March 22

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How should businesses approach remote sales during the pandemic?

By Ralph Varcoe

March 22, 2021


The covid-19 pandemic has thrown up some significant challenges for businesses. Every industry has been affected by the virus to some degree; I know because I have worked closely with a wide range of businesses to ensure their sales teams are performing as effectively as possible in the current circumstances. Providing remote sales during the pandemic has been a technical and logistical challenge for any business that depends on remote sales to hit their targets.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and the rise of remote working, I have been struck by the disparity between different businesses and how they are reacting to their changing circumstances. Businesses that have been proactive from the beginning and faced these new sets of challenges head-on are the ones that have fared the best. Covid-19’s impact on remote sales has completely wrong-footed businesses that have desperately clung to a business-as-usual approach.

Even in the best of times, sales teams perform much better when they receive sufficient support from the businesses they represent. The exact nature of the support needed to enable sales teams to hit their targets and contribute fully to the business as a whole will vary from business to business. By looking at how businesses have successfully augmented their remote sales during the pandemic, we can gain invaluable insight into what works and what doesn’t.

The observations below are based on my own experience providing consultancy services for remote sales teams within numerous businesses and industries over the last year.

The challenges for making remote sales during the pandemic

As disruptive as the covid-19 pandemic has been, it has also presented many businesses with opportunities, as well as challenges. For example, many businesses remained unconvinced of the merits of remote working until the pandemic forced their hands. Business leaders who had stubbornly resisted the shift to work from home arrangements or believed them to be unworkable were forced to adjust their attitudes in the face of overwhelming evidence.

However, there are still plenty of situations where face-to-face interactions are preferable. For businesses already equipped to conduct remote sales and staff who have prior experience in remote sales, making adjustments for covid has been relatively simple. But I have witnessed first-hand the difficulties that other, less-experienced businesses have had now they are relying heavily on remote selling.

The main challenges for businesses without a background in remotes sales are as follows:

– Inexperienced sales teams: Even the most talented salesperson will require an adjustment period after making the switch from in-person selling to remote sales. The more support they receive from the business they represent, the quicker they can adapt.
– Poor communications infrastructure: Sales teams are just that; teams. It’s fine to have individual salespeople who stand out as key talents within a business, but they can’t be expected to do everything on their own. If your sales staff aren’t able to communicate efficiently with one another, their jobs become significantly more difficult than they need to be.
– Inability to self-motivate: Over the years, I’ve met some incredibly talented salespeople who are valuable members of their sales teams. But it’s much easier to motivate yourself to work when you’re surrounded by likeminded people and all working towards a common goal. For some people, the isolation that comes with remote working makes it difficult to stay motivated.

The key question is, how can businesses overcome these challenges? With the right team and the right guidance, there is no reason why sales teams can’t operate just as effectively remotely.

Step 1: Evaluations

The first stage of any business strategy is evaluation. Your sales team’s evaluations should measure their performance against the core competencies and key skills they need to sell your business, products, and services effectively.

Evaluations also enable you to identify individual weak points and areas for improvement. A good business leader doesn’t just cut weaker team members, especially if they excel in other areas. Instead, the data gathered from evaluations can inform training plans and help you build a well-rounded sales team.

Step 2: Candidate assessments

Your evaluations will give you a more detailed picture of your current team, their strengths, and their weaknesses. You should also have identified the key skills and competencies your team needs to operate effectively. With this information in hand, you can assess new prospective employees more thoroughly. In my experience, businesses benefit enormously from more rigorous and reliable hiring processes based on an honest evaluation of their needs.

Step 3: Sales coaching

Providing targeted individual guidance and advice on making remote sales during the pandemic will benefit your entire sales team. For businesses that don’t have the benefit of a staff member who is already experienced in remote sales, this can be tricky. I have personally assisted numerous businesses in this regard by either coaching their teams for them or giving them the guidance they need to advise their teams themselves.

Training and development

The three steps outlined above will give you the solid bedrock upon which you can build an effective remote sales team. However, it’s important to understand that there is always more you can do to improve performance. You don’t want your sales staff to burn themselves out trying to improve exponentially, but you should give them the tools to progress and learn when they are ready to do so.

You don’t have to do everything yourself; people like myself exist for a reason! I, and many others like me, offer focussed training sessions where I help salespeople develop specific skills. I also speak at conferences and other events where I share knowledge and discuss different perspectives with attendees.

All of these represent valuable opportunities for your staff to learn and improve.

If you are looking for a way of improving remote sales during the pandemic among your sales staff, contact me today. I can teach your staff the skills they need to sell over video just as effectively as they have been selling in-person. I work with both salespeople and their managers to ensure everyone is equipped with the tools they need to maximise their performance and achieve their key objectives.

Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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