It’s one thing to manage sales reps who report to a central office most days, reps you can gather up for a team meeting or tête-à-tête weekly, monthly, or whenever you feel it necessary.
It’s another to manage reps who work off-site, either from home or out of a distant office space. You probably don’t see them regularly, and it’s harder — although not impossible — to hold a meeting with them.
Keeping them engaged and motivated presents a special challenge. The small-business website AllBusiness.com suggests some techniques you can use to meet it:
1. Keep them abreast of the news. I don’t mean the news about the presidential election, or the hurricane in the Bahamas. I mean office news, like who earned a promotion, who announced she’s getting married, who brought in an important new account, and the like. Feeling left out is a strong vector of disengagement and demotivation.
2. Give them some structure. If a rep works off-site, it already means you trust his or her ability to self-start. But don’t leave the person dangling in the wind. It’s a good idea to set specific days and/or times for phone or text check-ins or progress reports.
3. Don’t neglect them because it’s easy. When you’re both in the same office, it’s hard to ignore a rep who walks in your door and asks if he can talk to you for a couple of minutes. It’s easier to not return a voice mail from a rep who works out of her home 40 miles away, especially when you have three urgent fires to put out. Don’t fall into that trap.
4. Use training as a socializer. If you’re a forward-looking organization, you recognize the importance of continuous learning for your reps. Capitalize on these sessions — whether at the office or an off-site location like a hotel or conference center — to bring your distant reps together with their colleagues.
5. Encourage them to get out more. Of course, off-site salespeople won’t just be sitting in their distant office space all the time. Sometimes they’ll be out and about with prospects and customers. But you can further help them to get out into the world and expand their contacts by suggesting that they take part in sales seminars and meetings of professional organizations near the site they work from.
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