Managing Remote Employees

By James A. BakerFounder and Chairman

Baker Communications

  

The modern workplace has become far more complicated and far more diffuse in the past few decades.  Telecommuting, international commerce, far-flung business branches, virtual offices and frequent travel have introduced work environments where managers frequently have to manage individuals, and even entire teams, that they don’t see every day, or possibly ever.

If your employees are in a different location, another time zone, or another country, face-to-face weekly meetings or office walk-bys are obviously not practical management solutions.  How do you effectively manage individuals or teams that are located somewhere else?

Establish Accountability

When managing remote employees or teams, it is critical that you establish accountability.  You must be able to trust employees to do their jobs and to stay on task, even though you can’t wander by their desks or pop into the warehouse to oversee them.  Create a structure for tracking their productivity, and make sure the remote employees are aware that they still answer to you.

Get the Right People

Hiring employees who will work in a different location or allowing existing employees to begin telecommuting carries an element of risk.  Selecting trustworthy and industrious employees for such remote positions is key to avoiding future problems.  Carefully consider which candidates or employees can be trusted to work well without personal supervision.

Communicate Frequently

Even if you can’t talk to your employees face-to-face, don’t let that keep you from communicating!  This is critical to setting expectations, delivering feedback, and even to making your remote employees feel like they are part of the team.

There is no excuse for leaving your employees out of the loop; use e-mail, phone calls, teleconferencing, online meetings, text messaging, chat programs, fax, snail mail, telegraph, smoke signals or messenger pigeons — whatever you have to do — but keep in touch.  Do not let employees sit around wondering what they are supposed to be doing.  Clearly and frequently communicate with them about goals, assignments, progress and problems.

Travel if Possible

Depending on your situation, it can be an excellent practice to arrange occasional travel to meet face-to-face with teams or employees in distant locations.  Personal contact goes a long way in establishing a real relationship with your employees, and helps them feel like integrated and valued team members.  It can also give you a clearer idea of who you are working with and how best to communicate with and motivate them.

Encourage Balance

Those who telecommute or work from home (as well as those who don’t) occasionally have problems maintaining a balance between work and home life.  Remind them that they are not expected to be available 24-7 just because they are working from home.  Overworked employees are less effective, and may risk burnout.  Try to ensure that telecommuters are working comparable hours to the time they would spend in the office.

Managing Remote Employees

Astute readers may have realized that most of the rules for managing employees at a distance are the same as those for managing anyone else!  Hiring the right people, establishing accountability, communicating well, setting expectations, and establishing a respectful relationship between manager and employee are always key to successful management.

The modern workplace has evolved alongside modern technology and methods that facilitate a more diffuse and varied work environment.  As there can be many potential benefits to a company in using remote teams and telecommuters, this is a trend that seems unlikely to reverse. The ability to accommodate the needs of remote employees and establish a good working relationship with them will prove to be a valuable management skill as the business world continues to change and evolve over time.

Managing remote employees or teams will present some special challenges, but these can generally be met by a manager who is dedicated to maintaining a productive and effective team.

 

How Do Customers See High Performing Salespeople?

By UPSA, United Professional Sales Association

We intuitively know there are skill and proficiency differences between salespeople who consistently achieve high results and those who don’t. The search for defining those differences has been a robust area of discussion and study for many years. The assumption is that if you can define the behaviors that correlate with success, you can hire and/or train to that profile. Competency studies, formal academic research, anecdotal stories, and insights from sales managers and executives have all been the bases of models of high performance that, in the final analysis, revolve around some level of customer focus as a salient, unifying concept as well as on face-to-face, product knowledge and relationship skills.

At C-Lens Index, after working for many years with different sales organizations, we recognize that all these studies and discussions describe a salesperson focused on delivering value through the sales process. That means the customer actually benefits from the sales experience, both before buying anything and throughout the relationship that follows. For example, the discovery process results in new insights about needs and their impact on the business, products and services can be creatively configured to the situation, the salesperson’s resource network can be brought in to help, and application ideas and examples from other sources in the customer’s industry are discussed. To put this example in plain terms, if you are a car insurance consultant then you need to use insightful questioning to ascertain the needs of a particular customer, and use your response to these needs to build rapport and present a solution to the customer’s need. You may add value to the customer’s experience if you compare bike insurance options as well as car insurance options. This is what a superior sales person does. In all, the relationship-through the sales process-becomes an added value from the vendor. Our point of view is that a salesperson who recognizes that delivering this value is the key to his or her role and whose actions reflect that philosophy will be a High Performer compared to those who are otherwise focused on product, fulfillment, or price-based selling.

