As a sales team manager, you’ll inevitably encounter virtual team challenges when managing remote employees.
These challenges can result in low motivation, lost sales, misinformation, customer dissatisfaction, accountability issues, and poor team relationships.
Virtual teams that succeed realize increased productivity, flexibility, and retention rate and dodge employee burnout.
Considering many sales teams are virtual at least some of the time, having an effective method of leading and managing a virtual team is vital to long-term success.
5 Challenges of a Virtual Team (With Solutions)
The flex workforce enables employers to hire the best talent into their team without traditional geographical boundaries.
What challenges do virtual teams face versus in-person teams?
Among several obstacles, virtual team communication challenges are the most prevalent.
Sometimes remote workers feel disconnected and face too many distractions at home.
This article will examine five virtual team challenges and leadership strategies for building a successful virtual sales team or any high-performing virtual team.
1. Poor Communication
One of the biggest challenges in managing virtual teams is communication. It is often the sole reason for a virtual team’s failure or success.
Related problems with virtual teams including availability, trust, work culture, and low morale can all result from poor communication.
The most effective communication for any sales team is that which is timely and direct.
In a virtual environment, however, there are often nonverbal cues that are missing from communication. Let’s look at how to overcome these shortfalls.
How to Improve Virtual Team Communication
In a virtual sales team structure, providing several methods of exchanging information is key to better communication.
First, identify and outline clear standards or guidelines for how the team should communicate.
For example, when should they send a message versus pickup the phone? When is sending a follow-up email important?
Next, consider the medium of communication most suitable for your sales team. It’s likely to include calls, chats, meetings, and group messaging.
Evaluate the effectiveness of software and tools that you use to facilitate exchanges among team members.
There are many tools to choose from for nearly every type of virtual interaction, for example:
- Zoom and Skype for video conferencing
- Figma and Invision for visual collaboration
- Trello and Asana for fluid project management
- Horizon Workrooms from Meta for virtual reality meetings.
Additionally, every team member should have set “office hours” where they are online and available for communication and collaboration with others.
2. Resource Management
Are you tasked with running a crucial project as a virtual sales team leader?
Addressing resource management is a key method to ensuring strong collaboration amongst the team.
Challenges in resource management result when you can’t track and monitor teams working on different areas of a project.
Team members may then misinterpret information which can lead to a wide variety of performance issues or even missed commitments to prospects or customers.
How to Manage Virtual Team Projects & Tasks
Managing workflows is often a challenge when managing a virtual sales team.
These tools allow you to assign individuals, and teams and to set clear priorities. They also enable team members to have self-serve access to their entire team’s task list.
Some examples of how to apply these project management tools include status updates, monitoring team progress, tracking hours, and assessing the quality of effort and inputs.
If you are transitioning into a virtual sales team manager role, test drive a variety of tools to decide which works best for you.
3. Time Differences
Building and managing a team that is spread out geographically is a benefit for virtual sales teams.
Unfortunately this benefit can be outweighed by other variables if not managed correctly.
Slow or delayed response times, late information and even language barriers can all diminish the value and performance of a virtual sales team.
How to Address Availability & Scheduling Challenges of Virtual Teams
As a virtual sales team leader, you’ll need to create standard working hours for different time zones on your team calendar.
Virtual meetings should be scheduled with varying zones of time and communicated accordingly.
Strive to create an environment where your team members feel free to express any time zone-related issues that arise.
Additionally, you’ll need to lead by example, encouraging your virtual team to consistently communicate any challenges resulting from time zone issues.
The project management tools referenced earlier can often address time zone differences. They seamlessly facilitate virtual task scheduling, allowing teammates to display their availability on their profiles, making it easier to send instant messages and schedule meetings when team members are online and available.
Addressing and resolving time zone differences will give the entire team a clear idea of availability for their colleagues and the ideal times to communicate with their peers.
4. Lack of Productivity & Focus
Virtual team members often lose focus during the day simply because of the different distractions in their work environment.
As a virtual sales team manager, you must understand what this means for your team members and set realistic expectations for them.
How to Increase Virtual Team Productivity
Some examples of methods to increase your virtual sales teams productivity include the following:
- Holding a regularly scheduled check-in to keep your team accountable and create room for resolving any productivity issues they face.
- Regularly meet with your team to take note of active working hours and to ensure some team members are not working extra hours successively.
- You should also be ready to provide or recommend specific office supplies and resources that can improve focus. For example, encourage your team to create ideal remote workspaces where they can work independently, free from distractions during work hours.
- Share best practices for working remotely using tools such as using noise-canceling headphones and timers, and managing their time effectively.
5. Absence of Office Culture
Cultivating an engaging office culture in a virtual work environment can be challenging.
The lack of a physical office where team members can interact, have lunch together, and engage in bonding activities.
Also, the rituals, attitudes, behaviors, and processes that help form a great office culture are challenged in a virtual team environment.
When your virtual team lacks an apparent office culture, it restrains communication and collaboration and prevents team relationships from flourishing. How do you address this virtual team challenge as a team leader?
Luckily with technology and some recommended routines, you can address most of these shortcomings by building virtual sales team relationships.
How to Build Virtual Team Relationships
Make meetings exciting!
Formal meetings are boring, but with some planning, you can counteract the challenges of virtual meetings to make them more engaging and interactive.
Start discussions with an icebreaker session and end them with team trivia games to help stimulate social connections.
Use chat and conferencing software to build engaging and collaborative virtual environments where team members feel relaxed and eager to communicate with each other—for example, tools like Monday or Slack for team collaboration and Quiz Breaker for team trivia.
Prioritize virtual events. Host virtual parties where your team members can relax, discuss familiar topics, and share interests. Have an in-person meeting/get-together at least once a year to further strengthen relationships.
When you make a routine out of some of these virtual events, games, and custom meetings, the experience builds a strong foundation for virtual office culture.
Soon your team members will intuitively know how to approach situations culturally.
What’s Your Virtual Team Management Game Plan?
Many virtual team challenges result from poor communication, lack of effective tools, time zone differences, the absence of office culture, and a lack of focus.
The first step toward success is to identify the challenges that hold back your virtual sales team and devise a game plan to implement the solutions in tandem with your virtual team structure.
Follow the solutions provided in this article, you will start to enjoy the benefits of working with your virtual team.
© Shawn Casemore 2022. All Rights Reserved.