How to use CRM to manage remote work & keep up the sales pace Sales by MATT KEENER March 19, 2020The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies of all sizes to take quick measures to protect the health of their employees and communities, while trying to minimize impact on business and customer service. For many companies today this means implementing remote work policies. But even when remote work is a viable option, it still comes with its fair share of unique challenges, including accountability and employee morale.How can you keep team members motivated and performing at near-peak efficiency when you’re not in the same office? Leveraging your CRM to its full potential is a good place to start. Based on my years of remote work experience, here are a few tips.Managing remote teamsOne of the most obvious drawbacks to remote work is the physical separation that exists between team members. Human beings are social creatures, and a traditional workspace fulfills at least a portion of our basic human desire for community. Community fosters organizational alignment, which accelerates creativity, productivity, and, ultimately, success.That’s not to say that remote work cannot be successful. For the better part of a decade, I’ve worked remotely as a freelance marketing consultant. Most of my clients are either fully or partially virtual in nature. And, in my experience, companies that are successful with remote work do so by:Over-communicatingIn a remote work setting, there is no water cooler talk. People don’t stand around in the breakroom, sip their coffee, and trade office gossip. In general, that’s probably a good thing. However, without that time to decompress and build community, staff can quickly feel isolated and left out of important conversations.Effective managers proactively communicate with their remote staff. Weekly one-on-one meetings, daily (or almost daily) standup meetings, and other check-ins are important for people to feel plugged in, valued, and motivated to do their best work.Centralizing work, minimizing system overlapWithout a physical office to go to, remote workers need the next best thing: a centralized hub of business data and project information that is easily accessed from anywhere. Some companies use two separate systems for customer data and project data. Others take an integrated approach by using an all-in-one system, like Insightly, which combines and links project and customer data together in an intuitive Kanban-style format. Either way, staff must feel confident in their virtual workspace, are adequately trained, and have the full support of management.Doing work in a system that management rarely checks will result in burnout and fatigue. Both employees and managers alike should fully buy into their system(s) of record to ensure operational alignment.Agreeing on standard definitionsWhat exactly is a “project”? How does that differ from a “task”? When should a lead be converted to an opportunity (and by whom)? Unless everyone agrees on basic terminology, data is going to be messy. Messy data causes confusion, and confusion leads to subpar productivity—especially when staff are at home with plenty of potential distractions. Spend time defining what each record type means for your organization. Then, implement processes to ensure staff are actually utilizing the system as intended.Catching up on personal news at meetingsSince the advent of the coffee break in the early 20th century, staff have come to expect some level of social interaction with their colleagues. Despite temporary restrictions on in-person gatherings, smart companies find ways to help team members stay up-to-speed with the lives of their coworkers.For example, you might encourage team members to start each meeting by sharing a brief personal or professional highlight. This simple yet effective tactic adds a human element to each conversation, thereby deepening empathy and personalizing an otherwise sterile discussion. Your people want to like each other and feel connected, but in a virtual world this can easily be lost without a proactive approach.Keeping pace with salesYou cannot control your customer’s ability to buy—particularly in seemingly uncertain economic circumstances. That being said, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your sales engine keeps humming (even in a remote setting).Provide everyone (who needs it) with access to your CRMHopefully, your sales team already uses a CRM. But what about the teams that are closely intertwined with sales? For example, your marketing team creates the collateral that supports outbound engagement. Your accounting team makes sure that customers pay their bills on time. Providing necessary stakeholders with CRM access can increase transparency and free up your sales team to focus on hitting their numbers, instead of answering questions and looking for information for staff who do not have access.Just be sure to limit access, where appropriate, by closely managing permissions. Give team members the permissions they need to perform their jobs—no more, no less.Empower sales staff with native integrationsWhen working from home, your sales team can’t walk over to the IT department and ask for support. With so many new challenges to solve (such as providing new laptops and ensuring security in a virtual setting), your IT team is likely to be tied up with more than they usually handle. Therefore, empowering your sales teams with self-service solutions is absolutely essential. Out-of-the-box integration between your email and CRM, for example, is one way to help sales get more done, engage more people, and collect more data, while reducing the workload on your IT team.Create accountability by linking sales and project recordsSales managers can’t physically walk the floor to ensure their reps are making dials and sending emails. A better approach, in a remote setting, integrates project management capabilities into your sales team’s daily work.For example, if you’re using Insightly, you might leverage activity sets to create a repeatable and scalable opportunity follow-up workflow.Elevate conversations with data-driven reportsMeeting just for the sake of meeting is usually a waste of time. Make sales meetings more productive by orienting your conversations around data-driven reports from your CRM. Harness the insights stored in your CRM to track sales team activity, recently converted leads, and pipeline value in just a few clicks. Use this information to coach staff and maximize their productivity.Making the most of remote workNo matter how uncertain times may seem to be, companies who can “go remote” have a viable option for weathering the storm (or, in this case, the virus). Let us be thankful for the opportunity to work remotely, and, in doing so, lay the groundwork for our future successes.If you don’t have a CRM or don’t think your current system meets your remote work needs, request a brief demo with an Insightly rep and get a free needs assessment. Request a demo Customer Data Management | Project management | Remote work | Sales & marketing alignment | Sales process | Sales team MATT KEENERMatt Keener is a digital marketer and President of Keener Marketing Solutions, LLC. In addition to consulting for Insightly and other SaaS clients, Matt enjoys blogging about remote work. Get Matt’s top-rated book or connect with him on LinkedIn.