BY: ASAD ZAMAN
The future of work looks remote. That’s not a bleak analysis of the employment forecast – recessions come and go, but in the digital age, remote sales roles are here to stay. Working remotely offers a number of benefits to employees: they don’t have to commute to work, they don’t have to move to take a new job, they can often set their own hours, and the flexibility of a remote sales role can make raising a family more viable. Employers, too, stand to benefit: remote work means you need less office space and you can hire from a much broader pool of sales candidates.
Working from home isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. There are both logistical and emotional difficulties that can arise from remote sales roles – difficulties that wouldn’t be present in a traditional office setting. One of the best ways of alleviating these woes is having the right onboarding process; it’s especially helpful for young employees. Below are some personal and technical onboarding tips to help you tailor your onboarding process for your new sales hires that will be working remotely.
Personal onboarding is, in our opinion, the most important part of the onboarding process. Salespeople working remotely often feel alienated, lonely, left out of the loop, or like they’re not a real part of the team. Disaffected employees contribute less to the company and are more likely to leave, so it’s important for employees working remotely to feel engaged right away.
ONE: Get some face time
The benefits of face-to-face interaction can’t be understated. Optimally, your onboarding process will involve flying the employee out to your main offices where they can meet the sales team, ask questions, and get a sense of your workplace culture. Obviously, this isn’t feasible for every business. Failing an in-person meet and greet, you can always use Skype, FaceTime, or any other video chat software in order to meet your employees.
TWO: Get the team involved
Remote sales employees shouldn’t just interact with their direct superior – it’s alienating and gives them the sense that they’re working for one individual instead of a full sales team towards a common goal. Instead, invite them to a team meeting; get Skype on the big screen and get everyone on camera to say hello. In fact, you can make the team meeting a part of the onboarding process – throw a little celebration with their teammates (even the ones working remotely via multi-person chat) in order to welcome them to the team!
THREE: Make yourself available
New sales hires usually have a lot of questions, and they need the management of an experienced leader to help them ramp up quickly to become revenue generators. To handle this, the best sales leaders have open-door policies in place in order to foster a sense of support and unity. Let them know you’re available for phone/video calls most of the time, and whenever you’re not, that an appointment can be scheduled. Let them know, too, that they’re a valued member of the team and that concerns, questions and feedback are welcome with open arms. Make this explicit so your salespeople feel secure in learning and growing with your company.
Where personal onboarding is used to make new salespeople feel integrated with the team and to eliminate any feeling of isolation, technical onboarding is used to make sure they are compliant with the requirements of the position. This happens in a few different steps.
FOUR: Set time to fill forms
This is what many of us refer to as “housekeeping” – your new remote salesperson will have to fill in all of the appropriate forms, be they related to taxes, confidentiality agreements, contracts, or any other number of things. When possible, it’s preferable to send these all digitally – paper mail works fine too but be sure to send the forms out well in advance of the start date.
It’s important you give remote salespeople as much time to fill out these forms as you would an employee working in your offices, be that a day or two. It’s equally important to be available during the form-filling process should the employee have any questions.
Housekeeping will also involve explaining the primary ways they’ll interact with the company; project management systems, CRMs, chat rooms, video conferencing, and the like. They should also know how to conduct proper record keeping, be it logging hours, gas mileage, work completed, or any other metric they need to calculate for compensation. If you’re planning a big simultaneous remote onboarding, be sure to have people with technical know-how on hand ready to answer questions.
FIVE: Set expectations
Remote or territory sales is inherently different from the sales process in a central office but that doesn’t mean boundaries shouldn’t be set. Does your new salesperson have to be available from and to a certain time or is it fine for them to work when they want? How are they supposed to log their hours if it’s an hourly position and what are the expectations for availability in salaried positions? Remember to account for time zone differences when figuring out availability. Flexibility is often one of the biggest draws for remote work. Be clear about your expectations for availability during the hiring process.
SIX: Schedule routine follow-ups
The onboarding process for a new sales hire is complex and a bit stressful. They should, and probably will, have a lot of questions early on, and you need to be able to micromanage them effectively. While having an open-door policy helps alleviate that, scheduling meetings to follow-up on the onboarding process is important. Schedule routine meetings to ensure that your new salesperson is completing sufficient sales activities early on in their role. Scheduling with remote workers can be challenging, but if you both use appointment setting software and coordinate your calendars, it can make things very manageable.