It is becoming very common for salespeople to seek out jobs that allow them to work remotely. The digital age makes this a real possibility for workers, and many of them are trying to make the most of this new “office-less” era. I personally speak with many candidates who express interest in this path, even going so far as to decline interviews and offers that don’t include a remote work option.
This trend is undeniable, as about a month ago I was in conversation with a candidate, letting him know that his base salary and total pay would increase by over 25%, and he still wasn’t interested in the opportunity.
With this progression towards remote working, it is important to ask the question, “Should salespeople work remotely?”
There is no clear-cut answer to this question, as there are a plethora of pros and cons to consider, as well as variables that may present themselves. Despite the varying nature of this question, let me begin by sharing the pros and cons:
The time spent on commuting can be spent on working additional hours instead. Most candidates that I speak with are burdened with upwards of 5-10 hours of commute time.
Fewer distractions for the salesperson. There are a great number of focused salespeople that I know, yet it becomes difficult to avoid regular workplace conversations with co-workers and elongated lunches while working in the office.
A reduction in managerial distractions. When individuals have worked remotely for me, I’ve noticed that they tend to only contact me when something is truly needed as opposed to regular interruptions that could have been easily solved on their own.
Fewer expenses for the business. It becomes much easier to cut costs with remote employees, as office space and overhead is expensive.
Improved employee satisfaction and general happiness. Most individuals love the freedom associated with remote working. It is also possible to provide the option of coming into the office whenever they would like to.
Reduced opportunities for collaboration. One of my clients expressed concerns about the difficulties associated with the development of company culture when employees aren’t coming into the office
Fewer coaching opportunities. When salespeople aren’t in the office, you can’t hear them on the phone and give feedback.
A decreased understanding of the product. A physical presence in the office often leads to a more robust understanding of the product being sold. It is easier to learn the product when you hear people talking about it and have opportunities to ask questions.
Less control. When an employee is working remotely, it is difficult to truly know if they’re working or not.
So, what’s the conclusion?
In my personal experience, here’s what I’ve observed:
Entry-level salespeople should be in the office every day. These individuals need the most guidance, and there’s simply too much to teach them for them to work remotely. They need to grow their understanding of the culture, be coached on a regular basis, and listen to others on the phone
Mid-level salespeople deserve some flexibility after they learn the product. In my experience, somewhere between 1-2 days work from home days per week is a great place to start. This allows them to increase their freedom a bit, prove their dependency outside of the office, and still continue to grow their skills and understanding in the office.
Senior-level salespeople should be given flexibility after they’ve gone through the training process and learned the product. These individuals have been in the workforce for a meaningful period of time, which means that they often understand their responsibilities. They know that if they don’t hit their numbers that there will be consequences.
EXCEPTION #1: When you are dealing with a highly technical product, it often means that there is more of a need for a physical presence in the office. These products require more time to understand. Less technical products, on the other hand, lend themselves to more flexible options for the salespeople. The learning curve is very short, which leads to more potential for remote salespeople.
The bottom line here is that the most important criteria to use is their sales numbers because numbers don’t lie. If I had a junior salesperson that was 300% of quota and wanted some flexibility to work from home, I would give it to him or her. If I had a senior salesperson, who was on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) and needed additional coaching, I’d tell them that until they could produce results, I need them in the office every day
This topic reminds me of one of my former bosses, who was a Vice President of Sales. He used to say. “As long as you’re exceeding numbers, I don’t care if I ever see you again.” The bottom line is that top performers should have the option to work at least part of the time remotely and those that aren’t exceeding quota, should be required to spend more time in the office.