Although inside sales teams are becoming increasingly popular - to the point where most experts expect parity with field sales reps usage in the near future - outside sales is still a critical component of many organizations’ selling strategies. To be successful in managing external reps, you’ll need to pay attention to the unique characteristics that come with the lifestyle of traveling sales reps. After all, it’s one thing to manage an in-house team that sells remotely – it’s another thing entirely to do the same with reps who have greater independence and autonomy on the road. Ergo, the following best practices for managing field sales reps.
- Structure your management around communication.
Communication is a key component of sales and life in general. It’s even more true with external sales reps, who operate on an island and can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected. Keeping them in the loop on what’s going at home base and conversely staying updated on what they’re doing is critical to excellent handling of the team.
- Meet regularly with meaningful purpose.
Dave Berry’s joke about meetings being the reason humans will never accomplish their full potential aside, they’re actually a vital piece to the field sales management puzzle. How frequently to meet is dependent on your sales velocity and cycle rhythms. But within those meetings, the entire team should be involved, to allow for sharing insights, coordinating so that everyone is on the same page, and group brain-storming solutions to any issues that might have come up since the last meeting.
- Utilize technology to maximize touch points and fill communication gaps.
One of the biggest obstacles to successful coordination between sales reps and the home office is communication problems, such as delays in dialogue or distribution, or too few contact points. In this vacuum have arisen technological solutions, such as videoconferencing software, Slack and other communication apps, and cloud-based file-sharing and storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Making use of these advancements will ensure that your team members can reach each other whenever needed (the traditional phone and email still work, too), and distribute files on-demand – particularly important for time-sensitive situations, such as when a prospect wants to sign off immediately on a purchase order.
- Take advantage of your CRM’s capabilities.
Many sales reps have a tendency to slack off on updating their CRM fields because of how busy they are. Understandable in theory, but a horrible habit. For a field sales team? Absolutely unacceptable. The effectiveness of your sales organization hinges heavily on the most current CRM information – especially for teams who rely on outside sales reps. Therefore, stay on top of things by reminding your team members to carve out space in their day (or evening) to dedicate to processing new CRM information. It also allows you to track how the reps are doing on a granular, day-to-day basis without having to take time to call them every day and ask about each and every prospect or current customer they met. That frees up time for both you and your reps – time that can be spent doing what they do best – selling.
Even more so than traditional management, managing a field team requires dedication, flexibility, and creative thinking. With the help of technology and communication skills, you can help your outside sales reps operate at peak effectiveness and reap the results.