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How to Succeed in Remote Sales

Sales can be difficult at the best of times but throw in a remote location without the in-built support of an office environment, and it becomes even more challenging.

Whether this is a new gig or you’re looking to improve your skills, we’ve put together some of our best tips on succeeding in remote sales. 

Do your research

Research will always play a role in your sales success. This is even more evident when you’re acting in a remote sales role. Whether you’ve been sent on assignment to open up a new market or you’ve been hired by an international company, it’s unlikely you’ll have enough prior knowledge to be successful without at least some level of research.

“Every market has its tribe and its rituals and its meetups,” says Paul Kenny, salesperson and founder of Ocean Learning a sales and leadership training and development company based in the UK.

“If you sell marketing software and digital marketers in that area have a rough meetup every 6 weeks or so, be the person who buys the pizza or the food or the alcohol for the meetup with no expectation of getting anything out if it.”

Once you know your market, you can figure out how to best serve their needs.

“I try to encourage people to come up with a plan that’s more than just making sales calls, although you should never forget that you still have to sell. Those sorts of things help people get established.”

Don’t make sales your only goals

“Whatever you do in the first 3 – 6 months you have to treat it as an experiment,” Paul says.

Moving into a brand new market comes with many challenges, the most significant being that it’s just that – new.

Instead of having unrealistic sales goals, remote salespeople need to figure out a varied way to measure success – especially in the beginning.

“It’s not a failure if you haven’t sold anything in the first 6 months,” Paul says.

“What you have to do is focus on [other measurable tasks]. Can we get meetings with people? Can we give demos where we go in and get to know the client?”

Establishing relationships, brand recognition and researching the new market are all essential foundational steps that lead to sales later on.

“The width and the flow of the pipeline are more important than the result,” Paul says.

Record everything

When you’re working remotely from your team, it’s essential to have a system in place to share documentation, communication and updates.

Having a centralised location saves the need for time-consuming back and forth, particularly when time zones are involved.

“Let’s say [your team is made up of] someone in India and someone in North America,” says Madhav Bhandari, the product marketing manager for software sales company, Close.

“You can’t wait 12 hours for the North American time zone to wake up so they can go ‘hey can you send me that’. If you have something on a central place [you] can just go in there and send it to the prospect, and it obviously helps you close more deals.”

Software like Close can act as the sole platform for all sales tasks meaning you don’t need to upload or link anything manually.

“If you’re emailing a prospect, if you’re getting on a call with a prospect, if you’re sending an SMS to the prospect, all of that communication is recorded in that one lead in a timeline,” Madhav says.

However, it’s not the only way to keep track. Free tools like Google docs and Google sheets grant everyone access, regardless of where they live, which can be helpful to store documentation.

Along the same vein, Paul recommends recording meetings and calls so that anyone missing can look over them at a later date. This process will also help with training and development without the need to be in the same location.

Stay connected

One of the significant success factors of a remote salesperson is how connected they are to the rest of the team. Whether you’ve been sent on assignment from one headquarters or the company is distributed across many locations, there needs to be a real effort from both the employer and employee to create a sense of universal culture and connection.

“There is a feeling sometimes with remote sales – well, we’ve hired tough, experienced people to do the job so let them do it but actually they can do the core skills but what they need often is feedback a sense of collegiate belonging,” Paul explains.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge with remote roles.”

A remote salesperson is often entering a market where they will get little feedback from their potential prospects. Without a team to celebrate small wins and talk through challenges, this environment can be quite overwhelming.

“I always encourage people who are working alone, who are working in-country, or in very small teams to talk about that stuff, I ask them lots of questions about it because they don’t get the value from discussing it elsewhere,” Paul says.

Paul encourages salespeople to carry these conversations on with their managers and teammates.

“One of the things that salespeople do when they work together is they support all the little victories that aren’t a sale,” he says.

“There are all these little victories where you know they give each other a nod, a high five or a well done and when you work on your own nobody does that for you.”

It’s essential to have that feedback, especially in the initial stages of opening up a market. Try to make space for this in weekly updates and one-on-one meetings to help emulate that in-office culture. 

Among his clients, the ones Paul sees the most success from are those who put effort into their global culture.

“One of the things I really liked about my client Red Gate when they set up their LA office was that for the first few months there was always one of the founders out there, they did a lot of flying,” he says.

“That was about getting the culture right. If you’re going to hire locally get the culture absolutely right.”

This universal culture not only helps employees to feel connected but also promotes a more accurate representation of the brand or product.

Stick to the basics

This one might seem like a no brainer, but the actual activity of sales doesn’t change too much regardless of your location.

“Weirdly I think salespeople and sales managers overcomplicate what good sales is,” Paul says. “There’s really only 4 or 5 areas that really matter.”

There are, of course, aspects that will help specifically with a remote role, but the foundation will always be simple. The only difference will be the degrees to which they matter.

Research

All salespeople need to have at least a basic understanding of both the product and the market. This is especially true if you’re entering a new market as it will give you a foundation to launch from that you don’t have from past experience.

“If you’re selling high turnover products research just means taking a look at the website, finding someone you can call and then moving on,” says Paul. “If you’re selling a major solution, research could mean a full market review, a positioning piece, strategy piece, business profiling, and so on.”

Asking the right questions

Good salespeople are good at making conversation, another no brainer.

“Whether it be the traditional cold call or whether it be knowing how to work events really well and getting business contacts or knowing how to use referrals – engagement is essential,” Paul says.

Engagement isn’t always with a sales goal in mind either. Good salespeople have skills in discovering the needs of those they are talking to.

“The best salespeople are confident to be curious. They’re not just asking questions to get a hook for their pitch they’re actually asking questions to understand the business, confident in the knowledge that they will find an opportunity,” Paul says.

Madhav agrees, adding, “I feel that being helpful is underrated… [you should] listen most of the time because I think that’s where you can actually see the opportunities.”

Demonstrating Value

When selling a product, it’s essential to be able to advocate for its value. This needs to be specific to the need of the person in front of you, not a generalised pitch.

“What they’re really good at is picking out the things that customers really value or the problems that they’re facing and tailoring a business case around that,” Paul says.

Closing the deal

There’s no use of developing relationships if you never actually sell anything.

“What we’ve learned from successful sales setups and what we tell the market is – never give up on following up,” Madhav says, citing the book of Close co-founder Stelli Efti, The Follow Up Formula.

This often means negotiating and coming up with solutions that fit the objectives of both the client and the company.

“They’re good at putting all the pieces in place and making sure that the customer ends up with a deal that they want that’s still also profitable,” Paul says.

“There’s a whole art form to that.”

– Bree Caggiati

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