The ins and outs of managing remote sales teams with upCurve Cloud’s Joey Maller

Collin Stewart, CEO

17 October 2018

In the rapidly growing world of B2B technology, the ever-evolving suite of tools available to companies has benefitted organizations (of all sizes) in myriad ways. Increased sales, better customer service, more responsive and intuitive products – technology has truly reshaped, and continues to reshape, business.

In addition to helping companies increase their bottom line, technology has also allowed for a fundamental shift in corporate culture. For instance, we are now able to glean more nuanced (and anonymous) feedback from employees, seamlessly collaborate on projects, and have remote team members remain lockstep with the company, regardless of where they’re based.

At the risk of choosing favorites, it’s the latter example that really represents a seismic shift from a traditional corporate structure. In years past, it would be nearly impossible to have team members based around the country, continent, or globe and be able to foster any kind of company culture, let alone have everyone collaborating and producing efficiently.

Yet, here we are: companies now routinely have their most important resource, their people, routinely working remotely. In fact, some companies have opted for an entirely remote workforce.

And they love it.

“If you take a step back and look at where we are with technology and communication – there are few, if any barriers left to remote work being problematic,” says Joey Maller, Google Cloud Sales Manager at UpCurve Cloud, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“If you give people the right tools to people to work from home, they are actually more productive.”

Finding the right candidates…and using the right tools

For the team at UpCurve Cloud, their march towards building a completely remote sales team started when they began interviewing highly-qualified candidates across the United States. The company was growing, and hiring the right people, they thought, meant more to the company than where those people were based (in addition to the money they thought they could save on office space).

They just needed the provide the right infrastructure.

“They were just the right candidates, and we wanted to work with them. We realized in the process that it could also be cost-effective. We just needed to provide the right tools,” says Maller.

“Finding the right talent was the foundation, but, as I said, we quickly realized we had to equip people with the right tools to make this work.”

Some of those tools, says Maller, are: requiring cameras to be turned on for all team meetings, internal chat tools (Google chat / hangouts, and Slack), and a suite productivity tracking apps that provide visibility into their reps’ day-to-day.

“It’s been said a lot, but the right pieces of technology are the key to staying in communication, in real time,” says Maller.

“Whether you’re on the road – wherever you are, at any point – we can send an important note.”

Staying in touch

In addition to the implementing the right apps and tools, it’s also critical to implement a regular cadence of meetings to keep the team aligned, adds Maller. At UpCurve Cloud, that means three sales team meetings per week – one focused on strategy, one focused on product (which includes marketing), and a one-on-one with each rep individually.

With each of the meetings focused on a different topic, the company ensures that no issue falls through cracks, while providing space for a team-wide chat, an update on new tools, and a granular look at everyone’s pipeline.

For the all-important feedback and coaching element of sales leadership, says Maller, he likes to provide that during each rep’s weekly one-on-ones.

“Coaching really relies on trust. Technology allows me to listen, and provide coaching on calls and emails, and I make sure feedback and coaching are being used in these one-on-ones. That helps build that trust,” says Maller.

“We also focus a lot on discovery notes. We expect that each rep makes detailed discover notes for each opportunity, and I review those notes. Those notes are very useful because we use them as the foundation for how to navigate new opportunities that come up. For instance, if an opportunity from the past can help a current opportunity, we will use those notes to help us.”

Keeping it fun

With a team spread across the entire United States, building in a culture of fun can be a challenge. Anyone who has ever been on a sales floor knows how dynamic, and hilarious, it can be. But what do you do when you don’t have a sales floor?

You run regular contests, for one.

“Contests, or spiffs, are huge for us. We run contests for numerous things – for the most sales, for the rep who sets up the most calls with C-level executives, or for the rep who sets up the most in-person meetings, for instance,” says Maller.

“Work has to be fun, and we make sure we do a lot of things to keep things fresh. Salespeople love competition, and that can be a great driver of fun, and get results. It helps salespeople put the pedal to the medal. For us, we offer many different kinds of prizes – TVs, a Google Home, or gift certificates. We try and get creative with the prizes, so it just giving someone an extra $1,000.”

(Editor’s note: we spoke with Zach Barney a while back about how effectively spiff your team. You can read about our in-depth chat here, or listen here).

Finally, adds Maller, the team gets together about three times per year: at sales kickoff event early in the year, a holiday party, and at the Google Next event. Every now and then, it’s nice to get in the same room and connect face-to-face.

“We fly people in for those events,” says Maller.

“And, being remote has helped us do that – our savings on office space, for instance, has made that possible.”

Making mistakes

Of course, there have been pitfalls along the way. Maller says the company had to refine its hiring process along the way, to ensure they were asking the right questions to their candidates.

Working remotely, he says, takes a certain kind of person, and it’s important to find out if your candidate possesses those qualities, and understand what it takes to succeed when working remotely.

For example, Maller says setting yourself up at home as if you were at the office is important. That means having a dedicated office space, and sticking to a routine that mirrors one of someone that commutes into an office.

And, he adds, make sure you consider, in advance, what tools you’ll need to stay connected with your team. Tools are key – Maller can’t stress this enough – because without them, you’re bound to miss something.

“We failed in this, especially early on. I’m in California, and we hired someone in New York, so the time difference was a barrier. By the time I came in, and started following up with the team, that person was at lunch. And, by the time my afternoon was starting, they were wrapping for the day,” says Maller.

“This was before we had tools in place to measure activity. It was a challenge to know who was doing what, and who was doing everything they were asked.”

For more Maller’s thoughts on remote work, check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.