Sales People Working Remotely – Can It Work?

Written byGerald Vanderpuye

September 29, 2017

Whether you’re a sales rep looking for ammunition to convince your boss you should be allowed to work remotely, or a sales director being asked to consider this option, this article is for you.

Remote working is something that comes up a lot in tech companies. Most people today are able to work anywhere with a laptop and mobile phone, including sales people. But even digital giants are not sold on remote working. Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, famously reversed their remote / flexible working policy back in 2013 requiring those employees who had been working from home on their own schedule to be in the office from 9-5.

More recently, IBM’s chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso, announced that the US marketing team would need to ‘co-locate’; meaning that employees who work primarily from home would have to commute to one of six different US offices.

Yet there are numerous studies and research projects that show that remote and flexible working are highly beneficial. Improving performance, increasing productivity, saving companies money etc. etc.

So can it work in sales?

Personally, the option to work from home on occasion is something I welcome. Mind you, I’m the boss so remote working comes with the territory! Often I choose to work from home when I need to focus, or to take important sales calls, and minimise the distractions of the office environment.

As with any other sales professional in the SaaS space, all I need is either in my head or on my laptop. Whether I work from home, from a beach café, in your office, or in a co-working space; I can get the job done. However, although the BuyerDeck team consists of people who work from home, we do have a London base and that is where you’ll find me most days.

Sales Performance And Remote Working

Since sales is target driven, issues around motivation and productivity would seem irrelevant – sales professionals either hit target or don’t, irrespective of where they work. That means it’s easy to measure whether remote working is delivering results. If you or a member of your sales team are not disciplined and focused in a home office environment, that will soon be reflected in your reporting.

To successfully roll out a remote working policy you need to address communication and accountability first. Here are BuyerDeck we use Slack for dealing with the communication issue, keeping conversation in a virtual workplace as would happen in the ‘real’ workplace. It also helps with the accountability issue; we can see who’s signed in although we can’t see if they’ve got their feet up watching Game of Thrones!

In terms of sales teams, targets and performance also drive accountability. I don’t really mind if someone has a snooze in the afternoon if they are putting the work in and delivering results the rest of the time.

So why do I go to ‘the office’ everyday? Part of the reason is that I’m not just doing sales. We’re continually innovating our product, I’m managing different aspects of the business and for this we need a collaborative environment, which is just not possible in a virtual world. You know those chats by the water cooler where inspiration strikes, or just sitting side-by-side with colleagues and working through ideas; that’s why I go to work and expect my team to turn up too.

For sales teams this can also be important. The camaraderie and team spirit, where everyone is punching the air, high-fiving and fist bumping each other…? Well may be not. However, that collaborative team working environment does work for many sales teams.

I guess the answer to whether remote working for sales people works or not is, ‘it depends.’ It depends on your culture, individual employees, and whether you have the right tools and processes in place to support remote working.

The latter is generally not an issue anymore. All our sales systems are either in the cloud or on secure VPNs, there are numerous digital communication options, it’s easy to demo a software product and share information online, and of course there are collaborative, sales enablement solutions – yes like BuyerDeck! – that enable remote sales teams to work effectively together and with their buyers.

Throwing it over to you… what do you think about sales teams and remote working? Comment below and share your thoughts and experience.

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