Pass the remote: the ups and downs of building a distributed global sales team with Time Doctor’s Liam Martin
Collin Stewart, CEO
27 March 2019
Building a remote workforce isn’t for everybody. Building a remote workforce isn’t for everybody.
Despite all of the tools at our disposal that connect far-flung colleagues – Zoom and Slack to name just two wildly popular apps – the idea of team members dispersed across the globe can be a difficult concept for managers, executives, and founder alike.
There’s something comfortable about having the team work together in an office – or offices, depending on how big your company is. Colleagues get to know each other,
But, establishing a remote team – and a remote sales development team, at that – can have huge benefits: in particular, entrenched team members in growing markets, capitalizing on regions that a centralized team might otherwise struggle to expand in.
Of course, there’s also just great talent to be harnessed across the globe (and having great talent on your team is always a plus). The trick, however, is figuring out how to harness that talent, build a cohesive unit, and keep everyone engaged…all the time.
“We have always been fully distributed. I’m in Canada, my co-founder is in Australia – that is as distributed as it can get. There are different options for building remote teams. For example, you can be distributed from a departmental level, like having the CTO and development team completely distributed and separate from the organization,” says Liam Martin, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
“When you have the CTO, CEO, and CMO are all in one place, that’s when everyone starts to converge on one particular area. It’s because people on the outside feel more lonely when it comes to decision making. What we suggest: listen to your distributed employees, and make them part of the decision making process.”
Remote workers are hard workers
An important consideration when building a remote sales development team (or any team, for that matter), is understanding just how hard remote employees work. There is some negative sentiment towards remote workers – they just hang out on the beach, trying to be millionaires, for instance. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth, says Martin.
There is a qualitative difference between remote workers and “digital nomads.” Remote workers are trained, skilled professionals, that just
“I have yet to see one person that is able to live that type of “easy” lifestyle. Anyone that thinks that passive income exists either
“Anyone who thinks that they can have a business or a job where they don’t have to work, but it will sustain them, will be replaced by someone who wants it more.”
Tough lessons from building a remote SDR team
Although Martin has now built a successful remote sales development workforce – with SDRs in Colombia, the United States, Canada, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Barcelona – it hasn’t always been this way.
In fact, Martin struggled at first to build an efficient and successful remote sales team.
“I read Predictable Revenue and realized how quantifiable sales development was. I realized sales people – especially on the front end – could really help build my business. Then, I went to SaaStr and had my eyes opened more and more. I came back home and realized that we needed a Customer Success team, as well as an outbound and inbound team,” says Martin.
“I was the first Account Executive on that team, and I had a couple of SDRs booking meetings. It was a complete experiment in enterprise sales. And we had a lot of success. So, I figured, this was now our model. But, realized that it was founder-based magic. I had been there from day one and could sell the product quite well, even though I’m not a good sales professional.”
Martin realized he needed to continue building his sales machine, and, to do so, he needed a sales manager to oversee a growing contingent of SDRs (at that time, based in South East Asia, a growing market for Martin’s business).
So, he hired an experienced SDR manager from the Bay Area to oversee the department. The team was busy right away, executing on a flurry of emails and calls, but brought in little in the way of sales. Despite that early warning sign (an issue many in-house sales teams also face, to be fair), Martin continued to invest in the team, figuring the closed deals would follow suit.
He was wrong.
“That manager eventually quit. But, I spent months training
“That started my year of sales stupidity. I was not ready to manage a sales team. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Martin tried other tactics as well to get the team to succeed (like letting a top performer from team take), but nothing worked. Eventually, he had to fire most of the team.
Building culture…and keeping the sales team connected
Although that early experience was tough, Martin was determined to try again. He knew he had a killer product, he knew he could train people to sell it, and he was convinced having people located in strategic regions around the world would help grow the business in markets he couldn’t do alone.
So what was he missing?
Turns out, it was a period of non-remote training and team building. To get a disparate team aligned, they needed some time together, and some formal sales training.
“When we started to rebuild our sales team, we decided to open an
“If they don’t, they go home without a job. If they do, they go home with a job. In the vast majority of cases, it has worked. Having them interact directly has been what has put them over the top.”
But that first, three-month
“We also have a video game evening, or morning, depending on when everyone is free. The team just gets together to play games,” adds Martin, with a laugh.
“But, what we do for any game we play, we make sure that
For more on Martin’s experience with remote work culture – including some interesting tips on how to share your personality preferences with colleagues you don’t meet in-person, as well as his thoughts the challenges of marketers running sales teams – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
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