By Ryan Burke
I’m a Boston guy. A Boston sales guy. When I first interviewed at InVision, a fully remote SaaS organization that makes an award-winning design platform, I asked up front if I could establish a Boston hub from which I’d run our sales team. The CEO agreed, so I planned to take it slow—build out the team and then work it into the culture of the then 35-person company.
I had run sales at Compete for years, where we had the prototypical office environment with happy hours, chest bumping for big deals, and random team building exercises (I took a few pies to the face for charity back in the day). I loved that environment, and valued the organic collaboration and socialization that comes from a sales team that sits together and listens to each other on client calls. There’s a lot of learning on the fly to overcome objections or close the next deal. I never dreamed of running a remote sales team.
Most importantly: People were hitting numbers. The remote model was working. A few of my newer Boston folks asked to move for personal reasons, and I agreed. Hit your numbers, attend meetings, and be insanely responsive to prospects and customers, and you can go where you wish. We also opened a co-working space in WeWork to give us the best of both worlds.
Fast forward to today. We are a company of 250+, and I have a sales team of over 60 people spread across the country. Based on my network, and the strength of the local sales community, Boston has become one of our hubs. With strong hires from the sales departments at HubSpot, Compete, Localytics, Acquia, and Cargurus, we have built the largest presence on our sales team in Boston, while still maintaining our fully remote culture.
That’s what surprised me most. I built the sales operation I desired and I opened a Boston hub. Yet on some days that office will be empty—because people love the freedom of working remote. Myself included.
People often ask how it works for us and why. Remote is not for everyone, and there are a lot of variables in the mix (model, sales motion, market, etc.) but at InVision it’s been successful. First, let’s look at the reasons people tend not to go remote:
You want a sales bullpen environment. I get it. There’s a lot of value in having the team together to have those quick learning opportunities. There are other ways. Through learning management systems or online tools, there are ways to address this. This is probably the No. 1 negative of the remote aspect—it’s just that there are now more positives (for us) to overcome. Side note: Not sitting together also mitigates some of the bullshit and office gossip, and the two hour lunches. When you’re communicating with someone in a remote culture, you’re enormously focused on the work at hand.
REMOTE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF VARIABLES IN THE MIX.
People ‘need a place to go’ to get out of the house. That’s great, give it to them. We have a few WeWork locations sprinkled around the country where we have a large number of employees. We give people the best of both worlds with the option to set up something outside their home. We even incentivize it with our unlimited Starbucks cards for every employee (no office rent = better perks).
We also enhance our focus on ‘getting out of the office’ by tying it to clients or events. We’re more present at client onsites or community events to give our team some face time with each other, which has a strategic benefit to our clients and market.
Less experienced people need an office environment to stay accountable. I hear this the most. “Sure, remote works, but only for senior reps.” Not true. As long as you set clear expectations upfront, establish trust with your team, and let them enjoy the work/life balance, you will be surprised how they respond. At the end of the day this is still sales, you can’t hide from the numbers.
Technology can now address so many of the legacy challenges the remote culture may bring. We live in Slack, Google Docs, Zoom, Dropbox, etc. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, and this is why remote boils down to a few key areas.
Why does remote work, work? Who to hire (maturity, profile, etc.), how to make it work, and a few things to keep in mind include:
Some companies operate in a part-local, part-remote structure, but at InVision, we have a level playing field. Everyone is remote. All 250+ of our employees. If 10 of us are in a WeWork any given day, there are 10 of us on separate computers for the next Slack call.
When it comes to hiring, you need to look for proactive people. This is a no brainer for sales folks. Everyone is incredibly helpful and collaborative at InVision but you need to deliberately reach out. We build this into every person we hire. One hiring red flag is the candidate who found us on a remote job board who has that as their No. 1 qualifier.
“What do you like about InVision? What are your thoughts on the platform?”
“I love working remote.”
No chance. You need to work for InVision the company first, everything else is secondary.
REMOTE CULTURE TAKES COMMITMENT.
Employee onboarding is one of the biggest things for remote culture. It’s critical anywhere, but for remote hires it’s even more so. It can be intimidating to wake up on your first day solo in your home office with no one to talk to. We quickly realized this and revamped our entire onboarding process where new recruits are scheduled down to the hour for their first few weeks. We assign onboarding buddies, who are dedicated to answering any questions on process or who does what across the org.
A key value-add of InVision is its ability to empower design teams to collaborate across different locations, so our team must practice what we preach. Since we have staff all over the world, we must be deliberate about collaboration. A huge part of that is the socialization of the sales process. We join together to listen to team members on calls, record demos and share them across the company for ongoing training and improvement. We store and track everything we do. The benefit of using collaboration tools is they enable transparency and accountability. With remote, you need to be more structured and scheduled around collaboration, but that helps you create a cadence that ultimately helps you scale.
Culture. This is the big one. To make remote work successful, this is where you need to double down. Remote culture takes commitment, but we succeed by using everything from a peer-based rewards system, deliberate inter-team communication, and even virtual happy hours. We even have water cooler talk—in Slack—to chat about music, our favorite TV shows, our kids, pets, and anything else a group may want to set up a channel to chat about. The time people spend with each other is enormously positive, and productive, and down time is spent with friends and families. Work/life balance is an important part of what makes remote culture work.
A lot of people are put off by the thought of working remote but I’ve found once they get in a situation where they’re doing incredibly rewarding work and feel empowered, and are spending more time with their friends and family, able to go to the gym, travel, etc., they love it. I have people on my team who have worked from the beach this past summer, taken a couple months to work from Paris, or moved to ski country for the winter. Employees are starting to value personal time as much as the ping pong tables and Taco Tuesdays. We make it work at InVision, specifically in Boston, where we now have the largest concentration of InVision sales folks.
Image via Alexandra E Rust, CC BY 2.0.
The article was originally published here.