Making the decision to allow your salespeople to telecommute is a big one. However, once you have weighed the advantages and disadvantages and have concluded that a happier sales force is a more motivated sales force, you will need to ensure that your team gets up and running quickly.
Keep in mind that a telecommuting sales force does not mean a nonmanaged sales force. They still need support from the main office. Making sure your sales team is well-equipped in their home offices and that they have the tech support they need to work efficiently should be among the first steps you take once you decide telecommuting will work for your team.
Home Sweet Home
When your sales force sets up home offices, they will need to keep a few things in mind. Is their office in a quiet, private space that can be closed off or separated to keep background noise to a minimum? If they use the telephone for sales calls and ferreting out new sales leads, they’ll need an office without distractions. Potential customers do not want to hear dogs barking, a television or radio blaring, or children crying in the background. They want to think they are the total focus of the call, so a professional atmosphere in the office is critical.
Your remote workers should have a good-sized work area so they can spread out sales information, folders, and other tools of the trade. If they spend a lot of time on the phone, a phone with some kind of wireless or Bluetooth headset is a must. It leaves hands free to type or handle documents.
It is important for your staff to learn to keep their home and work lives separate, or their telecommuting tenure could run short. Keeping an office space separate from the rest of the home is one way to make sure they work certain hours and leave the other hours to family, friends, and a normal home life. Some people find that having an office in their home makes them more productive and they spend longer hours working. That is great for the sales numbers but it can take a toll in the long run. Family members may not appreciate the extra hours, and too many long days can create a burned out and ineffective salesperson. So make sure your staff knows to keep work and play separate and that they are equally important.
There are numerous telecommuting software packages that allow your sales staff to connect to your office computer if necessary, while working online at home. Here are just a few to check out:
- AceProject is a Web-based project management tool that tracks employee time. It is available free on a limited basis or on a per-use or licensed basis for full availability.
- LinkUall is a free Web-based program that allows work groups to share files, coordinate calendars, participate in online chats, and more.
- Office.com is an integrated suite of 15 applications that can be accessed from any Internet browser. It allows telecommuters a way to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.
- pcAnywhere allows your staff to log on to a remote computer at the office and work with the files and information on that computer.
The Bottom Line
You’ll be able to see whether your telecommuting sales staff is productive when you analyze whether they are able to meet goals and sales numbers. If you find their sales are slipping after a few months of telecommuting, it might be wise to invest in a time-tracking software package so you can see how they are spending their days. You can help them to manage their time better. But be prepared: Some staff members may not be motivated enough to work on their own and ultimately may perform better in an office environment. If that’s the case, let them know there is a space for them. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. But for those employees who can make it work, it can work to everyone’s advantage.