What sales leaders of the future need to know about remote team performance management

‘It’s different’. 

Everyone is always very quick to say that managing performance in a remote team is different to managing performance in an on-site team. And it is. There is no world in which leaders can simply transfer their on-site approach to the remote environment and expect it to have the exact same impact on team performance.

That being said, the most important thing that the sales leader of the future needs to know about remote team performance management is that not everything needs to change. 

On-Site and remote similarities

In terms of customer-facing processes, there are many differences between how your team will engage and interact with clients on-site, and how they’ll approach this when working from home. But in terms of team management, what’s really changed?

A leader is a leader, no matter where their teams are. In both situations, a leader must:

  • Use the individual skills and strengths of the team as the foundation of the sales strategy. No matter where your people are, it’s ultimately pointless designing a strategy that your team is incapable of executing. People’s strengths, weaknesses, skill levels, and individual goals must be at the heart of what you do. 
  • Involve the team. It’s easy to take an ‘out of mind, out of sight’ approach, but regardless of whether you’re working with on-site or remote teams, it’s important to co-develop implementation plans with sales teams. This ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how to proceed and how to introduce new processes. 
  • Prioritise the measurement and monitoring of both leading and lagging indicators. While these indicators may be slightly different depending on whether a team is at home or in the office, what stays the same regardless is ensuring that these vital KPIs are tracked so that necessary tweaks can be introduced.
  • Communicate. Regular performance conversations with teams and employees are important for understanding where people stand in terms of their goals and KPIs. No matter what the environment, performance is always closely connected to how aligned the goals of the individual are to the overall goals of the business.
  • Be willing to change. We hear a lot about things going wrong with remote working; that things don’t work. What seems to be overlooked is that things don't always go to plan in the office, either! Office working isn’t always perfect, and in both situations, leaders need to implement corrective measures as needed. 

On-Site and remote differences

When we hear about the many differences between remote and on-site teams, this usually means a number of differences that all fall under the same category: geographic dispersal. Separation from the team really is the only notable difference. 

But while it is only one difference, it is a big difference. And there are a number of ways that this difference can impact on performance and the productivity of remote workers. What sales leaders of the future need to know about remote team performance management is the most likely causes of performance hindrance, and the best ways to directly address these sticking points.

Cause: Inadequate technical infrastructure

Team performance largely relies on the ability of teams to communicate and collaborate virtually. However, in remote meetings, the technical infrastructure - internet connection and speed, camera positioning, lighting, and background - can all have a strong impact on appearance and visibility, which can affect performance. 

Solution: Upgrade technical equipment

It is crucial that leaders understand the impact of technology on sales teams and ensure that the right technical equipment, infrastructure, and expertise is made available. 

Cause: Communication limitations

Former University of California psychologist Albert Mehrabian once said that communication was only 7% words. The remainder was made up of tone and body language. In remote environments, there are fewer possibilities to observe body language, making it harder to ‘read between the lines’; a driver of performance. 

Solution: Create new digital strategies

Developing and distributing a new digital strategy ensures that all team members understand what is expected of them in terms of digital communications. It can be useful to request, where possible, that all team members use a camera and headset to boost person-to-person connections, and expand to full screen when listening. 

Cause: Isolation

In remote meetings, and in remote working environments, it’s easy to focus just on one person; that person that you’re helping, or that person who’s currently talking. It’s not always easy to keep track of the team as a whole, and this can result in feelings of isolation and distance. Good wellbeing will be even more essential for maintaining high performance in the future of sales management

Solution: Inclusion

The good news is that it is relatively easy for leaders to make their team feel more included when working remotely. Involve each member in performance conversations, provide them opportunities to ask questions - to yourself and to others - and to present and share their ideas. Address people in a random order to avoid leaving some until last each time.  

Managing performance in remote teams

Yes, driving and maintaining performance in remote teams is different than doing so in on-site teams. But it’s not as different as many people are so keen to make it out to be. 

If you’re already a good leader, keep doing what works. The fundamentals of leadership are the same whether you’re in the office or at home. But be sure to keep an eye on those things that are creating new obstacles, like distance. Work to create new technological and people-centric strategies to counteract these pressing issues and to ensure your team retains high levels of performance, no matter where they might be located.  

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