Tips for Managing Inside Sales/BDR Teams in a Remote Work Environment
Watching an effective and high performing BDR and inside sales team in action is like observing the precision in a Swiss clock. The team has a methodical approach to customer outreach, a clearly documented playbook, processes that help guide activities that need to be completed throughout the day, and high energy on the sales floor. If you’ve ever walked onto the floor of an inside sales and BDR team, there is nothing quite like the hum of efficiency and the proud sound of celebration coming from a team that’s hungry to win.
Given the recent changes in our selling environment and the fact that teams are now working remotely across the world, this article answers the question: How do you port your best practices from in-office Inside/ BDR teams to a remote work environment?
At Reveneer, we pride ourselves on designing, building, and managing high-velocity inside sales teams, and we work closely with Insight Partners to support their portfolio companies to spin up efficient prospecting teams.
This week, to comply with recommended social distancing guidelines brought about by COVID-19, we required over 100 SDRs and ISRs in our inside sales operation to work remotely, with little more than a day or two notice. While we’ve always had a business continuity plan for working remotely, no one anticipated having 100% of our team remote, along with our our prospects being remote. During this quick transition we learned some important things that can benefit other teams who face a similar situation.
Managing an SDR operation is challenging under the best of circumstances. Hiring, training, technology integration, dashboards, metrics, culture, engagement, motivation – it’s a lengthy list of things required to ensure efficiency.
We’re all starting to understand what this lengthy list means in a completely remote work environment. We are recalibrating our expectations of reps whose daily routines, tools and physical workspaces are different than what they’ve worked with before. Four learnings are clear:
- Test First & Iterate Quickly - Don't assume that because your SDRs use Salesforce (or another CRM) and it is accessible from anywhere via the internet, that they will automatically deliver the same results when operating from home. Take a half day, or full day to test how each person on the team can make the transition to virtual office work. Stagger the test – perhaps 25% of the team works from home on any given day. Gather data, but more importantly, have each rep create qualitative notes on what works for them and what doesn’t. Create tailored solutions for each rep to overcome their particular obstacles. If you have already moved to 100% remote work (as most companies are doing with the COVID-19 outbreak), it’s critical to get quick feedback from your teams on what is working for them and what needs to improve. If you need to change processes more broadly, we recommend testing any changes first with individuals or small groups before deploying to the entire team. Test and fail fast -- then be agile with changes as you learn from your mistakes.
- Don't Underestimate Virtual Workspace & Tech Requirements - Working from home can mean different things to different people. One person lives alone in a 2-bedroom house, one shares a 600 sq. ft. studio with a spouse and two dogs, and another lives in the basement of their parents' house with slow internet. Most of us can make do with inconvenience and a suboptimal working environment for a day. It’s different if the circumstances occur every day. Over time the lack of comfort and efficiency in the workspace will have a big impact on performance. Companies should assess each rep’s virtual office set up and offer to fund part of an upgrade to ensure reps they have the best workspace to be productive for the next 60+ days. An insignificant investment in a monitor, or chair, or high-speed internet will pay dividends in rep productivity. To save on cost, companies should permit reps to bring home equipment from the office or reimburse them for lower cost alternatives.
- Create Engagement - Inside Sales operations are typically built on open floor plans, naturally promoting collaboration, communication and a little competition. At first working from home can feel like a welcome respite from a busy sales floor, but reps report that after a few short days, the walls are closing in on them. Reps are extroverts. They like buzz and engagement with people. To replicate this, schedule a regular morning standup huddle with the team using video web conferencing. Have each person share goals for the new day, or a notable conversation from the prior day. Use a real-time communication app to allow reps and managers to chat throughout the day and consider a web-based gamification platform for ad hoc contests and awards to keep the energy up and drive friendly competition. Use your chat channel (e.g., Slack or MS Teams) to recognize sales opportunities created or deals closed as you would in a face-to-face environment. You can replace the live applause with a shoutout in your team Slack channel. Moments of recognition will do wonders to keep your team motivated as they shift from working in a highly collaborative and dynamic environment to one where they are primarily working alone.
- Change Up the Cadence - It's common, particularly for managers who have entry-level SDRs, to require reps to adhere to a cadence that defines when and how activities like sourcing, emailing and calling are done. When the team is together on the sales floor, this makes sense, driving uniformity and consistency of results. Once the team is distributed their ability to adhere to a single cadence is less predictable, with environmental factors like noisy trash trucks or barking dogs getting in the way of outbound calls. Allow each rep the freedom to set their own cadence to hit targets, then modify as needed. Managers should check in and understand what reps are doing to ensure that all required activities are covered, even if these are not the same as prior cadences, and not the same for every rep.
Moving your inside sales operation outside the office is stressful for everyone: leaders, managers, sales operations, and SDRs. It's easy to take a tough-it-out approach - with the goal of just surviving until things return to normal. This doesn’t aim high enough.
We have succeeded in building an inside sales operation that is no longer defined by a building or floor plan. We’ve built a flexible, resilient and mobile operation that is tested and hardened to handle whatever comes our way. This is a competitive advantage in today’s environment. It can make the world of difference for retaining your talent, effectively reaching your prospects and customers, and driving results.