessary anxiety, impacting productivity even more.

How to keep your reps energized and motivated while remote?

Celebrate wins, however small.

If your team is sending you short daily reports, find one or two things to share and celebrate every day. To get the most from this routine, make sure:

  1. You back up your praise with data so your team remains focused on the numbers.
  2. The wins advance your top 3 priorities to keep your team focused on the right things.

Make sure everyone sees and hears the wins (including execs!).

Assuming you’re on Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other instant messaging software, make sure your recognition messages are seen by the team. This is important for two reasons:

  1. It’s highly motivating for the sales rep you are recognizing.
  2. Your team knows what you value and what success looks like.

Use games to make work exciting and fun.

Whether it’s onboarding a new employee remotely or getting those competitive juices flowing to close a deal, games and rewards will keep the team motivated.

Zoom has some interesting ideas on how to make training, learning, and development more interesting.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Sales Team Building Activities (+50 Recommended Ideas)

Fear # 4: How can I stay in control of my team’s success?

With all the media noise and up-to-the-minute updates on COVID-19, it’s easy to feel like our world is spinning out of control. As a manager, it’s your job to stay calm, keep your team’s spirits up, and keep them focused on key company goals and priorities.

How can you keep your team focused and disciplined, while also being a rock for them during these difficult times?

Know where you stand at all times.

Setup a few simple dashboards that have all the core performance metrics that matter for your team’s success. Make sure they update in real-time so you can tell who’s ahead, who’s behind, and who needs your help.

Help your team manage up like pros.

GitLab, a company that has mastered remote work, has put out some smart tips for companies that are new to remote work.

Communication is key. Make sure your team knows how you want them to run themselves. Document the principles you value the most, and use that document as the single source of truth.

Additionally, give reps the tools they need to manage up, whether it’s owning 1-on-1 agendas, assigning you tasks to complete, or proactively checking in with you. This gives them more ownership and frees you up to focus on those things only you can do!

Address fears directly.

Your reps are probably most worried about

  • Whether they can hit their quota
  • If they are still being seen as a valuable contributor
  • Whether their job is secure in this new environment

Encourage your team to share their fears by sharing your own. This will make your team feel like you are all in this together. Plus, you now create a concrete plan to address these concerns and help them achieve their goals.

RELATED: Creating a Sales Culture: What It Is & How It’s Done

In Summary

The axiom, “You are only as good as your team,” is especially true for sales. The job of a sales leader is intense, demanding, and constantly changing. In these unprecedented times, it’s even more important to be creative in fighting your own fears and the fears of your team.

If you take away only 3 things from this post, it’s these three truths. To successfully manage a remote team, you should:

  • Communicate frequently
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Be transparent and create a culture of mutual accountability

Have other ideas on how to fight these fears? Tell us!

Alexander Kvamme is the co-founder and CEO of Pathlight, a team management platform for fast-paced customer-facing teams. Prior to Pathlight, Alex cofounded SeatMe (now Yelp Reservations). As an entrepreneur and an investor, he’s a lifelong believer in technology’s power to advance human progress.

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