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Getting the Best Performance from Your Remote Sales Team

In my experience as a B2B technology sales professional, I use technology to gain leverage and take a professional approach to sales. However, it's essential that any sales organization that tries to generate revenue has the right kind of people on the ground. 

You need people who are actively seeking to solve their prospects' problems in that part of the world when you're dealing with remote teams that are trying to sell into different regions. 

How can you keep your remote teams motivated, and is outsourcing a good way to save money? Here's what I've learned.

Outsourced vs. employed sales talent

In my opinion, that's a backward way of thinking about talent, that anyone who's on an external contract is somehow automatically inferior as a salesperson. Instead of trying to find the best talent, it's better to hire them in a way that makes sense for you. 

If, for example, your company is based in the US, and you want to grow in your current location, then having employees is usually the best option. However, if you want to expand to other countries, it might not be the best use of your time to learn about—and implement—foreign labor laws, taxation, etc. This situation could benefit from a contractual model (either with an intermediary company that provides contractors with access or working directly with contractors).

With this flexibility, growing companies can easily move into international markets while keeping things simple. In lieu of registering as a local legal entity, opening an office, potentially with a physical location, and hiring employees, you can work with contractors in the area where you wish to sell instead of registering as a local legal entity, opening an office, and finding employees. 

However, it is certainly cheaper to set up, even though talent costs won't be lower (more on that later). Those contractors can become employees if they wish, once the number of accounts and clients is large enough to justify the creation of a local legal entity. 

It isn't that one type of contract is better than another. What matters is getting the right kind of contract for the job based on your particular situation. 

Motivating your remote sales team

To keep motivation high, the first step is to treat everyone the same. Employees and external contractors should have the same workload, the same compensation, etc. Because they feel it is less critical to keep external contractors happy, some companies tend to place higher demands on them. In order to maintain longevity and talent in your team, you must not make people feel unfairly treated. It is important that they feel like they are a member of the same team, no different from an employee.

Also, you need to make sure you have the right tools and procedures for communicating with remote workers, both as a team and individually. When you don't keep communication up, sales organizations lose inclusivity and their performance inevitably suffers. It can be difficult, especially when you're dealing with different time zones. The practice of having an office-based sales team in America while one salesperson was abroad and left to work independently was quite common before COVID. The team in the office will have those water-cooler moments, catching up over coffee, all that good stuff, while the one person abroad is struggling to make it work alone. Most people aren't cut out for that kind of isolation. 

It is much more likely for your salespeople to feel like your company is invested in them and is interested in their input if you include them in everything going on in the company. When a person can see that they’re being treated with respect, rather than a machine that has to shut up and produce, they’ll willingly go the extra mile for their team. In addition to providing them with the resources they need to succeed, this contributes to long-term motivation. 

The opposite is also true. When a company's decision-making is top-down and the actions are not aligned with the strategy, people are likely to notice the misalignment. It's likely that they will start questioning what's going on if there isn't communication; that isn't an environment conducive to motivation. 

Your sales team's talent selection

You need to consider what kind of selling you do, what kind of talent you need, and how you want talent to transition within your organization when deciding how to manage your sales team.

SDRs are viewed as disposable resources by some sales organizations. If you’re in transactional sales, with short sales cycles, product benefits that are easy to communicate, and solving a well-known problem with well-known technology, you might be able to get away with treating sales purely as a numbers game. 

It is, however, much harder to find salespeople who have the right communication skills, or who can evangelize about the importance of both the problem and the solution, if you have to take a consultative sales approach, if the technology isn't mature or the problem isn't well recognized by most. As you can imagine, finding salespeople who have those specific qualities is much harder. It's worth investing in someone with those skills to make sure they stay with you.

As well as your brand, you need to think about your company's reputation. Would you like to be viewed as a company that treats its SDRs as cannon fodder? How do you prepare your team for tomorrow's sales managers and account executives by helping them grow? 

Your SDRs will feel more valued if you give them the opportunity to grow their careers. 

Can outsourcing sales talent save you money?

I was recently talking with the founder of a software company that was in growth mode. He thought he could save money by paying less for talent. Unfortunately, that's not true. 

Three hurdles must be cleared in order to do sales right: 

Using people from whatever part of the world you're selling to is essential to selling effectively, especially if your product is complex or expensive. In some cultures, getting straight to the point is the way to do business, whereas in others it is not. 

You won't get as much success from an offshore sales team as someone who doesn't have to deal with those three hurdles if you try to outsource. Even if they can go through ten times as many prospects for the same money, they won't win as many deals. You will end up paying whatever the talent price in that country is, whether it's an employee or contractor. When you try to skimp on the cost of talent itself, you won't get the results you're looking for. Outsourcing might save you money, but it won't get you the results you want. 

Especially if you're trying to enter a new market, building a remote sales team can be challenging. Find the right talent for your objectives, take them on, and communicate with them regularly to keep them motivated. The best way to increase your chances of success is to treat them fairly and communicate with them.

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