When someone mentions a “sales floor,” what image comes to mind? Is it a scene out of the movie Wolf of Wall Street? Are there phones ringing off the hook and sales professionals talking over each other in loud voices? While you may not be alone in thinking this, it’s not entirely true. 

Truth is, in order for sales teams to be successful, they don’t need to sit in the same room talking loudly to one another. In fact, they don’t even need to work in the same city, state, or country. 

As our co-founder Dharmesh Shah said in his 2019 INBOUND keynote, remote workers at HubSpot make up our 3rd largest “office.” And, on the North America Partner Sales Team, we have the highest proportion of remote workers with over 40% working full time remote. 

When I first started to lead a dispersed sales team several years ago, I found myself worrying about four key components: 

  1. Setting Employees Up for Success: How will sales professionals structure their days when working remotely to be best set up for success? 
  2. Performance Management / Data: When my team works remotely, how do I know if they’re being productive and not getting distracted by Netflix? What data should I be looking at to know that they are being productive? 
  3. Maintaining a Strong Culture: How can we stay connected as a team? How do we have fun, support one another, and build relationships remotely? 
  4. Continued Collaboration: How can you not lose those “over the shoulder” moments where you can ask your peer or drop by someone’s desk to talk through an issue in real time?

I also found that there wasn’t much of a playbook to follow. Over the years, I’ve navigated through supporting a dispersed sales team through trial and error, and constant team feedback. Keeping in mind the challenges above, here are some tips for leading a remote sales team. 

Start with the Basics

The first step in setting your team up for success is making sure that they have the technology and tools they need to do great work. For sales reps, that could mean dual monitors, headsets, keyboards, and tools like Zoom or Slack. Once settled, it’s important to spend some time working with your reps on creating a schedule to maximize peak performance. Here’s what I encourage on my team: 

  • Plan Your Day Ahead: Allowing for a small window of time to go from ‘home mode’ to ‘work mode’ will allow you to reconfirm all of your appointments, prep your agendas for calls, and generally get in the right headspace for the work that needs to be done today. 
  • Build Out Prospecting Blocks: Without the energy and buzz of the office, it can be hard for your team to find motivation to prospect. Set predefined prospecting blocks for your entire team and use Slack to rally the group around numbers of calls made and opportunities booked. 
  • Block Admin Time: Many sales reps get caught up in details, their inbox, and the 80% of activities that don’t help them overachieve each month, quarter, and year. Setting aside time allows you to get all of your admin work done in a catch all, freeing up the rest of your time for selling. 
  • Shut It Off: Effective sales happens when you and every member of your team are in a performance mindset. If you are always “on,” you aren’t always bringing your best. Olympic athletes don’t work out 12 hours a day at a full sprint. The same principle applies. 

Set Clear Expectations

With physical distance separating reps and managers, there needs to be an increase in communication and a foundation of trust and autonomy. It’s up to you as the manager to convey exactly how you’ll measure performance so that your reps have a clear understanding of your intentions and expectations. From setting clear sales KPI's that are measurable, or creating a system to join and provide feedback on sales calls, everyone should be on the same page from the start to ensure that there won’t be any miscommunication. 

Foster a Strong Team Culture

One of the biggest challenges for remote work is how to mirror in-office culture. While it may seem intimidating, even impossible, building an inclusive culture and psychological safety within a remote team is absolutely achievable. It just requires a bit of creativity and effort. Investing in tools like Zoom, Slack and HighFive, or carrot.io can help get you started. On the Sales team at HubSpot, we use these channels to communicate about work, but also to host remote watercoolers, virtual coffee chats, team trivia, or celebrating team member milestones and birthdays. 

Encourage Collaboration

In sales, so much learning and collaboration happens right there on the floor, hearing best practices from those around you and using them to level up your next call with a prospect. Despite not being in the same room, there are still ways to foster that shared collaboration when remote. I use team meetings to skill up on selling with empathy, learning how to grow from challenges we face, and encourage individuals to host skill swaps so that reps can learn from one another. 

In the end, I’ve learned that there’s no one-size-fits all solution to leading a successful remote sales team. By addressing my initial concerns, I've found confidence in finding the best solutions for my team. And as a reminder, your team isn’t looking for a manager to know all the answers. What’s important is that as a leader, you’re committed to iterating and evolving so that your employees can do their best work, no matter where they’re located.

Originally published Apr 28, 2020 4:00:00 PM, updated January 19 2023