Suddenly, Your Entire Sales Team Is Working Remotely. Don’t Panic — You’ve Got This

Suddenly, Your Entire Sales Team Is Working Remotely. Don’t Panic — You’ve Got This

March 23, 2020

Working remotely has been a part of Mavenlink’s company culture from the start.

I know that’s not the case for many businesses that have, with little notice or preparation, been forced to transition their entire workforce to remote work due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Jeramee Waldum 1
Guest Writer: Jeramee Waldum, VP of Global Sales at Mavenlink

No doubt, many sales leaders are feeling unmoored, and even a bit alone, as they are faced with guiding a remote sales team and managing a sales pipeline in this challenging environment.

Realizing this, I thought I would share Mavenlink’s remote work story. My hope is that it will help sales leaders know they aren’t alone and, hopefully, think, “OK. I’ve got this.”

Mavenlink was founded in 2008, during another major crisis: the Great Recession. Two of our founders, CEO Ray Grainger and Chief Growth Officer Sean Crafts, were based in Orange County, California. Our third founder, Chief Technology Officer Roger Neel, was in San Francisco, building Mavenlink’s engineering team.

So, you could say that Mavenlink had to master “virtual” capabilities from the start. Today, we have a growing team of over 60 sales reps across seven offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines, so having that virtual presence continues to be critical for our business.

When Mavenlink started, it was also a time when many organizations were becoming increasingly global. Our leadership team sensed that once the Great Recession eased, there would be an explosion of remote work.

This shift would lead to a greater need for a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution to help connect workforces efficiently and support effective collaboration and communication.

There has been steady growth in remote work since then, including more people working from home. And we’ve seen exponential growth of virtual teams.

In the current climate, working remotely is practically the only model for many sales teams around the world.

A large percentage of Mavenlink’s sales organization worked remotely before the pandemic. Those who traveled a lot for business did so by default, but they were also encouraged to do so.

The company viewed their “working from wherever” — on an airplane, in a hotel room, in their vacation home, or simply at home — as doing their job, staying productive, and helping the company meet its goals.

We were fortunate that we could make the call early to move the entire team to remote work. We already had the groundwork in place, so we haven’t missed a beat in terms of productivity.

How often team members worked off-site depended on their role.

  • Account Executives spent about 25% of their time working from home or remotely.
  • Solution Consultants engaged in remote work about 50% of the time.
  • Advisory Services Experts — experienced industry subject-matter experts who are very client-facing and help with business process planning and such — were working remotely about 80% of the time.

In those early days at Mavenlink, the only members of our sales organization who didn’t work remotely were our teams of Business Development Representatives (BDRs) and Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).

We found that most of these team members, who tended to be younger, early-career talent, weren’t really set up to work from home because they were in shared living arrangements. It’s hard to maintain a professional appearance during a video call when your roommate walks by while eating a bowl of cereal.

The experience of having at least part of Mavenlink’s sales team — and leadership — getting comfortable with working remotely gave us a solid platform for what we are experiencing now.

We were fortunate that we could make the call early to move the entire team to remote work. We already had the groundwork in place, so we haven’t missed a beat in terms of productivity. And now, we have a documented Work From Home policy that clearly lays out expectations, goals, and so on, because we realize we may be working this way for a while.

Mavenlink’s early embrace of remote work has provided some important lessons that are helping us to manage through this “new normal.”

Here are a few tips that other remote sales teams and their leaders might find useful: #

1. Stick to a morning routine #

The first tip applies to managers and employees alike: To the best of your ability while working remotely, start your day as you would if you were going to the office. Maybe you aren’t driving the kids to school, picking up a coffee somewhere, or catching the train, but you can still follow some of your regular start-the-day processes that get you in the right mindset for work.

I always start my work days like this: After I wake up, I spend about 10 minutes catching up with the news while I brew coffee. Then, I do a quick workout, shower, and get ready for work, whether I’m going to work at home or in one of our seven offices. This routine helps me establish a sense of stability, no matter where I am, and make the mental transition into work mode.

Based on my experience managing a remote sales team, I can tell you it doesn’t hurt to give newly remote workers a little guidance on how to conduct a video call effectively.

2. Maintain professional standards (and turn your camera on!) #

Another tip for running a successful remote sales team is to maintain professional standards. Present as if you’re standing in front of the client — because you are! That includes dressing professionally. We mandate that everyone wears a nice shirt on video calls — no sweats.

I also recommend that remote employees use video on every call — and encourage them to use green screens and virtual backgrounds. Not surprisingly, there is sometimes pushback from those who think their home workspace is too messy or worry about their pets doing embarrassing things.

But I would say the “shelter in place” and quarantine requirements dictated by the pandemic have negated many of those arguments for keeping video turned off.

