6 ways to improve performance and productivity of remote workers that gets your sales team back on track

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Speed has been one of the most critical of factors determining business success. There has been an urgent need to respond to the rapidly changing landscape quickly. Implementing emergency measures has allowed many sales teams to continue with a nearly-normal level of operations from the remote environment. But emergency measures are short term fixes and aren’t a permanent solution for the future of sales management and productivity of remote workers. The business landscape has now shifted from crisis response to the new normal, which means that sales teams need to make this shift, too. 

This shift isn’t intended to disrupt; it's intended to create new opportunities for sales reps to do more, to achieve more, and to really engage with the buyers of tomorrow. 

Task focused vs. people focused

The problem, however, is that making the shift isn’t always simple. A report published in the Harvard Business Review states that ‘leaders, especially those who are not used to managing virtual teams, may feel stressed about keeping the team on track. Under these circumstances it is tempting to become exclusively task focused’. But is task focused the right approach? Is it successful in boosting remote team performance and productivity? 

Perhaps not. A task focused approach works to adapt operational activities. Yet it fails to adapt the underlying behaviours and actions of the team. And this is essential. If you’re asking your team to work differently, then you need to ensure they have what it takes to do so. Achieving this means that it’s vital that you’re prepared to lead in a way that supports your team as they change their processes. 

Rather than being 100% task focused, it can be useful to implement a 6-stage strategy:

1. Be kind

The very first step to getting your remote workers back on track is simply to understand that adapting to the future of sales brings new and different situations for everyone. While some members of the team may be feeling confident and excited about change, others may feel nervous or even scared about having to move out of their comfort zone. 

Your approach as leader can be key to alleviating these worries. Try to find the right balance - a good middle ground - between your demanding side that supports goal orientation, and your human side that supports connections and relationship building in the team. In essence, take a humanistic management approach.

2. Ensure everyone’s on the same page

Your entire team needs to be clear on what track they should be on. The impact of changing processes is different for different businesses and different clients, which means that the path may have shifted. And so while getting back on track is important, it’s even more important to get back onto the right track… which may be different than before. You and your team must work together to develop a new roadmap and define what that new track looks like. By considering the external environment including any changes to the buyer decision making process, you can design a plan for jumping onto this new, adapted pathway. 

3. Install a culture of fast learning

Jumping onto a new track isn’t always simple and straightforward, especially if your team is accustomed to heading down a different path. But you can make the transition much easier by working to install a culture that facilitates fast learning. There are many different ways to do this. As a leader, you can prioritise knowledge sharing within your team, offering unlimited opportunities for remote collaboration that provides chances for peer-to-peer learning. You could also implement a remote ‘open door’ policy to allow your team to ask questions, and ensure there’s access to necessary resources. 

4. Encourage trial and error

The new track that you’ve identified is one that you’ve probably never been on before. And while the first three steps of this process provide a pretty good idea of what’s going to be needed to stay on this track, you can never be 100% sure until you’re on it. So encourage trial and error. Create and test hypotheses on where to play, and how to win in the future. Gather market feedback and research the industry to allow you to better adapt your customer portfolio and product portfolio in the best way. Develop quick win sales campaigns and assess their performance through agreed KPIs. 

5. Adapt as needed

Depending on the outcome of your quick wins, you may find that you need to make some changes to the new sales strategy in order to stay on track. That’s OK. The important aspect here is to ensure your team is closely involved in making these changes. Work with your team to jointly adapt the sales strategy and use each team member’s own individual strengths to put them in the right place within this strategy. A humanistic leadership approach goes a long way here, with humanistic leaders understanding more about strengths and weaknesses beyond mere performance data. 

6. Track performance

Getting back on track is one thing. Staying on track is another. Maintaining the right level of performance and productivity that you need to deliver results isn’t a one time thing. It must be a continuous effort. Leaders should always be tracking both leading and lagging indicators to monitor time spent on track, as well as time spent deviating from the path. This can offer excellent insight into the success of the strategy, highlighting whether the adapted sales plan and approach are showing the anticipated results. If they’re not, you can quickly identify gaps and proactively fill them.

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