Remote Selling Made Simple: 5 Practical Tips for a Successful Organization
Sales teams around the world have been forced to quickly adapt and learn remote selling techniques, due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to U.S. Census data, there are approximately 5.7 million professional salespeople in the U.S, and field sales make up 52.8%. That’s more than 3 million people who suddenly became full-time remote sellers.
Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by video conferencing, and many sales leaders are scrambling to train their sales teams on how to sell remotely.
A 2020 study by the RAIN Group found that pre-pandemic, only 27% of respondents reported conducting more than half of their sales activities virtually. In May 2020, 71% said they were conducting more than half their sales virtually. That’s an increase of 163%.
Source: RAIN Group
While this feels like a brand new fundamental shift, I would argue that remote selling has been a growing movement for many years. In fact, remote selling statistics have been trending towards this major shift for well over 7 years. Nonetheless, the data shows, it’s nowhere pervasively and in my opinion, there is no turning back the clock now as the way of the future for sales organizations.
Experts, however, predict that even after COVID, the future of sales will be different. Sales professionals won’t be working from home all the time. However, outside sales teams will not be in the field as much as they used to be.
Whether you’re a sales leader, sales manager, or a small business owner, you need to understand what remote selling is, how to hire and lead a remote sales team, and what skills they need to succeed in a virtual selling environment.
At Vengreso we’ve been selling remotely for years. We have developed a system that works, and now want to share it with you.
Follow along as we teach you the five practical tips every sales leader can take to create a successful remote selling organization.
1. What is Remote Selling?
The first thing you need to know is how remote selling is different from traditional selling or otherwise known as field sales.
In simple terms, remote selling is prospecting and engaging buyers and customers from a remote work location, generally, a salespersons home office. So, instead of in-person meetings, you will be using the phone or interact virtually, such as through email, instant messaging, synchronous or asynchronous video, and/or social media.
Your outside field sales reps have already been doing some of these activities. Xant’s The State of Sales Report shows that in 2017 outside sales reps were spending 45% of their time selling remotely.
Traditionally that meant cold calling or sending a cold email to set up in-person meetings. Today, remote selling might also be referred to as virtual sales and uses many modern-selling techniques, such as:
- Prospecting with LinkedIn and other social media platforms
- Sharing relevant content to attract potential buyers
- Leveraging sales-video messages to prospect and even close sales
Modern buyers are less willing to talk to a sales rep than ever before. They prefer to do independent research and compare vendors online. This is why today’s modern B2B buyer needs a modern seller, who knows how to engage with their digitally connected, socially engaged, mobile attached, and video hungry buyer.
At Vengreso, we teach modern sellers to engage a potential customer, using the PVC Sales Methodology. This is comprised of three key factors:
Interestingly, there has never been a more perfect alignment for remote selling to remote buying. Why?
Never before in the history of buying and selling has buyer behavior been more in sync with remote selling motions. Today’s modern buyer is digitally connected, socially engaged, they are mobile attached and video hungry.
Today’s remote sellers are also digitally connected, socially engaged, mobile attached, and video producers.
This has created the perfect alignment between buyer behavior and your remote seller’s motions.
Modern-day remote selling results remind me a lot of this image I use in my keynote sales presentations.
So, why are so many B2B sales teams still dissatisfied with their sales prospecting, pipeline, and closing results? I’m glad you asked. In the next 4 sections, we dive deep into ways every sales leader can improve their remote selling results.
2. How to Hire a Remote Sales Team
As you may have already guessed, remote selling requires your reps to have certain skills. And these have long been thought that they are not the same as the ones used by sales teams in the field. I don’t necessarily agree with that perspective. Nonetheless, leveraging a set of sales hiring tips and best practices is critical to leading a successful remote sales team.
At Vengreso, we have developed a system for hiring remote sales reps, which ensures that they will be successful in a virtual selling environment. Once they pass the initial interview rounds (generally four), we conduct a final 45-minute virtual video Panel Interview.
