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The Distributed Team Dilemma: How to Effectively Manage and Compensate Remote Sales Teams

The best sales teams aren’t always sitting in the same office bouncing ideas of off each other and discussing strategy over lunch. Sales teams that are disconnected from the office, and working remotely are slowly becoming the norm.

Many companies rely on remote sales teams to cover different regions or countries where they have the strongest market penetration which means you have a remote team scattered around the country or even the world.

As shown in a recent Gallup poll, the proportion of Americans who did some or all of their work from home had increased to 43 percent in 2016, up from 39 percent in 2012. At this rate, over half of all American workers will likely work at least some of the time from home.

“As employees increasingly become—or want to become—remote workers, leaders and managers may worry about the overall effect of remote working on individual, team and organizational performance.” 

– Gallup

Despite the increasing rate of acceptance of a remote workforce, productivity concerns still exist, even with research showing that remote employees are often more productive than their centralized counterparts. A study by YouGov in the UK is a prime example: 30 percent of respondents believed their productivity actually increased when working away from the office, 53 percent felt they were just as productive as at the office. Only 17 percent stated remote work reduced their productivity.

Communication isn’t always straightforward, and misunderstandings can happen. When problems come up, you can’t just walk across the sales floor and have a face to face meeting to resolve the issue. Fortunately, technology makes remote work more accessible for both the manager and the salesperson.

That being said, what steps can an organization take to ensure that their remote teams work as a seamless unit, that continually strives to improve their processes, products, services, and their sales culture?

Invest in quality tools

How modern is your sales team and how modern are your tools? Gone are the days where sales metrics were added up in spreadsheets.

Your team is only as good as the tools you use. Few things are more frustrating than wanting to make a difference and being held back by inadequate resources. Being provided with a quality CRM platform that provides prospect info, autodial and access to email campaign templates can help make your team streamlined and efficient. Especially in a multi-touch sales cycle environment, having real-time data via a CRM helps remote workers be on the same page as the rest of the team - not tripping over each other because of confused call cadences that disrupt the customer experience.

A quality CRM platform certainly helps to meet some of the operational challenges, but how do you drive the behavior of your remote sales reps—who are ultimately driven by the potential to earn money?

While expectations and goals have been set forth, sales reps don’t want to guess what they will be paid so they need a way to calculate and keep track of what their expected earnings will be. Adopting a unified, cloud-based Sales Performance Management (SPM) software that integrates easily into your CRM and workflows, can help calculate and track incentives in a centralized, fair and transparent manner—leading to improved alignment and increased motivation for your remote sales teams. 

Set expectations

By using dedicated SPM software, you can help remote sales teams understand the appropriate performance expectations for them to do their work. Sales objectives, quotas, and targets should be written out, codified and clear. That way, all team members will know that the expectations are across the board—no matter where they are located.

Each sales rep should get a detailed report about their specific objectives and the desired performance goals depending on role, territory, channel or vertical.

When each job function is not only aware of their performance expectations but that of their team members especially when goals are at the team level, it helps team members visualize the entire sales process, helping them to succeed in their role.

Build an environment of trust in your incentive processes

As a remote team doesn’t have that daily contact that is afforded of employees that share the same physical space, measuring their level of engagement can be a challenge. Compensation proves to be an integral part of the employee experience, and developing trust in this area is a critical step.

Employees trust in their SPM processes by having a clear picture of their incentives and how their performance is linked to their compensation, and if it is fair.

If the sales representative can trust that they will get paid and be included in the compensation structure of a deal, it helps build loyalty because they will know that the manager and company are doing right by them.

Using the right software can ensure sophisticated sales compensation plans are appropriately designed to motivate employees and reward for high performance. Without this, firms are opening themselves up to increased turnover rates.

Handle complex sales cycles

An ever-increasing number of sales reps and account assignments make it important to manage crediting rules to avoid reporting errors that may arise conflict in the sales team.

When clear boundaries and expectations have been set, it will eliminate many gray areas that teams can get caught up in such as who gets credit for the sale? If the process is mapped out and business rules have been put in place, then the expectation and function of each team member have been addressed.

Let’s take the example of a customer who compensates multiple individuals on a single transaction. They have inside sales reps, field reps, account executives, product specialists, technical specialists, etc. that often work together to get a deal closed. How do you know each of them should receive credit? And how much credit should they get?

This is why crediting rules are so important to have in place. Paired with the right SPM solution will ensure accurate sales transactions with high-volume, high-performing crediting operating over multilevel territories.

Technology and clear performance goals set the stage for winning teams

Technology, tools, and rules are the key to keeping your entire sales team - remote workers especially - engaged, motivated and eager to sell. When employees feel like they are heard, their input valued and compensated well for their efforts, a collaborative environment is built that stays focused and customer-centric. Leverage the skills of your remote team by providing them with the technology, tools, and support they need, and there will be many quota busting quarters to be had.

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