How to manage a virtual team in Sales ?

Teams that are geographically-dispersed or virtual, have now been used and studied for long time – yet we all still wrestle with how to get the virtual team right. We still struggle to meet the expectations of few individual team members or at times, even the whole virtual team ! I have personally surmounted the difficulties of dealing with wide-spread team members located across the states in Western India. Virtual teams consist of reporting juniors from different locations who communicate largely through mobile telephony, emails and meetings organized through audio or video conferences.

As a recruiter, what is the role one should adopt to minimize the lack of performance and optimize efficiency ?

1. It is essential to select the right talent from the available resources. At times, this may mean ‘no recruitment’ at all, if the desired candidate is not identifiable or the identified candidate is not recruit-able ! Many-a-times, the sales recruitment is done solely with the interest to fill up the sales territory as soon as possible. I do not recommend such recruitment which is done without the sufficient knowledge of the industry, the job description and the current market opportunity available to the new recruit to perform well. This criterion is going to be of critical importance especially if the recruit is going to be a part of a virtual team.

2. The next issue will be how do we get the expected results out of a virtual team ? Leadership will play a much greater role while dealing with a virtual team. I have always adopted the principle of ‘Lead by example !’ and it has worked well for me. My personal meetings or the visits did not extend beyond 2 days at any particular branch or location during my sales tours as a regional head in Epson India. These visits were critical since I had to discuss the formulated business plan with the team, ensure implementation of the plan and create demand for the products to be sold in the markets we addressed to. Nothing short of an able leader should be recruited. The selected leader should be well-communicative, a Hands-On performer and should possess the drive, motivation and the interest to pursue business goals aggressively.

3. How do we generate reports that will help spur business growth ? Reports are only mere paper if they are too long and verbose to occupy filing cabinets. The reports I have asked from my teams were only numbers and their self-confidence to beat the competition. I am not particularly impressed by Excel sheets, pie-charts and histograms especially when I do not get the odor of ‘well-attempted’ efforts during my business discussions with my teams. It is more essential to read between the lines and take immediate corrective actions that will aid in executing the business plans on time. As a recruiter, I need a street-smart person who can identify the fallacy in reports generated and who can plug all the loop-holes, if there are any.

4. Lastly, it is essential to bond the team together. Socialize so as to be comprehensive in identifying the strengths in your team members and reach out more than half the way to help them get over their shortcomings. This is a trait that is quite rare to find among the job applicants aiming to be a leader of a sales team. But, in order to lead a virtual team, it is required that the leader is well-inspiring and a far-sighted visionary thinking of common good of the team at all the moments.


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