8 Tips to Help You Manage a Remote Sales Team

As a sales leader, my number one job right now is making sure my team is healthy and happy. Once that’s in order, we can worry about meeting our goals. But our people come first. Because without happy people, hitting goals is all but impossible.

That’s always been true, but now it’s more important than ever.

Since Drift made the decision to move to 100% remote work in early March, we’ve been working together as a team to navigate this new world. One without the ability to walk over to someone’s desk or quickly grab a coffee to check-in.

We’ve made some adjustments and have learned a lot in the process. So I wanted to share a few changes I’ve made as a leader, as well as a few things that have helped our team stay happy, aligned, and on track.

1. Take care of yourself (and your team).

First, each individual contributor and leader needs to take care of themselves; go out for a walk, meditate, set some time aside. And as a sales leader, you need to make sure you’re giving people space for that. Everyone is not only adjusting to their new work from home reality, but a constant onslaught of news. It’s a lot. So make sure to check in with your people. Everyone has a different personal situation that they’re dealing with. Ask how you can best be supportive. If your team members don’t take care of themselves, they’re not going to be effective workers for you.

2. Have a routine (and stick to it).

We have to have a routine. I don’t care what it is, it doesn’t have to be magic. It just has to work for you. For me personally, my days are definitely far busier now. I’m on back-to-back Zoom meetings, so I’ve started putting in buffers to make sure I’m not running late for the next call – especially if it’s a meeting with a customer. I’ve put holds in my calendar to make sure that I’m getting my day-to-day work done, as well as dedicated blocks of my day to stay in touch with the team. It’s easy to stay in touch with the team when I’m standing next to them. I can wave to them, I can stop by their desk for a quick chat. Work from home makes it harder to do these informal check-ins, but the routine I’ve landed on helps make sure I don’t miss a beat. One thing that helps us stay connected is setting up a Zoom so we can eat lunch together as a team once a week.

3. Try out a mental model.

Having trouble staying focused through a distracting time? A model that helps me and my team is Prioritize and Execute (from retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink):

  1. Prioritize: Step back and build a strategy to hit your number. Figure out what you need to do and in what order you need to do it. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Write a list of steps to clarify your thinking.
  2. Execute: Step by step, execute on the strategy.
  3. Repeat: Step back at the end of the day and make necessary adjustments to your strategy, then repeat.

It’s not rocket science, but sometimes following a simple model like that can help frame your thoughts and focus your attention when there’s a lot going on.

4. Empower your team to be autonomous.

Everyone understands how important digital is now and is working harder than ever to help our customers see value. I miss going into the office, but I’m not worried about the team keeping up their productivity just because we’re not there right now. For Drift, if you look at our activity over the past two or three weeks, it’s actually gone up. Help your team nail down a routine and then give them the freedom to be autonomous. Empower and respect your people – and they’ll respect you and the work in turn (and turn out some great results).

5. Empathy is everything.

As a leader, you’ve got to double down on something we – frankly – don’t talk about enough in sales. Empathy. For one, you’ve got to be empathetic to your team. But you’ve also got to be empathetic to your customers. I’m not talking about turning off your automatic sales sequences and calling it a day. You need to make a far greater shift (if you haven’t done it already). Focus on helping your buyers through this time, not selling to them. That’s what it means to lead with empathy. Because at the end of the day, it’s your job to recognize problems and provide solutions. If you can’t add value or prove immediate ROI, they’re not going to want to hear from you.

6. Connect creatively.

Just because you’re not in the office together doesn’t mean you can’t continue to share best practices. More and more, I’m using Drift Video to drop little snippets in Slack of things I’ve learned from customer meetings or calls that I’ve listened to. By sharing quickly with my team, they can take those learnings and incorporate them into their work.

7. Schedule a time to be active.

Now that I’m not commuting, I’ve gone from taking thousands of steps a day to hundreds. Not great. So I’ve gotten into the practice of scheduling time to do a workout or go on walks with my family. And it’s helping. It doesn’t have to be outside of work hours, either. Think about it. If you would’ve left the office to get lunch or grab a coffee, consider building walks into similar time slots. Getting outside – even if it’s only for 15 minutes – could be the difference between a good day and a great day.

8. Have some fun!

With a last name like Zildjian, you’d better believe my family is big into gongs. It’s been a family business for nearly 400 years.

Needless to say, I love gongs. And I particularly love the energy they bring to the sales floor. As we started working from home, I knew that we needed to keep the gong spirit alive. So I started recording my own videos and sharing them on Slack to celebrate wins.

My takeaway? Every sales team celebrates differently. What’s important is that you find creative ways to continue celebrating those wins. Just have some fun with it. Did I ever expect to be the guy throwing snowballs at a gong during a pandemic? Absolutely not (okay…maybe). But what matters is that when I make these videos, the team gets fired up and motivated to keep the momentum going. That’s why I keep doing it.

Drift_Modern Sales Playbook