Sales Management is a tough gig. Virtual sales management is tougher. Like our sales teams struggle to sell “with an arm and leg tied behind their back” with the exclusion of visual cues, difficulty reaching customers/prospects, and having drastically limited selling time, these same challenges (and more) affect managers. Especially newer leaders.
In my first few years of sales management, I relied heavily on the visual cues of how my colleagues managed their teams. I saw huddles happening (“Oh, I should do that.”) I overheard team meetings and coaching sessions (“Wow, I need to give that kind of advice”) and I picked up deal strategy and day management skills.
Until we’re tenured leaders of sales teams, we don’t have our management cadence locked in. The cadence is our management process – the series of meetings, touchpoints, and actions we take in a day, month, and quarter to keep our business on track. In fact, I dare say most sales managers spend their first year or two bouncing between requests, fires, and demands.
It’s natural to be reactive in our high-demand, fast-paced environment. There’s a line at our desk, in our email inbox, and in our assignments from above. Without these, we’d wander a bit aimlessly trying to figure out our jobs as we transition from individual contributor/seller to leader. It’s why so many leaders struggle to give up the deal, the customer base, the live sales calls – we know this world! We RULE this world!
And herein lies the rub. Now that we’re managing virtually, we need a proactive approach. We need to shortcut the learning curve and have a plan – one that includes the challenge of not seeing who’s in their seat, overhearing the calls, and picking up on the team dynamic. Rough.
To speed this process, and alleviate some stress along the way, let me share a few key tips:
- Establish (and edit) your proactive management cadence immediately. We teach this in “Essential Manager Meetings” (a course in The Sales Bar) and it’s one of our first courses for all new managers. At a minimum, your cadence needs to include:
- Multiple weekly sales huddles to provide focus, inspiration, energy, and insight
- Monthly private 1:1 performance meetings with each team member
- Multiple 1:1 to 3:1 call/skill coaching sessions with each team member monthly
- Multiple team forecast meetings (frequency depending on sales cycle)
- Ad-hoc sales strategy meetings helping reps hit goal (deal, lead, account, and/or territory)
- Monthly team meetings for updates, development, communication, connection
Where do you find the time for all these meetings? By pushing the daily incoming demand to one of these meetings. Rep Slacking you with a “great call update?” Push it to your morning huddle or your next call coaching. Rep forecasting below goal? Schedule an ad-hoc sales strategy meeting to review deals. Getting lots of emails with company questions? Move forward the team meeting and address them together.
We set the process and then we daily teach our reps to operate within it by delegating, pushing, and scheduling “official” meeting time vs. reacting all day. That makes time management a critical management skill…
- Own Your Day (another course in The Sales Bar). Especially now that we’re at home, it’s way too easy to work 12 hour days (or the opposite for some). The line at your desk is now your chat. Email is center screen all day. It’s harder than ever to stay proactive and protect our rep-focused parts of the day. We have to schedule it, and then protect it. Our top priorities also get calendar time and we protect them like our most important meetings of the day.
We love the Eisenhower Matrix (everyone’s favorite part of this course) to help managers decide when to fire drill, when to delegate, when to schedule, and when to trash a request. When you’re in charge of your own day, you can help reps be in charge of theirs – so critical for virtual selling.
- Call Coaching. When we’re virtual, the tendency is to count heavily on the numbers. If we can’t hear the calls and watch the behavior, we watch what we can – the metrics. This is a mistake. Especially now that your reps are selling a new way, focus on quality over quantity. That means it’s time to get visibility. If you don’t have call recording capabilities, start lobbying for it now. ExecVision, Chorus, and Gong make it easy to be legal and to get the insight you need into rep conversations + the tools to coach them.
Scheduled call coaching using recordings or ride-along meetings are critical. It’s going to be tougher than ever to make it happen (hence the first two points), so give this to your reps. When your calendar is up to date, they know when you are free and it’s on them to invite you to 1-2 calls/week.
Sales skill feedback also has some new priorities right now. Field sellers gone virtual will need some help and focus on phone detective skills – working phone systems, making multiple attempts, capturing new contacts, qualifying accounts – honestly some of the basic skills covered for new BDRs. They may not LOVE the idea of getting entry-level phone skills training, but these are tools they need in their belt today – and tomorrow.
Phone sellers now struggle with video. They need your feedback on the basics like backgrounds, lighting, proper attire, and etiquette. We’ve all seen the fails – those are on us as their managers. Check out our course Running a Virtual Sales Meeting in The Sales Bar for basics on virtual meeting agendas, engagement, and online tools use.
The key is that they get the coaching and support regularly and you build it into a regularly scheduled meeting as part of your cadence.
My entire team – including the sales team – has been virtual since inception. Our BDR is new and get’s call coaching every Tuesday and Thursday for 45 minutes at 9 a.m. She brings the call recording to support what we coached last time and before it’s over there’s a commitment to what we’re coaching next time. The coaching is done over video so we can see faces and reactions and expressions – this is a personal development moment, and it helps us connect.
Remember, a connection to the boss is critical for every employee. Call coaching is about helping develop reps skills (not close deals) as much as it is about increasing our team’s engagement with us and with the company – and there is nothing more important for retention. Coaching is bonding 1:1 time and your team needs this attention from you, even more, when we’re virtual.
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