Candidates are asked to treat the interview as they would a sales meeting. We tell them, “You are the salesperson and the product is you.”
They can also see who the “buyers” are in advance, as all the panelists are copied in the invitation that the candidates receive. This is done on purpose. We want to see if they will send any LinkedIn connection requests to the panelists in advance. Our hope is the candidate demonstrates true virtual sales skills. This begins with a personalized connection request via LinkedIn and then ends with engaging with each panelist prior to the meeting to build rapport.
What does this reveal? For starters, their ability to do research before a sales meeting on each decision-maker. In addition, will they have the modern selling skills needed to engage with their modern buyer? It is during this time, we are quickly able to evaluate their pre-sales motions and assess strengths and weaknesses.
If they take time to reach out and connect with the panelists, we’ll know they’ll also take time to find, engage, and connect their buyers using personalized connection requests.
We also want to gauge the candidates to see if they truly understand (by their line of questions) during the panel interview who the buyer truly is and did they establish a coach or champion pre-event. Anyone on the buying committee can serve as their coach/champion buying influencer. During this process, each panelist is prepared to make themselves available to answer any questions that may arise from the candidate. We make it very clear “there are no rules to the competition, this is a sales simulation, so sell.”
In the invitation to the panel interview, candidates receive a sales call agenda they are to strictly adhere to:
- 5-minute introductions
- 30-minute presentation (they are cut off at 30 minutes, no exceptions)
- 10-minute closing and next steps
The reason for this is to assess their time-management skills since they will need to stick to the time set with their clients during a remote sales call.
We request that the actual presentation be limited to three slides:
- Why You? Candidates tell why they think they are a perfect fit for the role.
- Why Vengreso? They should answer this as if they were explaining our company to a prospect. This step requires them to research our company.
- A Teachable Moment. Here, they teach us something that they are passionate about. This can be anything. It’s their chance to demonstrate their virtual-speaking skills.
The reason for this is to assess whether the candidate listens and follows instructions or gains approval from a buying influencer to do “something” differently.
Each panelist gets access to a Google evaluation sheet called the “Group Panel Interview Sheet”, where they grade the candidate from 1 to 5 during the live panel interview in these categories:
- First Impressions (are they dressed for success?)
- Relevant Background
- Professional Demeanor
- Why Them Slide
- Why Vengreso Slide
- Teachable Moment Slide
- Do They Believe They Can Do The Job?
- Do They Understand the Commitment?
- Over All Impression
- Presentation Skills (do they bring life to the virtual room?)
- Gut Intuition That They Will Succeed (how they handle this meeting is how they would handle a virtual-room full of buyers)
- Would you Hire Them?
- Did they Go for the Close/Ask for the Job?
This is a tried and tested panel evaluation sheet that I’ve used for years. It’s simple and easy. We store it as a Google sheet so all of the panelists can place their scores in the sheet while the panel interview is taking place. While doing so it tabulates the scores, creates the averages and instantly gives a group average. The minimum score to pass is a 3.
To see and/or download the Sales Panel Interview Format click below.
We tell them in advance that, other than what’s mentioned above, there are no rules. We also say that they can reach out to anyone in the panel beforehand if they wish to do so. All of this sales coaching we provide in advance, giving them every possible opportunity to see if they “follow the carrot.”
Curious about how this plays out? Check out the following 60-min video titled How to Hire a Remote Sales Rep from our YouTube Channel. This is an actual recording of a group panel interview we did with one of our remote sales representatives, Frank Cerna. And the best part… for the first time in my leadership history I told the rep “he’s hired.” That was because I could see the scores/remarks from all panelists on the Group Panel Interview Sheet and furthermore, he went for the close and asked for the job!
To help you further in hiring your remote selling organization, attached you will also find the group panel interview notification script (sent to the candidate) that you could use for your next virtual sales panel:
Thank you for confirming your availability for the interview process’s final round, called The Panel Interview.
