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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