Hiring the Right (and Maybe Remote) Sales Team in a Pandemic World

Robert McLaws
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Great salespeople are always in demand.

But so much has happened over the past year that has fundamentally changed the nature of organizations, peoples’ attitudes towards work, and how, when, and where teams work together.

Especially in the start-up and scale-up world, you want to make sure that your sales function is:

  • Supported by a detailed and accurate capacity plan.
  • Given the onboarding and ongoing support they need to succeed.
  • Working closely with your marketing professional/team.
  • Continually motivated and rewarded for achieving goals.

Now, add to that mix the complexities of remote and hybrid work teams.

Many People Don’t Want to Return to Offices

When you started your company or decided to scale, you may have invested in all the creature comforts that compel people to want to work with you -- comfortable work stations, top-of-the-line phone systems, ample snacks and comfy chairs.

But a recent study among tech companies indicated that a whopping 64 percent of people would choose a work-from-home or flexible scenario over a $30K raise. Pretty eye-opening, right?

Perhaps that number would be slightly different among salespeople. Social beings, they often thrive on camaraderie, competition, and celebration. Plus, many professionals have discovered throughout the pandemic that having flexible hours and eliminating their commutes allows them to be better parents, spouses, partners, and people -- ultimately resulting in job satisfaction and (one could argue) performance.

Think About the People

As you develop your sales capacity plan, consider the “where” and “when” of your team.

Creating a remote or hybrid model enables you to:

  • Hire the best talent, regardless of location
  • Extend the workday, if you create east/west coast coverage and even global expansion
  • Keep top performers longer because they can enjoy more work/life integration

But building and managing these groups is not without its challenges.

How to Recruit, Retain, and Motivate a Remote Sales Team

First, the good news. You have a virtually unlimited talent base from which to recruit. If you are location-agnostic, you can focus more on industry experience, skills, and fit - regardless of zip code.


Interviewing remote hires requires a different set of skills. You can still screen for professionalism and enthusiasm. The reality is that most sales today happen via phone, e-mail, and video demos, so one might argue that this mode of screening is even more accurate for salespeople. Here are some great tips on how to rock a virtual interview.


Starting a new role is stressful. Companies often plan welcome experiences during which new salespeople get to learn about the culture, meet their co-workers, train and role-play, ask tons of questions, and sometimes eat free meals.

If you’re creating a remote or hybrid team, look to build a similar experience in the online world. You may want to consider a once-a-month or quarterly live onboarding, just so people can meet each other in three dimensions.

Consider investing in membership in global or local co-working space, so that remote employees have a place to go nearby when they want to work in a more professional environment close to home.


When people work from home, they may adjust their schedules based on family or other commitments.

Without prying into salespeople’s personal lives, get an understanding of when each team member will be “on duty” and respect boundaries whenever possible.

Above all, build that timing into your capacity plan, to ensure you’re not over-extending or under-utilizing your top sales talent.

Communicating and Celebrating

These are huge aspects of any successful sales culture. Create a schedule and agenda for ongoing meetings with the team and be sure to include marketing and other related functions in the discussions.

As we’ve tackled in other articles, the sales funnel is only effective if marketing and sales are in lockstep.

Agree as a team what tools you’ll be using (beyond BurnRate, of course) for interaction, KPI review, and chatting. An organization can have too many channels and important communications may be missed.

When people work remotely, leaders have even more of an obligation to keep the channels of communication and discussion flowing. You may not always have the benefit of body language, so be tuned-in to the “mood of the room” and check-in frequently with top performers.

What would a successful sales organization be without a big celebration when you hit (or exceed) forecasts? Don’t forget the importance of positive reinforcement beyond the bonus. Shout-out top performers during your video chats. Send targeted gifts to their homes. If a salesperson likes to travel, reward them with a trip to a conference in a fun location. (Yes...events are starting-up again and, as you know, can be a great place to prospect and build relationships.)

Systems + Humans = Success

We built BurnRate as an integrated and accurate way to forecast and track sales capacity and performance, beyond the spreadsheet.

But that system only works if you are 100 percent in tune with the flesh-and-blood people who are working the phones, LinkedIn, and e-mails.

Taking into account training time, work hours, vacations, and time zone nuances as you plan will enable you to forecast results more accurately. And, when your forecasts are realistic and achievable, your team ultimately feels more positive about your company and your board and investors remain happy.

Most sales organizations still rely heavily on Excel to do their capacity planning. That may be the favorite tool for CFOs, but it simply doesn’t address the complexities of building the right team. For example:

  • When to hire them
  • How the time required for onboarding and training will affect sales results
  • Accommodating factors like vacation schedules, flexible work hours, and other human elements of staffing
  • Streamlining and speeding-up the re-forecasting process when sales goals aren’t met (or exceeded)
  • Developing staffing plans that directly relate to your marketing funnel, ensuring every lead is captured and cultivated
  • Sharing capacity plans and results with other groups within your organization -- as well as with Board members and investors

In addition, Excel often “rounds up” results, which translates into inaccurate forecasts. You want your sales team to be focused on delivering results, not on sweating over spreadsheets.

As we all get back to the “new normal,” think seriously about how salespeople’s work styles and locations will have an impact on your organization.

Equally important, get the right tools to plan, manage and report results. And you’ll attract and retain the best sales talent.

Let us show you why BurnRate is a better solution for YOUR business. Try it today.

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