We’ve been able to identify the behavioral indicators of that value-laden relationship and use them to measure what customers are actually seeing in the sales process. We call those indicators “Sales Actions,” and they mirror the behavior and attitude of a salesperson who is focused on customer value. In a recent C-Lens Index scan for a manufacturing company, we collected data from over 400 customers on their views of their salesperson. We asked them how frequently they saw the sales actions played out and how important those actions were to them. In analyzing the data, we compared the results of salespeople who were identified as High Performers with those identified as Low Performers. These were defined by our client in terms of consistent long-term results as well as reputation in the company for professionalism. In our sample of 58 salespeople, we worked with eight salespeople in each category. The results provide some insights into what customers are seeing High Performers do more frequently than Low Performers.

High Performers Seen Performing All Sales Actions More Frequently

Overall, customers see High Performers demonstrating each and every C-Lens Index sales action to a greater extent than low performers. While this helps to validate the C-Lens items and concept, it also shows that High Performers are seen differently in the eyes of the customer. The average frequency score of High Performers was 64.28 percent while the Low Performers scored 47.75 percent. The larger differences will be discussed below. However, it is important to point out that these sales actions are associated with success, and they are aligned with delivering a value-based experience to the customer. Apparently, customers see this difference.

The Largest Gaps Between High and Low Performers

We identified 12 Sales Actions out of 28 where High Performers scored 20 percentage points or more than Low Performers in terms of frequency as seen by customers. It doesn’t matter what products are being sold whether they are payday loans or investment properties or fancy dress or even an essay writing service, these figures tend to stay true in any market. Since the numbers in the sample were not large enough for statistical comparisons, we felt 20 percent was a sufficient arbitrary difference to note any trends or themes between the groups. The following are the Sales Actions which were the largest gaps between High and Low performers

1. Asks in-depth probing questions to better understand my business and my needs.

2. Discovers what is on my mind by focusing on what I say and how I say it

3. Reassures me that the vendor company’s team working with me has experience and expertise in addressing needs

4. Finds other valuable resources for me that also might help address my needs

5. Always remains diplomatically straightforward in describing issues

6. Tells me how the vendor company, its products and services are uniquely different from other vendors

7. Provides clear, easy-to-understand examples of how the vendor company, its products or services will help me and my own customers

8. Directly and creatively addresses real or perceived concerns that I raise

9. Takes appropriate steps within the vendor company to accomplish tasks for me in a timely manner

10. Uses internal/external experts and resources to maximize the value to me of the vendor company’s products and services

11. Ensures my company and I are receiving the promised benefits of the products and service provided

12. Stays current and informed about my business performance, its strategy, recent changes, and emerging needs

What this tells us about High Performers versus Low Performers is most interesting:

High performers more frequently practice basic face-to-face selling skills. [Asking questions (1) and Listening (3).] We presume that comfort in using these fundamental skills effectively is an indicator of High Performance. Euso The lower frequency by Low Performers may indicate a need for training, lack of experience, differences in coaching and supervision or poor execution.

High performers also are seen more frequently describing product or service uniqueness and examples of how these can be applied. [Tell how uniquely different (6), Provide clear examples (7), other basic face-to-face skills.] Fluency and confidence in product knowledge is apparently an indicator of high performance. It is one thing to describe features and benefits and quite another to tell convincing stories about how product or service uniqueness plays out and how applications actually work for customers.

High performers more frequently bring other resources and expertise that can help the customer to the sales process and, if needed, help solve problems. [Find other resources (4), Creatively address concerns (8), Use internal/external experts (10.] This suggests an openness to leverage value that salespeople have cultivated in their own personal networks as well as to widen out the scope of the customer’s situation and open it up to creative problem-solving. Seeing beyond the immediate set of facts and data is a sophisticated skill that not only requires product and service knowledge, but confidence and knowledge of other applications. Creatively solving problems-whether independently or with internal colleagues-shows a command of concepts and applications and fluency of thinking skills.

High performers show empathy as reflected in reassuring the customer that he or she is in good hands and acting diplomatically. For example a sales consultant for resveratrol would show sympathy with the problem of ageing and assure the prospect that others have had good results from using the product. [Reassures me the team has experience (3) and Always remains straightforward (5).] Is this a matter of higher emotional intelligence or experience in pre-empting difficult situations? These Sales Actions could signify the High Performer is more “tuned in” to the customer’s reactions as the relationship unfolds.

Finally, High Performers are seen as more frequently being invested in the customer’s company and the buyer. [Ensures benefits (11) and Stays current and informed (12).] These are higher-order Sales Actions, requiring an effort and a certain amount of risk by opening up the possibility that the customer is not getting what he or she bought. Hydroxatone Nevertheless, this kind of pro-active inquiry into the outcomes of product and service applications as well as customer status is a mark of being truly interested in serving the customer.

Has The Profession Of Selling Changed?

by Paul Castain, The Sales Playbook

I was recently asked by one of my readers if I thought that our profession in sales has changed.

