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Salespeople Working Remotely: Yes or No?

By Jenny Poore | Small Business

Salespeople Working Remotely: Yes or No? image iStock 000002364897 ExtraSmalliStock_000002364897_ExtraSmall

The Two Sides of the “Remote Working” Debate:

With Yahoo’s decision to require all employees that were previously free to work from home or on a flexible schedule to be in the office between the hours of 9 AM to 5 PM, you have surely seen the reaction across all platforms. (If you haven’t, we may be convinced that you live under a rock.) Everyone has an opinion on the subject. And it’s not surprising.

The nature of work and how we go about getting that work done is changing for many (some people suggest likely the majority). A few years ago, we were all talking about the possibility of a 4-Hour Workweek and why/how we could be more productive while working fewer hours. We all want to know how to get the most work done in the shortest amount of time. And that debate likely won’t go away any time soon.

Now, it seems we’re slowly moving to the other side of the “workplace efficiency spectrum”. We want to be productive but we also have different thoughts about where, when, and how we become productive. (Hint: the answers to these kinds of questions are different for everybody.) More and more people are finding it easier to convince management that an occasional day spent working at home or other remote location is actually good for us in terms of productivity, mostly because we’re “free” from coworker distractions and have the time to think on our own.

Ok, so these questions are floating around out there.

But what does that mean for salespeople? Is this debate even happening in the sales world?

In the interest of getting the opinion of the “masses”, we reached out to several sales managers that told us about their company’s own policy on either allowing or restricting salespeople from working remotely.

So, should salespeople be “allowed” to work remotely or on a flexible schedule?

The sales managers we talked to provide their feedback directly.

For a team that travels often, working remotely is beneficial according to Orna Albus of Amex:

“Almost all of our sales team is virtual. It makes no sense to centralize them. This provides them with the work life balance they need to travel when they have to.”

Happy salespeople mean productive salespeople, says Chris Snell of Care.com:

“The way that I see it is this: I’m leading a team of sales professionals, of adults. I’ve no interest in babysitting (though if you need one you can find an awesome one at Care.com. End plug) people, and I expect that my team gets what they need to get done whether they’re in the office or they are at home. I will say this, the sales reps on my team who kill their numbers each and every month get way more leeway with me than those that don’t.

Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure that my team hits their numbers. I’m going to have a better chance at doing that if I keep my reps happy (a happy rep is a better producing rep), and if working from home several times a month makes them happier about their work/life balance, then that is okay by me.”

Jim Kreller of BrightTag does not allow his inside sales team to work remotely:

However, field sales reps have the option of choosing when they start and end their day, as well as working from a coworking space such as 1871 if they so choose. His own personal experience has encouraged him to require his current sales team to use the office as their primary workspace:

“Part of my move to BrightTag included me personally taking up residence “in the office” after years of working remotely, in large part because I felt that in my 2 previous roles, despite a great deal of success, I began to hit a “ceiling” – and that that ceiling was in part because I was not walking the halls at HQ and participating in important ad-hoc conversations that were taking place, preventing useful “buy-in” that was required to push my initiatives.”

Bill Meidell of RIVS places an emphasis on work accomplished as opposed to the time spent accomplishing it:

“I’ve always been in favor of flexible schedules for sales people since sales is more aboutwhat you get done than when you do it. As long as someone is performing and has a positive attitude while they are at the office, I think it is great if they want to work a schedule that allows them to coach their kid’s little league team or whatever else brings them a better quality of life. When I worked for a larger company I also had sales people who worked from home but right now I’m leading a startup where learning and collaboration is key; so I do require that our team is either in the office or with a client.”

As a business growth consultant, Kelly Schwedland, thinks that the decision depends upon the company’s connectedness to its customers, the sales model, and how sales results are measured.

“In the end, sales is still the easiest “job” in the company to measure a result. And that makes it the easiest to allow people the flexibility. When the results aren’t there, employees are usually brought back in the building. Certainly this is the case with Yahoo, where they don’t know what the right thing to be doing is, so how can you have a bunch of folks of doing things at home, when no one knows what “IT” is?”

Chuck Adams at TE Connectivity also believes a happy employee is a productive employee.

“I have been using this approach for the last 12 years in allowing them to work from home office. We find a happy employee is a productive employee! We give them all the tools they need to be successful regardless of office location and then set clear expectations on performance.”

Getting out of the building to talk to customers is important to Scott Mandel of Snapclass:

A very important part of the sales process is getting out of the building and talking to your customers. I would absolutely let salespeople work remotely, contingent upon that fact that I believed that person could thrive in an unstructured work environment and I believed the distance would not affect that person’s ability to remain part of the team.”

Aaron Veldheer of Intersport says they are open to the arrangement on a case-by-case basis:

One team member works from home two days a week. “We know she is very disciplined, very focused. So the major concerns – mostly regarding distractions that would not arise in the office – are not so major in this situation.”

“We also have a team member who moved out of state and works from home year round. In that case, the bigger concern is communication, accountability and even diminished camaraderie. This team member is experienced, both as a seller and as a member of our team. He is able to maintain open communication because of the relationships he has built for eight years. Accountability is a two-way dialogue- I have to take the responsibility for maintaining consistency in the process.”

The shortest, least satisfying answer to this gigantic question?: “It depends”.

Different companies in varying industries will undoubtedly always have separate opinions on this subject. In fact, we work with companies that have completely different policies. They find what works for them. It might be my own bias, but the consensus seems to be that remote working options are available most often when sales targets are met on a consistent basis.

When I started thinking about this, visions of a loud, sweaty, bustling boiler room came to mind. Salespeople pounding the phones like it’s their job (because it is) from 8 AM to 6 PM just hoping to get on the phone with that decision maker and make the big sale. Many would argue that this is the only way that salespeople can be productive. Others would suggest that sales has changed and influence is exhibited in other, more human ways (Dan Pink would especially agree with this.)

Either way, sales managers will need to assess their company’s own situation and decide for themselves whether or not to allow salespeople to work from home, a coffee shop, or a boat in the Caribbean somewhere.

We’re still curious! Do you allow your salespeople to work remotely? What advantages or disadvantages do you think this option presents in terms of productivity? Do you think this will change in the future?

Comment below or let us know what you think on Twitter!

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