Based on my experience managing a remote sales team, I can tell you it doesn’t hurt to give newly remote workers a little guidance on how to conduct a video call effectively.

For example: At a recent roundtable with our teams, we had everyone turn their cameras on, and then our head of IT made notes about what each person needed to do to up their game — align the camera at eye level, close the blinds, get a new headset, or even putting some art on the wall.

This process was very helpful and inspired a lot of confidence in our BDRs.

3. Conduct stand-up meetings #

Team stand-ups (and stand-downs) help our sales managers and remote team members stay connected. It’s a quick and easy way to set goals and expectations, which provide a framework that our remote workers can use to structure their day. But, be mindful not to micromanage.

If your team is distributed across time zones, you might need to schedule stand-ups at different times. My teams are in London, Boston, Melbourne and Irvine. I’ve aligned my London and Boston teams closely because they work well from a time zone standpoint. I connect with these teams in the morning.

In the afternoon, I meet with the Melbourne team, which is a smaller group. I keep that team well-aligned with the Irvine team. As a result, there’s very tight collaboration between those two teams, and they communicate frequently.

Chorus is making our sales team much more efficient at a time when you might assume efficiency would suffer. 

4. Use your tech stack #

I think the most important lesson I can share with sales leaders who are suddenly faced with managing a remote sales team is to fully utilize your tech stack. This is where the Chorus.ai conversation intelligence platform comes into play for our team at Mavenlink.

I admit that a year ago, I didn’t know what Chorus was. Today, it is arguably the single-most important piece of technology we have in our tech stack, which also includes Slack, Zoom, and SalesLoft.

Chorus has been particularly helpful to me in managing a remote sales team because of the thorough pre-call prep and post-call follow-up it allows me to do.

Before we all started working remotely, team members would just “swing by the desk” to have discussions. Now, we have to calendar those discussions. And we are able to ensure those conversations are productive by sending call snippets beforehand for everyone to digest.

Chorus is making our sales team much more efficient at a time when you might assume efficiency would suffer.

We have a strong onboarding program and learning management system, but the ability to build playlists in Chorus has enabled us to take our onboarding for new reps to the next level.

5. Keep up with sales coaching #

Chorus is also important to our culture of coaching at Mavenlink. Nobody’s perfect — we all can do things better. So, we encourage everyone in our organization to mentor and coach each other, regardless of their job title. I am coaching sales managers, for example, and they are coaching me.

Even now, when everyone is working remotely, Chorus remains a vital tool for sales coaching, and I encourage my teams to keep listening to calls and learning from their peers. That’s easy for our sales managers who already “live” in Chorus — especially around renewals, when it’s time to bring the customer success management team on board.

We’ve been hiring aggressively at Mavenlink, so we’ve had quite a bit of ramp recently. We’ve never had to ramp a remote workforce.

We have a strong onboarding program and learning management system, but the ability to build playlists in Chorus has enabled us to take our onboarding for new reps to the next level.

For instance, we just created a playlist specific to COVID-19. Both the sales team and management use it to understand what’s going on in the market. We’re also leveraging Chorus to capture valuable data and develop key business and market insights through live customer feedback.

In many cases, we are learning best practices in these calls with our customers that our own company can use to navigate the current situation more successfully (and of course, help our customers to do the same).

Final tip: Nurture the human side of work #

My last piece of advice for sales managers who now, unexpectedly, have a fully remote workforce to lead, is to hold the team together by keeping up with some of the fun things you might normally do as a group at the office. You just need to do them virtually now.

You might hold a virtual happy hour, for example. Designate a moderator for this, because it can get crazy with so many folks on video — but definitely have fun with it.

Ask everybody an icebreaker question to kick off the event. My favorite is, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened on camera this week?” Then, go round the room so that everyone can share their stories.

Through these virtual gatherings, your team will get a glimpse into each other’s homes, maybe see each other’s pets and family members, and most importantly, remember that we are all in this situation together.

Do I think all sales teams that have had to “go remote” out of necessity will keep working remotely after this crisis? No. But I do think many organizations will be less resistant to remote work in the future, and there will be many sales pros who will want to keep working remotely, to the extent their jobs (and employers) will allow them to do so.

Still, I believe you’ll find that many people will want to work in an office, at least some of the time. Because no matter how hard you try, true human interaction cannot be replicated virtually.

Jeramee Waldum 1

Jeramee Waldum is Vice President of Global Sales at Mavenlink. He’s been with the company since 2013, and (normally) works at the company’s office in Irvine. Mavenlink’s SaaS platform supports resource management, projects, financials, collaboration, and business intelligence in a single unified environment, helping teams to connect, collaborate, execute, and thrive.