Communicating with newly remote sales teams can prove to be a tough transition from a technical, cultural, and leadership communication standpoint.
When it’s an unplanned adjustment, the waters are going to be rocky at first. Take heart in the fact that you probably already have an amazing team and the basic communication tools and skills to stay productive and successful.
There are benefits for both employees and employers when it comes to working remotely. Still, communication styles are going to be different when technology is your only conduit, and you have to essentially build a new communication standard.
Take 5-minutes to run through these 9 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Newly Remote Sales Teams, make sure your other managers and leaders are on board, and you’ll be on your way to smooth sailing from here out.
Consider Your Method of Communication
Group conference room meetings, popping your head in, or “Hey, you got five?” is no longer an option. You now have to rely more heavily on email, Zoom or Goto meetings (with video and without), Slack or Skype for quick messages, threads in project management tools, and even text messaging.
When to use email: The first thing to consider is newly remote sales teams feel the need to schedule a meeting for everything. This will not keep your people productive. If you can put it in an email and still communicate your point effectively, you don’t need to schedule a meeting.
When to video call: If you do need to schedule a meeting for a more extended conversation, use your video every time. For teams that aren’t used to remote work, it helps to be able to see your manager’s face and know they are still there to lead and to help.
As a leader, it also helps you to better interpret your team’s reaction and mood when you can see their face and still get a bit of sense of body language. Your team’s emotional state is especially important to be aware of during times of uncertainty and major transitions.
When to use Slack or Skype: If you’re looking for a quick response on something that doesn’t warrant much context – team collaboration tools like Slack or Skype are best.
Expert tip: both of these tools allow you to video call and screen share without the hassle of hopping over to zoom or goto to send out a meeting invite.
If you’re conscious of budget and don’t currently use one of these tools, Slack is free.
If you’re looking for a collaborative and productivity solution, Slack has a ridiculous amount of tools and apps to make your day more productive outside of team communication with some pretty essential ones for remote sales teams.
When to text: You may or may not already be the type of manager or executive who feels comfortable texting your team. Tools like Slack and Skype might be faster than email, but text message is the quickest way to get a response. For example, you may be on a call with a client or prospect and need someone to jump on for answers, but you no longer have the ability to grab them from the next office.
If you don’t have this mode of communication established, ask your team if they’re comfortable with you texting them for urgent matters, but don’t abuse it, and try to keep within business hours.
Assume Hanlon’s Razor
Hanlon’s Razor is a general rule to never attribute malice where there is likely ignorance. In the case of remote communication, assume a lack of information over malice in a misunderstanding.
Especially in situations with missing or lack of context – which is going to happen more so while adjusting to remote work. Segueing us to number three.
Be More Specific in Digital Communication
We could have named this rule “Over Communicate,” but that wouldn’t be specific enough.
Managers, or anyone detailing a project and next steps, can be specific and clear while also being concise. Excess information can be as harmful to effective communication as a lack thereof and confuse next steps and goals.
Don’t assume someone will figure it out or “get the gist.” Take the extra time to reread your email or your Slack message or have someone on the call recap what you were just describing to make sure everyone is on the same page.
This will add a little bit of extra work at first, but it will soon become second nature.
Clearly Define Goals
This rule goes hand-in-hand with being specific. It should already be a part of your everyday in-office communication, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate it here just in case.
We’ve all been guilty of saying XYZ is going to really “move the needle.” Let’s get away from that and remove all ambiguity from our conversations.
If you expect your team to complete tasks one, two, and three because it will increase sales by 10% over the course of 60 days, say exactly that. You expect your team to meet a hard deadline, they need to see the hard numbers and understand the why.
Clearly defined goals and expectations is also an excellent motivator. Having a plan and a set “destination” in place reduces anxiety and adds a level of comfort and confidence.
Think about when you go on a trip. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know what plane ticket to buy? What to pack based on climate? How much it’s going to cost?
There are some people who don’t need a destination and can just run with it, but most people do, and so does your team.
Give Your Team the Benefit of the Doubt
This is extremely important for newly remote sales teams. For some reason, there are many managers and executives right now who don’t trust their teams to stay on task when working remotely.
Leadership is essentially putting in place guidelines that treat their team like teenagers – which frankly is creating a bad environment. How you communicate with your team, even a remote team, is a reflection of your company culture.
