Activating Your Virtual Sales Force: Inspire, Educate and Connect Your Sellers Remotely

Doug Bushée and Shayne Jackson

Last March, sales leaders had to quickly shift from enabling in-person sellers to enabling virtual sellers. This shift to virtual selling required new technology, new skills and new ways of selling.

Now, as we dive deeper into a new year, sales leaders are tackling another issue. Since we can’t bring our sellers together, how do we continue to inspire, connect and educate them in a purely virtual world? Many sales organizations have pivoted to virtual events rather than simply canceling major sales events. Sales leaders looking for a rapid start in 2021 should design and deliver virtual events that inspire, inform and connect their sellers, and set the stage for effective virtual support throughout the year.

Virtually Inspire

One priority of sales enablement strategies this year should be to inspire sellers to feel excited about working for the company and to be energized by the opportunities ahead of them. Leaders should recognize that many sellers are currently suffering from digital fatigue, as change is frequent, and uncertainty is high. But even in this environment, there are ways to virtually inspire sellers and motivate them to get off to a fast start.

Now that most sellers are virtual, sales leaders should consider incorporating some of the following activities into their 2021 plans:

  • Host engaging, inspirational speakers at all-hands meetings or virtual kickoffs.
  • Mail packages to sellers with inspiring messages and gifts. 
  • Show prerecorded videos during virtual sales meetings highlighting top performers and organizational successes.
  • Hold virtual lunch and learns designed to tell stories – potentially supported by creative talent from the film industry.

The biggest mistake sales leaders can make in this environment is to lift content and replicate events that worked in-person and simply shift them online. To truly inspire remote sellers, sales leaders must ask, “What can I now do virtually that I never considered doing in person?”

Virtually Inform

In addition to inspiring sellers, another key to activating sellers and facilitating a rapid start is informing and educating them on key strategic initiatives important to the organization's success. Given the amount of change organizations experience, the beginning of the fiscal year provides an opportunity to align corporate messages, introduce new products and services, and develop new competencies to help sellers succeed in the coming year. But in a virtual selling world, training, collaboration and engagement are more challenging.

As sellers come together for virtual sessions, sales leaders should limit each session to no more than 90 minutes. Each topic within the session should be no more than 20 minutes, and speakers should engage the audience every four minutes. These guidelines will help keep the sessions moving and sellers engaged. Sales leaders that are finding success training sellers virtually plan a variety of activities to improve learning retention, such as:

  • Providing a mission document that sellers complete as they attend sessions. This document keeps track of actions the seller should complete after the virtual event concludes and across the balance of the year
  • Assigning pre-work before the virtual training. By completing knowledge-based learning before the virtual training event, online facilitators can engage sellers more meaningfully during the event.
  • Creating learning campaigns based on sales personas. These campaigns could target virtual sellers, inside sellers, SDRs, or sales manager tracks, and cover messaging and competencies relevant to each persona.
  • Sending short, targeted learnings to the sellers periodically following the virtual event to reinforce the learning content.

Virtually Connect

The beginning of the year is a critical time to bring people together and strengthen the connections within and among the sales force. Some sellers may be new to the organization and many sellers will be in new roles. Connecting people digitally is easier now than it was only a few short years ago, but many sellers will still need help navigating the digital environment.

Consider setting up an internal, social channel by business unit to create excitement about first-quarter activity, sales competitions, new programs, or tools that can virtually connect those who feel disconnected. Also, sales leaders should encourage sales managers to create team chats as a back-channel during all-hands calls. These back channels help bring teams together and allow for easy questions and answers on new topics.

Connections created at the beginning of the year will help sellers get off to a fast start and improve sales performance. Sales leaders and managers should make efforts to revive these groups and back channels at major milestones (such as quarter close) across the year.

Drive Results

Using some, or all, of the suggestions above, sales leaders can use the first quarter to inspire sellers to get off to a fast start, align sellers on critical initiatives and develop competencies sellers need to be successful. The time and effort invested in these virtual events will keep the team energized and connected through what is shaping up to be another challenging year while emphasizing opportunity and activating the team’s full potential.

Doug Bushée and Shayne Jackson are senior director analysts at Gartner.

Sales & Marketing Management is the leading authority for executives in the sales and marketing field.

Sales & Marketing Management is owned by Mach1 Business Media, LLC Minneapolis, MN.

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