Attached, you will find some ground rules for the Panel Interview:
- Treat this as you would a sales meeting. You are the salesperson, and the product is you.
- You will run the meeting as you would any sales meeting, and we recommend you follow this agenda:
- 5-min Introductions
- 30-min Presentation (note you will be cut off at 30-min and there will be no exceptions)
- 10-min Closing/Next Steps
- During your 30-min presentation, you should present three slides, and they are:
- Why You – Tell us why do you think you are a perfect fit for the role
- Why Vengreso? – Answer this if you were telling a prospect (do your research)
- Teachable Moment – Teach us something that you are passionate about. This can be anything.
- We have included the following suggestions/reminders:
- Arrive early to your meeting room
- Manage the meeting and attendees
- Manage your time wisely
- Dress for success
- Be in a quiet place
- Remember it’s a virtual video conference
- Be you and bring life to the room (remember it’s virtual; how you handle this meeting is how you’d handle a virtual-room full of buyers)
- Go for the close during the closing/next steps (have an appropriate question or two and leave enough time)
- Finally, there are no rules other than the above. That means if you want to know anything before the Panel Interview, reach out to me or any panelist.
3. Effectively Navigating through the Elements of Remote Selling
Once your remote selling team has been assembled, you’ll need to lead them as effectively as possible, as if they were on the sales floor with you. But how are remote sellers led and managed whilst working from home?
Here are some practical tips from my experience leading a virtual remote sales team for the past four years.
Turn the Camera On
The next best thing to being face-to-face with someone is communicating through video.
Neuroscience shows that thanks to mirror neurons, our brain connects emotionally to the facial expressions and body language of another person. It doesn’t matter if it’s during an in-person conversation or through video conferencing.
That’s why at Vengreso we have a policy for our Zoom meetings: always have the video camera on. That way, we can see each other’s faces and non-verbal queues.
Think about it. If your sales team cannot meet in person, you need to make use of digital communication and provide them the tools for the best possible virtual interaction.
Of course, the camera-on policy also applies to virtual meetings with prospects and clients. Seeing the seller’s face helps to build trust with the potential customer even if the customer never turns on their camera
Unfortunately, not all remote-meetings are being held with the camera on, as I discovered from a LinkedIn poll to my network. The data showed after 295 votes that still 20% aren’t even close to turning it on enough and still 23% aren’t turning it on all the time. That means 46% of sellers aren’t engaging correctly with the number one requirement for remote selling – letting your buyer see your face in order to build trust!
Make sure you and your remote selling team are with the majority. It makes a difference and science proves it.
Develop a Positive Work Culture
Research shows that a positive work culture increases productivity. Here’s what sales leaders can do to create a great remote selling work environment:
- Foster Social Connections. When remote sellers have friends at work, they will perform better and experience less stress. At Vengreso, we have a monthly Virtual Watercooler. It’s an opportunity for everyone to join a Zoom call to have a friendly “watercooler” chat. We also have weekly happy-hour meetings, where we exercise, play games, or even cook together, remotely.
- Show Empathy. Sales leaders who demonstrate compassion toward employees foster individual and collective resilience during challenging times. Don’t be that sales leader who only demands, but never gives back.
- Be Willing to Help. When you go out of your way to help your team members, you will inspire them to become more loyal and committed to you and the organization. Recently, I discovered that one of my remote team-members had a problem with her computer being too slow. She demoed it to me even though she was not eligible for an upgrade. After seeing how painfully slow it was, I inquired into all of the computers in our South America region and found out they all had the same specifications. Yikes! We immediately did a global upgrade to make not one, but all of our remote team happier. Our focus as a remote selling leader must demonstrate a willingness to help our virtual sellers hit quota.
- Encourage Open Communication. Allow your sellers to talk to you about anything, even their personal problems. When your sales team trusts that you have their best interests at heart, they will feel safe and perform better. Although I subscribe to a direct approach to leadership, I also believe in creating personal bonds with my team. I check in on all remote personnel (not just sales)often to see how they are doing and help them in any struggles they might be facing. I try to make it a monthly habit.