Clearly communicate expectations to your team just like you would when onboarding any new employee. You wouldn’t expect a new employee to come in late and leave earlier or not hit deadlines, so don’t assume an employee who’s been with the company for three years with no issues will become lax just because their setting has changed.
Be Proactive In Managing
If you’re not the type of team who always has a line of sight on the current, next, and next-next project, you may want to get there.
One use case for why this is important, in terms of managing remote sales teams, is it’s harder to keep track of employee’s time off.
If someone asked you right now the next time each of your employee’s next day off was, would you know? Even if you’re the one who approved it, you probably don’t.
If you were in office, the employee would most likely talk about it more and more in passing as the date approaches. This will be different as you transition to a remote workforce, which could hurt the timeline of a project if you’re not proactively reaching out and communicating what’s coming down the pipeline weeks ahead.
If you’re also not the sort of team that has regularly scheduled 1-on-1s, you need to start. Depending on your type of business and the size of your team, you decide if this should be once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month.
The context of your 1-on-1s should also vary. If your team’s pretty self-sufficient, then you can check in every two weeks on major projects and timelines. Then have a second meeting once every month to make time for a more casual meeting on personal advancement and achievements – even if it’s just a 15-30 minute virtual coffee chat.
Get a pulse on how they feel about their workload and confidence in succeeding. Don’t try to shove this into your other standing meeting. Chances are if an employee is overloaded, they don’t have time to bring it up in your regular meeting because they need answers on current projects and initiatives, and they have tasks to do after that meeting that they’ve already planned for.
Minimized interruptions is a big one for newly remote teams. You may feel the need to schedule more meetings than usual, request more frequent project updates, or add excessive check-ins to timelines.
The fact of the matter is, people are already distracted by a number of things throughout the workday. Some research shows that employees are only productive for about 3 hours out of an 8-hour workday.
We mentioned this in rule #1. If something can be clearly explained or answered in an email – put it in an email. You don’t need a meeting.
The reason why more frequent project updates is considered an unneeded interruption is it often takes longer than assumed to write up an update. Your employee could write up a lousy update in less than 5 minutes, but a good employee will take the time to be thorough and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Asking for a “simple” update could take them 20-30 minutes if they’re pulling stats, a report, and then having to explain what you’re seeing in the report. Asking for two updates means you just asked for 12.5% of their 8 hour day. If the 3-hour workday study is true, you just asked for 33% of their day.
A small amount of recognition here and there can have a significant impact on the morale and communication style of your business. It can be a quick email, making it a point to call it out every 1-on-1, or you even starting a community slack channel where anyone can give shoutouts.
Think about all the kind words or “good job on that meeting” your team naturally gives and receives in the office. You can easily keep this up with a remote team as well.
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Something Else
The first eight rules laid out here are a great place to start for every manager and executive transitioning to communicating with a newly remote team.
You probably noticed throughout rules 1-8 that you shouldn’t schedule excessive meetings, but then we also recommend having regular one-on-ones and even coffee chats. Or that we suggest to not ask for excessive updates but to proactively manage your team and stay ahead of deadlines.
These two examples can sound like contradictions, but that’s because what’s considered “excessive” is going to differ from business to business and even team to team. Our CEO gave three tips last week for managing remote teams, the first suggesting to have more meetings by breaking up your usual weekly team meeting into 2-3 smaller meetings throughout the week to check in more often but within the same amount of time.
Set a new process in place for managing and communicating with your newly remote sales team based on rules 1-8, but access it at the end of every week, no more than two weeks, and adjust where needed. Maybe you did need that extra meeting, maybe your weekly update could go in an email, or maybe the #propstosales Slack channel you started isn’t getting enough love.
We’d Love to Effectively Communicate About It
It’s important to remember everyone is pivoting strategies and getting creative and doing our best to help each other in conventional and unconventional ways – whether it’s communication best practices for remote Sales teams or fun ways to stay motivated and connected.
As a B2B sales consultancy dedicated to helping organizations and the people that work there reach their full potential, Skaled offering a time to catch up with our CEO, Jake Dunlap, for 30 minutes or so to talk about how you can better navigate leading a newly remote team.
There’s no pitch, no obligation. Just your own virtual coffee chat to talk about how your workforce and challenges have changed and the best way to move forward.