Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Your Modular Home Factory Ready for a Virtual Sales Team?

Virtual sales teams have become a common way of doing business in the modular housing industry. More Sales Managers are using technology that lets salespeople work productively from home offices or their car. A good virtual sales team is a win-win situation.

Salespeople get the flexibility and convenience of working where they wish, and the modular home factory gets to build a geographically diverse sales team without needing to sink capital into building official “offices”. The tough part is building the right virtual sales team.

1. Preparation is Key to a Successful Virtual Team
Building a virtual sales team is not the same as picking up the phone and having a quick conversation with a sales rep in another office or taking a big chunk of the sales reps’ time to brainstorm over coffee. The sales manager must be ready to accept the challenges this will present and work hard to adjust to it.

2. Choose the Right Salespeople
Most good modular factory salespeople are strongly self-motivated, but a virtual employee needs to take this trait to the next level. A virtual sales team often operates without day-to-day supervision from either the sales manager or the factory owner, and possibly doesn't speak to another co-worker for days on end. Every member of the team needs to be comfortable with this isolation and must be able to keep producing without a manager standing over his shoulder.

3. Set Consistent Expectations
Since virtual sales reps usually decide what tasks to tackle and in what order to tackle them, it's important that everyone understands the priorities right from the beginning. This is particularly important for new salespeople or salespeople who haven't worked virtually before. When a new virtual salesperson is hired, the sales manager needs to sit down with them and set some specific goals. Don't just give them a sales goal; pick some additional metrics as well such as new builder meetings, visiting house sets, etc.

4. Use the Right Tools
There are plenty of technological marvels available to help the virtual sales team to work smarter. Get webcams for all of the salespeople and the sales manager and use video conferencing to meet. Set up a CRM that everyone can use from their own computers, preferably a CRM service that doesn't require software installation. Whatever the need, there's probably a software package or Internet service that can meet it.

5. Stay in Touch
Once the virtual salespeople are out into the world, don’t forget about them. There should be regular meetings (via the aforementioned video conferencing) with the team and to go over any sales-related issues. One thing that will turn off virtual salespeople is for the sales manager to use the meeting format to question individual sales reps at length. This is when its a good idea to call or conference with individual salespeople so that you can touch base with them and find out how they're doing.

6. Know When to Let Go
Managing virtual employees requires a higher level of trust. When a new salesperson joins the team the sales manager needs to keep an eye on their activities, but once they've become familiar with their goals and comfortable with the factory’s expectations, it's time to back off a bit. Good virtual employees prefer a high level of independence – it goes with their ability to self-motivate – so barraging them with phone calls and emails “just to check up” will send exactly the wrong message.

7. Focus on Results
Virtual sales reps can't be tracked from moment to moment. The only way to manage the team fairly under these circumstances is to judge them by their results. If a salesperson is meeting or exceeding her sales goals from month to month, give them plenty of praise and don't try to mess with what isn't broken. On the other hand, a salesperson whose sales are below quota needs immediate help and attention. Schedule a one-on-one meeting and find out what activities that salesperson is pursuing, then set up some activity goals for him and keep an eye on him until those sales numbers improve.

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