During the global rollout of iPads at Oracle, I had the luxury of getting to deal with reps from every region and almost every product line. It was quite an eye-opening experience to talk to reps from places in Africa and SE Asia. One thing I learned is that being a remote rep, halfway across the world from headquarters is exceptionally difficult.
Often an afterthought
No one likes to be an afterthought. It can be demoralizing and makes you feel isolated. And the reality is that a sales rep in a faraway region is almost always an afterthought. Headquarters will come down from on high and give you something, often without consulting. Or even really knowing how that will impact selling efforts. Whether this is new product introduction, messaging, or even training, you are stuck taking what they give you.
What is the impact of this? Isolation. Research indicates this feeling of isolation creates distrust in coworkers and management. In turn, this impacts rep performance. Let’s take a look at how being remote relates to news, content, and training.
News you can’t use
One of the key challenges is getting information that is relevant to you. Now, this is a challenge to everyone in a large organization. But if they are far away from headquarters, it is even more difficult. Corporate isn’t thinking about the remote regions when assembling newsletters or promoting webcasts. They include information for sellers that they interact with regularly. And the reality is that information is probably not relevant to the remote sales rep. In turn, reps have to dig and dig to find the information they need. Time looking for content is time not selling. Alternatively, if trust is lower due to this feeling of isolation, reps might not look for news at all. This likely will reduce sales force effectiveness.
How can you address this? This year Seismic introduced NewsCenter. A tool that enables sales reps to select what news matters to them. This enables those remote sales teams to select the news feeds that matter most to them. And it gives them the information they need to be effective at their fingertips.
Content that isn’t relevant
The first blog post in this series discussed localization and the need for localized content. Imagine you are a rep selling something in Indonesia. Do you think the content that fits large services firm in the United States fits a regional services firm in Indonesia? Are the challenges the same? Those reps need the new content delivered to them to help them do it, or content they can personalize to meet their needs.
How can you address this? You can produce content that they need.
The first thing to do is to track what content they do use through your sales enablement tool. Do this by region and product line. Also, reach out to heavy users of content to see if it works for them. And if it doesn’t, how you could improve it. Finally, continually work on building relationships with the regions. So they come to you with suggestions, updates or changes to your content.
At the same time, remote sales reps probably don’t get the training they require. They receive fewer visits from corporate. Much of their training is not delivered by a product expert. Instead, it is delivered through a train-the-trainer model. In addition, if they are using localized content, are they even being trained on that? You should develop training to meet those localized needs. In some cases you will have to work with regional resources to make sure that training is appropriate.
These are just the start of the challenges for remote sales reps. We have not even addressed the issue around time zones, or sales support functions. Those reps are on an island, and it is the sales enablement (and marketing) team’s job to make them successful.