- Read Your Sellers Reviews. I receive a copy of each seller’s review (30, 60, 90, and annual reviews). During that time, I look for the common themes stated by the sales leader. I congratulate the seller on their review by finding something positive then reinforce the message their leader gave them. It takes about an extra 15-min but when they receive an email from the CEO it goes a LONG way in building a positive remote selling work culture.
One thing you can do is start an all-hands chat through your email system (we use G-suite) or use a separate application like Slack. The CEO and the sales leaders will have opportunities to participate often, not just to ask for support, but also to encourage and give. Of course, the larger the company, the less controlled the conversation.
It’s important to take the time to engage and to encourage your team to join in. And don’t just talk about the business. Share what’s going on in your personal life, upload family pictures. This makes you, the leader, more human, relatable, and approachable. It also sets an example of work-life balance during a time where these two worlds have completely blended as a result of “working from home”.
For example, I want the team to know that it’s OK to go running with your kids at 9:30 am. In addition, I have blocked off every day on my calendar from 1-2 pm to “play with my boys”. This is a sacred time and one that I don’t give up for anyone or anything. During such times, I share what I’m doing with the entire company. I also want the team to see a bit of a “crazy” side too as the CEO. Working in a remote selling environment is hard and as leaders, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Here are some examples of pictures I have shared in the company chat (called “All Vengresonians”):
Finally, something that has helped us create a positive work culture at Vengreso, are the Virtual Receiving Lines. These are all-hands video calls, where we welcome new employees, introduce them to the company, provide some tips for success, and give them virtual high-fives.
Continuously Coach your Remote Selling Reps
Coaching is one of the most important things you can do as a sales leader. This ranges from providing ongoing education to meeting with each salesperson one-on-one.
I’d like to share with you the method I use to coach my sales team.
I call it the OGC Effect, and it involves only 60 minutes per week for each rep on the team.
OGC stands for:
- On-Demand: Meet with each sales rep and listen to their calls at 1.5 speed (we use Gong.io for remote sales coaching). This is an excellent opportunity for us to identify what was done well and what things can be improved. I then use the platform to provide written coaching feedback at any point in the conversation at exactly the spot it happened.
- Group: Have your sales team listen to each other’s recorded calls, so they can learn as a group and give feedback. This step is required by each remote seller on the team. They are required to listen to at least one call and provide their feedback using Gong.io too. They are listening for what went well, what didn’t and it becomes an awesome group learning exercise. Yes, it takes approximately 40 minutes for a 1-hour call to listen and provide feedback but this is an excellent way to train up your sellers and take them from good to great. In addition, we have one team sales call per week that is focused on sales operations (prospecting and pipeline) and another call at the end of the week focused on enablement and training. During that call we allow the sellers to give their oral group feedback of someone else’s call they listened to on the team.
- Coaching: Set up a time with each rep to do a live coaching call, so you can help them be better sellers. Coach them on their prospecting efforts, their voicemails to clients, their follow-up messages, and more. Make this a habit.
Watch the following video on How to Coach a Remote Selling Team, where I explain how the OCG Effect works.
4. Create a Virtual Selling Culture in your Organization
At Vengreso, we have a sales-centric culture. Our sellers are KINGS. That means their only focus is selling. They don’t have to worry about paperwork or other non-selling activities. All the other departments in the organization work to support the virtual sales team and help it succeed.
For example, our sales enablement and strategy team decides what tools our remote sellers need to be more effective. They produce training videos, so our sellers know how to use the tools, thus speeding up sales operations. You might be thinking, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. You’re right it’s not. However, what is out of the ordinary is the production of our internal training videos.
Standing out from the Crowd
In a virtual selling culture, there is a lot coming at the sales team and leaders need to get the supporting cast members to think about a virtual selling culture. Doing so will make your revenue enablement team deliver items that “stand out from the crowd.” This includes your training videos!
