5 tips for managing a sales team remotely

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During this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, sales and sponsorship teams have moved out of the familiarity of their traditional offices and into the uncharted world of their remote home offices for an unknown length of time. That being said, the role of today’s sales and corporate support managers/directors who manage these teams is more important than ever. Below are five essentials to help you guide your teams as they balance client and day-to-day activities in this complex environment.

Provide the playbook

If your team isn’t used to working from home for extended periods of time, they need direction from you. Your most experienced account reps will appreciate the help, even if they don’t say it. Provide daily schedule ideas, remind them to take breaks and give them each an individual goal for the day to accomplish. Providing structure in times like these comforts your team.

One size does not fit all

No matter how long you’ve been managing your team, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pivot and retool your management style for each rep in this new environment. For instance, account reps who are known for being calm, cool and collected during an everyday normal dilemma may reveal an uncharacteristically anxious or hesitant side that you’ve not seen before in the office. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if an account rep who tends to keep to themselves pulls an insightful piece of research benefiting the team. Adapt your style as your team members adapt. 

The telephone is back

Management by email is so pre–COVID-19. Voice-to-voice communication is essential in a crisis. You have the power to set the tone for the mindset and attitude of each of your team members. Talk to your account reps each day, even if it’s just a few minutes to check in on their day. Just as this crisis is fluid and changes by the minute, the challenges and mindsets of your team members will as well. They need to hear your voice as opposed to another email. 

Also, your account reps can do the same for their clients. Encourage them to make calls of support as opposed to an email checking in. Sponsors do want to talk, even if they’re not the ones reaching out. 

Plant seeds for a bountiful harvest

We can use this time to plan for tomorrow. Now is a great time to encourage team members to schedule research time in their day. Assign new verticals to each account rep based on their interests as well as action items such as finding available qualitative info or market media monitoring. Schedule a Zoom, WebEx or conference call for team members to present their findings. You and your team will feel good about getting a sprint with this research as this crisis ends.

Just a moment in time — attitude is everything

Remind yourself and your team that this is a moment in time and not forever. Each of us will come out of this experience with new knowledge, fresh ideas and a gratitude for the impact we have on others as well as those who do the same for us.

Self-development author Wayne Dyer used to say, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” As a manager, you have the opportunity and privilege to help your teams through this crisis by guiding them in what they see. Never underestimate the value of your direction, your presence and the impact of instilling a positive mindset in the midst of any crisis within your team. Your influence will have far-reaching effects in ways you’ll never imagine.

Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA, is founder/chief principal of Growth Owl LLC. She works with public media corporate support teams as well as nonprofit organizations across the country in helping them increase revenues from corporate sponsors and foundations. She also provides training, coaching and strategic consulting for sales teams, managers and C-level executives in broadcast and nonprofit development fields. 

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