The concept of telecommuting has caught on in many workplaces as a way to cut costs while allowing employees the flexibility to choose their working environment. For salespeople, who are hardly in the office to begin with, this can be an ideal arrangement, allowing them to achieve the required targets at their own pace.
In some instances, salespeople spend most of their time on the road, only visiting the office to submit reports or to attend meetings. Instead, the days are spent visiting prospective customers and maintaining existing customer accounts. The most successful salespeople are usually high achievers, goal oriented and extroverted with a flair for eloquent speech. It is for this reason that some companies prefer that their sales staff work from home since their personalities tend to support the ability to maintain productivity without direct supervision.
Flexibility may increase productivity
The final decision to allow salespeople to work from home depends on a number of factors. Chief of these factors is the view that allowing salespeople this kind of flexibility leads to higher levels of productivity. If given adequate resources and support, employees are happier and therefore produce better results regardless of whether they work from the home or office.
“The way that I see it is this: I’m leading a team of sales professionals, of adults. I’ve no interest in babysitting people, and I expect that my team gets what they need to get done whether they’re in the office or they are at home,” says Chris Snell of Care.com.
“Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure that my team hits their numbers. I’m going to have a better chance at doing that if I keep my reps happy (a happy rep is a better producing rep), and if working from home several times a month makes them happier about their work/life balance, then that is okay by me.”
There is also an argument that working at home will free the employee from common distractions in the office and help them to achieve their targets faster. Considering the role salespeople play in revenue creation, many companies are easily convinced that any measure that increases employee productivity in the form of sales figures is worth a try. However, for the arrangement to be successful, there needs to be clear communication about performance expectations and reporting requirements.
It’s not for everyone
On the other hand, working from home can cause the salesperson to feel isolated from the company culture and their coworkers. Being constantly away from the office can also mean missing out on the chance to participate in team activities, and remote staff may be less exposed than their office colleagues to opportunities to grow and develop. This can cause them to feel that their contributions to the revenue stream are undervalued and underappreciated.
Sales staff who feel distant from the company culture may become disengaged which can affect their performance, resulting in diminishing sales and lower revenue. Conversely, sales people can become even more motivated to meet their targets when the company takes steps to engage them in the culture. Employees with a clear view of how their work connects to the overriding goal of the company are better able to sell this to prospective clients and differentiate the business from competitors.
The company will also have to consider what levels of support will be provided to employees who work from home. Salespeople are expected to be self-sufficient, but they still require various forms of support, such as someone to follow up on emails, take messages or help them collect and file data. These are matters which should be discussed with both the sales employees and support staff to ensure that the arrangement works efficiently.
Of course the company should also find ways to ensure that remote employees feel included in key activities in the office, and are given the opportunity to play a role in decisions that affect them. They should be able to feel the culture and organizational presence. Some even suggest that companies that display an inclusive business culture may outperform those without one.
If the company decides to allow salespeople to work from home, the following should be considered:
- What tools and resources will the employee need to perform efficiently?
- How much support will be required from office-based employees?
- Is the employee able to work independently and maintain high-performance levels?
- Are there clear performance targets and reporting requirements?
- What programs are in place to ensure an inclusive culture for remote employees?
How to make it work
Undoubtedly, the character and track record of the sales person will likely be the biggest deciding factor for whether he/she is allowed to work from home. Is he/she usually dependable, an excellent communicator, and a high performer? Does he/she already work independently and consistently meets sales targets with little or no supervision? Is the salesperson a problem solver and quick thinker who can be trusted to make a judgment call and ask for additional support?
The bottom line is that different companies will ultimately settle on the most suitable arrangement that will impact revenue. Allowing sales staff to work from home is not suitable for every company. Neither is it suitable for every salesperson, particularly those whose performance is inconsistent. However, working from home, either full or part time, can save costs and, with the right employee, even increase productivity and revenue. The decision should evaluate the character of the employee, performance expectations, and the level of support required from office staff.
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photo credit: Kathy Ponce