Here is an example of a training video produced by our Sales Enablement Technology Coordinator. Ask yourself, does it stand out from the crowd?
Provide the Correct Remote Selling Tools
In addition, to create a virtual selling culture, and to make your sellers feel like they are being supported, you need to implement additional remote selling tools. Some of the best sales tools we’ve found for sales teams include Seamless.ai, LinkedIn Premium, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LinkedHub, Gong, HubSpot, OrgChart, CrystalKnows, and OneMob.
Oh and our favorite one… it’s the newest sales productivity tool for B2B sellers. It’s a free Chrome Extension that saves your sellers a ton of time. It’s called FlyMSG. FlyMSG is the sales productivity tool that allows you to write complete sales messages with just a few keystrokes.
In addition, with FlyMSG you create custom shortcuts (FlyCuts) that will instantly input your saved “templatized” sales messages when you type them in an email, LinkedIn message, online form, or any web page. You can also store your templates and organize them by categories in your browser so they are ready to use on any device.
Inspect What You Expect – Remote Selling Sales Metrics and Activities
As a sales leader, you must set clear expectations for your sales reps, regarding meetings, opportunities, and closed deals. Monitor and track their activities only if you’re not getting the results you need and they want. Do absolutely track the results of their results. Also, set up reporting within your CRM, so you can take timely action if the sellers are not performing. I know this seems so basic and probably something your doing regularly but the reality is sometimes “out of sight, out of mind”.
Our HubSpot dashboards, for example, show individual monthly and quarterly reports detailing metrics such as:
- Sales Activities
- Deals Won
- Forecast vs. Quota
- Opportunities Closing this Month
- Meetings Booked this Month
- Open Deals and Stages
- Calls Made
- New SQLs
This data is also used for gamification purposes. Our team members compete against each other to be the top seller in the organization.
5. Conduct Training for your Remote Sales Team on Digital Selling
Many sales organizations still train their sales reps using outdated methodologies. Using techniques from 20 or 30 years ago are not effective, since the modern buyer is very different.
You must teach your remote sellers the skills they need to help them reach digitally savvy buyers, who prefer to do their own research first.
- Social selling is about using social media platforms to find, engage, and connect with prospects. And then turn those connections into sales conversations. This is what we teach in our Social Selling Training Programs.
- Video is also essential for remote selling. Second, only to meeting with someone face-to-face, video is the best way to humanize communication in the sales process. Through video, prospects can see facial expressions, hand gestures, and personality. These key elements of nonverbal communication are lost when sellers only communicate through voice calls or text messages.
Just as important as knowing what skills to teach your remote sales team, you also need to learn the right delivery method. You want your training to stick and create a behavior-change in your sellers.
Ineffective sales training is a problem I’ve seen over and over again in many sales teams. That’s because most sales training is delivered in classroom or workshop sessions, or even worse, in a lunch-n-learn. Salespeople don’t change behavior from intense training sessions delivered in short durations. To become a modern seller it’s necessary to change behavior to a digital-first mindset
In the following video, I describe the key elements of an effective virtual sales training program, as well as how you can apply them to your future programs.
Why Remote Selling is Important
Modern B2B buyers are harder to reach than ever before. The old way of cold calling, email blasting, and attending networking events doesn’t work anymore. Customers no longer want to be sold to. They want personalized and fresh insights, education, and helpful engagement.
To take your remote selling organization to the next level you must embrace an omnichannel approach to prospecting, which includes digital and video selling. If your sellers lack the skills to create more sales conversations from digital and video engagement, then I would argue, it’s time they acquire them.
Vengreso has developed a 10-step digital-sales program that won the Gold Stevie® Award for Best Sales Training Product of the Year in 2019 AND 2020. Our 10-step program combines live instruction with on-demand learning and live coaching. Learn more by clicking the image below.