My answer is both a quick “No” and a resounding all caps “HELL YES!”

No in the sense that the idea of assessing and identifying needs, presenting solutions, gaining commitment etc have always been a part of the deal and most probably always will.

But that’s where all of this becomes very dangerous!

Why?

Because we’re actually asking the wrong question!

In this week’s podcast, we’re jumping headfirst into this debate and I’ll offer several areas that you need to understand with regard to  HOW things have changed!

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Download this episode (right click and save)

Paul Castain works with individuals and organizations to achieve higher levels of what experts refer to as “awesomeness”.  For more information on Paul’s services, download his cool PDF

The Power Of Clear Performance Standards

By Paul Cherry, Performance Based Results

It had been one year to the day since my friend Jake had relocated to Florida to beef up profits at a medical equipment company. Since I was in Jake’s area on business myself, we agreed to meet after work for drinks to celebrate. Jake had every reason to think he’d get a glowing evaluation on his performance review. But when he trudged into the bar at my hotel, Jake looked like he was down in the dumps, not on top of the world.

“They gave me the sack! Can you believe it?” As he knocked back his drink, Jake was so angry I half-expected him to swallow his swizzle stick along with his Mojito. “I relocated for them. I worked nights and weekends, I even broke dates. I did everything right and then some. And what does my boss tell me? ‘You did a pretty good job, but you could’ve done more.’”

I shook my head. “It’s outrageous, Jake. I’ve seen for myself what a great manager you are, and I’d bet the ranch you followed the company’s performance standards to the letter.”

“I would have, if they’d ever bothered to outline their standards for me.” Jake took another swig. “I tried to get specifics, but my boss was the kind of guy who acts on gut instinct. How am I supposed to measure my performance using somebody else’s gut feelings?” In his frustration, Jake bit his swizzle stick in half. Lucky for him, it was one of those sugar cane sticks, so Jake didn’t have to see a dentist on his way to the unemployment office.

Good managers create performance standards for their people that are as clear as Jake’s sugar swizzle stick, but far more substantial. How can you, as a manager, expect your team to meet your expectations unless you provide concise, concrete standards from square one?

Jake’s hardly the first employee to be stymied by unclear performance standards. My associate Patrick once worked with a celebrated 4-star hotel. The hotel’s Human Resources Manager met with him after one of the department heads had been let go. The reason? “He didn’t meet the hotel standards.”

That indicated to Patrick that this hotel had specific, measurable standards for their staff. He was impressed, until he asked, “Which standards did he fall short on?”

“The hotel standards,” the HR Manager repeated. He never actually got around to explaining exactly what the hotel’s standards were. Perhaps he wasn’t sure what they were, either. When pressed to elaborate, all he could do was describe a vague feeling or two about the former department head’s performance.

As the late economist Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” How can any workplace talk standards when they haven’t established measurable standards for their team to follow? As you can see from Jake’s and Patrick’s experiences, someone can be fired for not adhering to standards, without being told what those standards are! When managers set impossible goals, it only leads to frustration. When managers are frustrated, the inevitable trickle-down effect results in frustrated team members, too. For the sake of your team’s productivity and self-esteem, it’s crucial to set achievable standards for reasonable goals within your team’s grasp, and to deal with them based on specific, measurable standards leading to measurable results.

For instance, Patrick had a different experience when he worked with IBM. A manager friend of his, George, had been doing well there, so when Patrick met with IBM’s Vice-President, he asked how George was doing. With regret, the VP explained that George was no longer with the company. “He broke a cardinal rule: he lied to one of our customers.” Now that’s a specific standard — far more understandable, valuable, and enforceable than a vague feeling.

As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Make sure you don’t just do things mindlessly; always stop to consider WHY you’re doing it. There must be a result in mind. By the same token, you must make sure your employees understand that they do each of their assigned tasks for a reason; it’s not just “busy work.” Help your team members to go beyond saying, “What do you want me to do?” Rather, get them to think in a results-oriented way before they act, so they consider the end results you want them to achieve on the team’s behalf.

Recently, my wife and I had dinner at a popular upscale restaurant in our area. The grounds surrounding the restaurant had a beautiful garden on a lush green lawn. As we enjoyed our meal and each other’s company, we heard the pitter-patter of little raindrops against the windows. By the time we were ready to pay our check, those little raindrops had joined forces to become a big downpour. The monsoon continued as we stood inside the restaurant doorway, waiting for the valet to bring our car around. Looking around idly, I couldn’t help noticing the lawn’s sprinklers were on at full blast — while the rain kept pounding down! I asked the young assistant manager on duty at the time why the sprinklers were on.

“It’s Tuesday, sir,” he said brightly. “We always turn on the lawn sprinklers on Tuesday.”

“Oh, so it’s an automated sprinkler system set up to run every Tuesday?”

