Can Salespeople Work Fully Remotely?

Between customer meetings and industry events, sales pros are often out of the office, but that’s a lot different than knowing you’re rarely going to see them at all. 


If you’re managing a sales team or are the owner of a small to medium-sized business (SMB), you may have gotten used to stockpiling a mental checklist of important issues or questions to ask sales reps once they return to their desks. This could include the status of a particular deal, how close they are to achieving their quota or even just some insight on what customers in the market are saying. 


Today, however, forcing employees of any kind to come into the same physical location every day is being challenged by social norms and the availability of cloud technology.


According to a survey by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, for example, remote work has grown by 91% over the past 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. 


Researchers at Stanford University, meanwhile, conducted a survey of their own which showed there was a 50% decrease in attrition among workers who were allowed to work remotely.


Both those studies represent U.S. rather than Canadian data, and they aren’t specifically focusing on sales reps, but you can easily imagine why the trends might be similar here. 


The impact on attrition in particular could be especially valuable to SMBs or organizations of any kind who fear losing sales reps and having to retrain new ones from scratch. For reps, meanwhile, remote work could mean reduced stress.


Of course, it will take more than a few statistics to convince most SMBs to offer fully remote work options for their sales teams. You need to consider the pros and cons first: 

Pro: It’s more about policy than technology

If you’re already using a customer relationship management (CRM) system via a software-as-a-service model, your reps already have the most important thing they need to do their work remotely. 


Many reps might already be accessing and updating CRM through their smartphone as they move between events and meetings, so in a sense they’re already working remotely anyway. The difference here is that they could potentially get even more done by not having to travel back and forth to the company headquarters. 

Con: The coaching and managing dynamics could change

There’s no reason reps can’t be given a pep talk or guidance on how to improve their performance during a phone call, but many managers or CEOs have preferred to wait until they can have such discussions in a face-to-face setting.


Coaching and managing remotely might feel off-putting because of a perceived lack of intimacy, or because there’s a greater risk of outside distractions. However these are all issues that can be dealt with up front.


If you have a regular check-in or touchpoint with a rep, for example, give them direction on how to choose the right environment to do it remotely. It might be as simple as picking a quiet room, or maybe an area where they could conduct the conversation via video rather than an audio-only interaction. 

Pro: You’re able to hire the best from anywhere

Companies can’t always afford to be set up in a major metropolitan centre with lots of employee-friendly amenities. Or they may be in a situation where they’re trying to recruit sales reps to an urban area, but the best candidates prefer a suburban or rural lifestyle and don’t want to make the commute. 


In those situations, remote work policies give SMBs the potential to attract the reps they want, regardless of their place of residence. 


Today, remote work might seem like a nice-to-have or bonus. As such policies become more common, on the other hand, employers might need to explain why they don’t allow remote work to candidates who have come to expect it, especially if they’ve grown up as digital nomads.

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