Working remotely might sound like an ideal situation for most people.
However, anyone who has had the privilege of working from home knows that it comes with its own set of challenges.
There is the issue of remote colleagues and co-working spaces. Most remote workers find a way to make it work, but all agree there are steep learning and adjustment curves.
As a sales manager, it is your job to uncover problems before they negatively impact your sales team’s performance. A few common problems and situations will undoubtedly crop up among your sales team. Make sure you nip them in the bud.
Here are five challenges your remote sales team might struggle with, along with several tips for dealing with each one.
1. Too Many Distractions When Working from Home
The following may be a challenge many of your salespeople are facing right now while working from home:
Your sales rep got up early to cook a balanced breakfast. They have their coffee in hand, and they sit down to work. About twenty seconds later, their dog starts barking incessantly at a neighbor walking by.
They get up to quiet the dog and return to work. A few minutes pass, and another neighbor walks by. They get up to quiet the dog once more.
This routine goes on for eight hours, and it happens every day.
There might be other distractions as well. Maybe your salespeople have kids, who are home from school, or a spouse who is also working from home. And the fridge is full, and a snack is always a few steps away.
Even if everyone on your remote sales team has a designated space to work, there is always something that can break their focus. Sometimes it is the smartphone on their desk vibrating with another useless notification.
Distractions in a regular office are usually easier to compartmentalize. Your salespeople can tune them out a little easier. The dog and kids are not there, and the office break room is far away. When your reps are working remotely, the distractions are more personal, and sometimes, they are impossible to ignore.
Out of all the challenges your sales team faces when they are working remotely, this one might be the most obvious.
How Can You Help Eliminate Distractions?
- Make sure they do not need their personal phone during work hours so they can put it in a different room.
- Create designated time blocks for specific tasks.
- Figure out the best hours for them to work so they can minimize distractions, like dogs or family members.
- If their kids are too distracting, talk with them about childcare options.
- Find a way for your sales rep to signal to their coworkers when they are focusing hard on their work. Also, set up a signal for when they are taking a break.
2. Lack of Meaningful Communication
Working remotely presents a problem that is not easy to fix. Despite all the tools available to communicate virtually, it is challenging to replicate a collaborative atmosphere without sharing the same physical space. It is easier for communication to become one-way and less interactive.
Your team might be feeling lonely or out of the loop sometimes. Some might welcome the lack of social interaction that comes with working from home, but when all is said and done, humans are social creatures. If your team members usually rely on work for their daily dose of social interaction, they might be struggling with feelings of isolation.
Even if there is frequent communication among your remote sales team, there might not be enough meaningful conversations happening to keep everyone in a positive headspace. Maybe there needs to be more conversations that do not revolve around work. But, not so many to distract and interfere with productivity and concentration.
Furthermore, when you are unable to interact with other team members in person, trust is inherently harder to build. A majority of human communication happens non-verbally. When people are working remotely (specifically when scattered across different time zones), they usually communicate with nothing more than text on a screen.
Such impersonal interaction is a problem that needs to be solved proactively and continually. Sales team morale can start to drop when there is a lack of meaningful communication. With a drop in morale comes lowered productivity and higher turnover rates.
How Can You Increase Meaningful Communication Among Your Remote Sales Team?
- Use a team communication application like Slack instead of relying on email or phone calls.
- Regularly carve out time for conversations unrelated to work. A little bit can go a long way.
- Have regular meetings that follow the same format every time.
- Coordinate virtual and local meetups for your remote sales team. Allow them to meet each other face-to-face.
- Be proactive about setting expectations, giving feedback and receiving constructive criticism.
3. Unhealthy Habits
When working from home, it can be difficult to strike a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes it requires your team members to make personal adjustments to their habits. If you have ever tried to change your habits, you know how challenging it can be.
It can be especially difficult when a team member is not anticipating the discipline it requires to work from home. When you do not have to prepare for your daily commute, it is tempting to sleep in and work in your pajamas. This mindset can have a direct impact on the ability to produce results.
Perhaps the reps on your remote sales team used to go to the gym on their way home from work. Their gym routines might also be suffering now that they are working remotely.
However, one of the most insidious unhealthy habits that will rear its head while working remotely is poor time management. When there is no physical location for your team to work, they are relying almost entirely on their time management skills.
This problem may present itself in sales reps not used to prioritizing their work. They need to be disciplined enough to make sure they are always on task. Since there is not a sales manager looking over their shoulder, they need to be self-motivated enough to ensure they are working on tasks that will actually “move the needle.”
How Can You Promote Healthy Work from Home Habits?
- Encourage your remote team to sleep eight hours every night.
- Make sure you give them enough uninterrupted breaks throughout their day to unwind a little bit.
- Set up a way for your remote sales team to exercise together. You can do this with social fitness apps like MyFitnessPal or tools like Fitbit.
- Set up a health-focused Slack channel for your team members to exchange their favorite healthy recipes and workouts.
4. An Insufficient Home Office
Most people have never needed to build their own offices from scratch. Their employers provided a computer, a desk, a chair, reliable internet and a place to work.
Working remotely forces them to set up their own office. While some find enjoyment in creating their own home office, others opt for working on the sofa in the living room. Not having a designated space to work can make focusing on work difficult.
Another challenge remote sales team members face is access to reliable internet. Sometimes people have the best packages available, but for some reason, their internet connections are still unreliable.
When they are making hundreds of calls or performing market research, a reliable internet connection is a must. Anything less can be incredibly frustrating.
How Can You Improve Their Experience Working from Home?
- Make sure your systems are intuitive for your remote sales team to use.
- Pick your tools carefully. You will want to use as few as possible to keep things simple.
- Offer to reimburse for your sales reps (up to a certain amount) who purchase office furniture, such as a desk, office chair or printer. This might encourage them to create a dedicated at home work space.
- If reps regularly experience internet access issues, have troubleshooting guides ready to distribute. If that does not work, hire an IT professional to solve the problem.
5. Being Overworked
Even if your sales team loves working remotely, they are still susceptible to being overworked. Burnout might be even more true for remote sales teams for two reasons:
- Sales managers do not see their sales reps as often, and
- Sales reps have a tougher time separating work from home.
Being a good sales rep is a demanding job. It is tough enough to leave work at the office as it is. However, when your office is in your home, it is even more difficult.
Having your office a few steps away from your kitchen is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the pantry can be distracting. On the other hand, it can be tempting to work extra hours because so many creature comforts are nearby.
Occasional long days might not have a negative impact, but overworking can eventually burn out even your best sales reps.
How Can You Make Sure Your Remote Sales Team Is Not Being Overworked?
- Set clear expectations from the beginning. Let them know what needs to get done, when it needs to get done by and what type of pace they will need to maintain.
- Show them how they can track their time with internet browser extensions like Toggl.
- Introduce them to the power of the Pomodoro Technique.
- Make sure they are getting enough uninterrupted breaks to feel refreshed throughout their workday and in the evenings.
- Keep in touch with them to pick up on signs of burn-out.
Working from home might sound great at first, but if your remote sales team has not prepared for the challenges that come with it, they might be struggling right now.
It is your job as a sales manager to make sure your remote sales reps have everything they need to succeed. It is just as important to make sure that there are not any obstacles in their way.
Create a positive remote work environment that prevents these five things:
- Too many distractions
- Lack of meaningful communication
- Unhealthy habits
- Poor home office conditions
- Overworked sales reps
Preventing these things from happening will keep stress at bay and allow your remote sales team to flourish in your market.
The people they are in contact with will pick up on the fact that they represent an organized and competent company. This business image is especially impressive if they know your company has most of its employees working remotely.