“No, sir, I turn the sprinkler on and off myself,” the assistant manager said. “It’s one of my duties.”

Puzzled, I gestured at the windows. “But it’s already raining — pouring, in fact. Isn’t it overkill to have the sprinklers running while it’s raining?”

“Well…” The assistant manager’s smile faltered; suddenly he was at a loss for words. His smile crept back, but not quite as bright as before. “That’s what we do here on Tuesdays, sir. I’m just doing what my boss told me to do.”

The lesson here: performance standards must be results-oriented, not task-oriented. If you want to get your boss in trouble, do exactly, literally, what he tells you to do. This young man was just following the rulebook, doing what he’d been told had to be done on a typical Tuesday. He hadn’t stopped to think why he was putting on the sprinklers in the rain; he’d simply figured he had to follow his superior’s instructions to the letter, without considering extenuating circumstances like downpours, otherwise he’d risk being in hot water with his boss.

Like the song says, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” It’s up to you, as a manager, to set clear, concise, unmistakable performance standards for yourself and your employees. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things at work, and when you and your team know your office’s performance standards inside and out, everybody benefits.

Special Report: 62 Sales Success Quotes

By Eye On Sales

We went out of our way to collect the best and the most inspiring quotes about success in business and everyday life and conveniently combined them for you in this booklet. Go ahead and print them, share ‘em with your team and take them with you wherever you go.

May this booklet inspire you to great sales success!

File Size
Adobe Acrobat File eos_quote_book_success.pdf 0.09 MB

Tell a college grad about Inside Sales!

By Geoff Alexander, Geoff Alexander & Company

Did you read the news? Hope Yen of the Associated Press reported this week that 1 out of every 2 college grads are either unemployed or underemployed, working at servers, baristas, bartenders, or other jobs that don’t adequately utilize their skills. Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I recommend that inside sales people tell their friends about b2b inside sales careers. We always need talented people in this industry, and I’ve trained loads of young adults in their first inside sales jobs in my inside sales training courses. They’re smart, enthusiastic, and can’t believe how much money they’ll be making. And they get to use their minds, too, figuring out how their solutions will improve their prospects’ businesses.

Know a college grad (or soon-to-be)? We sometimes make the mistake of not encouraging them to consider a career path different from their majors, especially, it seems, with those who have a Liberal Arts degree (the guy writing this post has one of those). But just look at these stats!

  • 1.5 million Bachelor’s degree holder under the age of 25 who were jobless or underemployed
  • 100,000 estimated number of young Bachelor’s holders working as food servers, bartenders, and food service helpers
  • College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level

So here’s a shout-out: let these folks know about your success in inside sales or sales development. I can almost guarantee you that they never considered it a career path. Don’t be surprised if they turn down your suggestion, initially: they still want to be zoologists. But expect them to ping you back in a week with a “tell me more” conversation. Starving isn’t sexy. The great thing about Liberal Arts is you can still do them during non-work hours. I’ve met hundreds over the past few years who do just that.

Got a position open at your company, or know of another company that does? Let’s get these talented people employed, or working at a job that’s more fulfilling intellectually than the one they may be in. Those tough statistics that I quoted above are actually an opportunity for the inside sales profession to get even better. So please, think about your acquaintances that would be great inside reps, and have a conversation. And add recruiting talented people to your Best Practices Playbook.

Irritating Listening Habits

by Tom Reilly, Contributor, SalesDog.com

Top-achieving salespeople spend 60% of their time listening on a sales call. Listening is a core competency for salespeople, yet too few companies and managers emphasize its importance to success. Schools rarely teach it. Training budgets generally ignore it because it is a soft skill. Most people assume that if you have two ears you know how to listen. Wrong. Here are some of the irritating listening habits I have noticed in training salespeople:

Competitor — this person is a master of one-upping the other person. The competitive listener typically says, “You think that’s something, let me tell you about something I did.”

Anticipator — this person spends most of his or her listening time thinking about what they will say next.

Rusher — this person is always giving the other person the bum’s rush. The attitude is, “Hurry up and finish, I have something to sell you.”

Distracted — this person is a walking billboard for attention deficit disorder. Every little distraction catches his or her attention. Their being distracted distracts the speaker.

Disinterested — this person cannot even feign being interested. They find the conversation dull and make no pretense to be interested.

Multi-tasker — this person thinks they can effectively communicate with others as they check text messages and emails. This is the phone conversation when you can hear the keyboard in the background. This is just plain rude.

Effective listening requires the listener to put his or her focus on the other person, not themselves. Too many people fail to subordinate their interests in an effort to understand the other person. You can only fully understand what someone is saying (and feeling) when the conversation is more about them than you. This is good listening. This is good selling.

Tom Reilly is the president of Tom Reilly Training. Learn more here: TomReillyTraining.com