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What About Your Salesreps Who Work From Home?

A lot more salesreps are working from home now than even a few years ago.  But working from home isn’t for every salesrep or every company.  Now’s the time to look at this issue.  It could mean the difference between your home-office reps making their numbers or not.

A post on (Jigsaw’s CEO) Garth Moulton’s blog about the profiles of inside sales reps brought to mind some of the discussions we’ve had with VPs of sales about the challenges related to telecommuting for their salesreps.

I recently discussed an underperforming  home-based salesrep with his VP of sales.  Intent on  diagnosing the problem, I asked, “Do you have evidence that he’s working 50 to 60 hours a week…  for you?”  The VP said he didn’t know whether the rep was working the hours, or full time for his company.  He should have known the answers to both parts of that question and the answers should have been two yesses.

When hiring, there is no question in my mind that you don’t want to be the one who gives a salesrep her first opportunity to work from a home office.  Way too risky.  I’ve seen dozens of failures due to this simple mistake.  You have to be certain that the rep has been successfully selling from a home office environment.  There are traits and skills required to accomplish this.  Know what those are and make sure you compare the candidate against those requirements.

If an office-based rep you currently have on board wants to switch to telecommute for first time, now may not be the best time.  Neither you nor they can afford a slip in productivity.  Just because someone wants to work from a home office doesn’t mean they should.

We’ve been working with a few clients that have very good situations with salesreps who work from home.  Most notable are two women who had a terrific year in 2008 with one of our clients, closing multiple $250k application software opportunities without ever leaving their home offices.  They are relentless qualifiers, have very effective discovery processes, are marvelous at creating demand and leading champions within their customers’ organizations through a collaborative buying/selling process.  These home-based reps are motivated, focused, and have all the skills and attributes required for successful selling from a home office.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Don’t hire a rep for a home-0ffice situation who can’t prove they’ve been successful at it in the past.
  • Some salesreps need the support and camaraderie associated with an office environment. Others aren’t capable of working from home due to lack of discipline or motivation.  Still others don’t have the knowledge, experience or skills to get the job done.  Make sure you know all the strengths and weaknesses of your own reps and anyone you are looking at hiring.
  • Certain selling  jobs require a fair amount of time in the office.  If that’s the case, no one should be based at home. A day a week, fine, but no more than that.
  • Don’t let a good rep strong-arm you into allowing them to transition to a home-based office unless you’re certain they’ll get the selling job done.
  • Make sure you’ve got the right sales performance measurement system in place.  You need to be able to spot trends in individual performance before they impact your forecast.
  • If you’re going to have reps working from home, provide them with the equipment they need, including hardware (for example, a backup hard drive), the appropriate sales enablement software (a strong knowledge management system, for example) and a high-quality headset.

Finally, the risks associated with home-based sales reps are mitigated when you have a pragmatic sales methodology that’s in place and used across your entire sales team.  If you don’t have one, that’s what you need to do, starting today.

Photo credit: © Wollwerth Imagery – Fotolia.com

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6 Responses

  1. One of the most important factors in the success of sales reps working from home is MOTIVATION.

    You really need self starters who can be trusted and who are highly motivated. It takes a different kind of person who is successful from working from home.

    Some people like to be around others and others can work quite happily on their own.

    So pay a lot of attention to the detail just as in Dave’s recommendations.

    Get it right and it can be worth a pot of gold for you. Get it wrong and you’ll have a salesforce wating Dr Phil all day!

    Sean

  2. I think the push to let reps work from home is only going to grow as we look for ways to cut costs. While I agree wtih Sean that motivation is important, having a well-trained sales force is key. Your sales team needs to be busy shoring up your relationships with strategic clients, finding you new customers, and all this while probably doing more with less. Cutting through the clutter and the panic and focusing on common sense strategies that work will be paramount. You should seriously look at the services provided by companies like Miller Heiman, sales consultants and trainers that have a proven track record, who focus on results and give management the tools necessary to track and understand what the sales team is or isn’t achieving.

  3. These are good common sense suggestions, and I think most sales groups need to apply them to at least part of their sales force when you think about regional reps — whether they work at home or in a small office, they are working remotely.

    Dear to my heart is having the ‘right sales performance measurement system in place’. There are managers who feel better if they see you every day, but if you can show results, it goes a long way to relieving their anxiety.

    On the other end, having various means of staying visible and connected are also helpful.

  4. Great article and I agree with Jim that the push will intensify from sales people to work from home. Also, Dave’s point about not letting someone do it unless they have been successful at it before is spot on.

    A couple of other things to bear in mind if your sales people are asking for this:

    1. Situational Leadership focuses on managing and growing people by task. When you get this question from a sales person, look hard at what are their strengths and weaknesss by task. Do they work relationships well through multiple touches (email, phone, executive assistants, etc)? Do they qualify opportunities extremely well and work only on quality business? What is their work ethic (in early, out late)? Just because they have been successful in the past doesn’t mean that they can achieve the same results working from home. Looking at the key pieces of your sales process and how a rep performs will give you a pretty good idea of how much leadership and management they need, which is harder to do remotely.

    2. How much infrastructure do they typically need to be effective? Are they a “make it happen” type who will find the resource that they need even if it takes knocking a wall down? If not, they probably need the office environment.

    Enjoyed the post!

    David Stargel
    VP Sales
    The Complex Sale

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sarah

    http://www.craigslisttool.info

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