Our sales volume last month was over 600% compared to the same month last year. Our clients transacted millions USD through our platform last month. What did we do differently? Now we have salespeople who work remotely from their homes all over the world. A few of them even travel full time.
Early 2017 we launched a new product to target businesses: WeTravel Business. WeTravel started as a platform for any individual to collect payments and organize group trips for friends and communities, and quickly we realized that small tour operators also need help. Using WeTravel Business, small and boutique travel companies can take control of their finances, communication, and marketing from a single platform.
I, with the help of my co-founder, was the only person selling WeTravel Business. We got results but it was not good enough. We realized that we need to hire salespeople. However, we did not have the resources to hire people with expensive Bay Area salary (side note: salary of $120,000 is qualified as “low-income” in San Francisco) .
We decided to take a bet and build a sales team consisting of individuals who work remotely. We hired our first remote salesperson in November 2017 then, fast forward to now, 9 months later we have a team of 5 people. Two are in California, 1 in Barcelona, 1 in Berlin, and 1 person travels full time. One person is in charge of lead generation while the rest conduct outreach and sales.
There are five things that I learned:
1) Invest in a strong CRM (customer relationship management) system
This is the only way you can know what’s really going on with your overall sales pipeline. My sales team is not in the same place physically but CRM is where we are together digitally. Do not save money by getting a free CRM with limited functionalities. There are many good CRM systems out there. Ask for discounts for startups. We use Hubspot for Startups to get 90% discount.
2) Successful remote salespeople are really really really organized
Any successful salesperson is highly organized. For example, they make notes for every single lead, update the status of every single lead consistently on the CRM, monitor their calendar for any meeting requests, build directory of templates/replies, and track their sales progress like nobody’s business. This habit is a sign of self-motivated, go-getting, and driven salespeople. Those characteristics are 10x more important if you hire remote salespeople. They were number one on my recruitment interview question list.
3) The daily sales call is key to build a culture – it’s not just about giving an update
We always have a call every day at the same time for around 15 minutes. Every salesperson gives an update and asks the team if they have any question or need advice. The person in charge of lead generation and the person in charge of inbound marketing are also on the call so they know what happens with the sales team and ready to help if needed. This call is not just about giving update, but also about making sure everyone feels that they are part of a team that works together. This also fosters transparency, accountability, and healthy competition. Do not ever miss this daily update. Set a reminder on everyone’s calendar.
4) Make remote work a value proposition, not a challenge
Creating a remote team does not mean lowering the bar for recruitment. One of our salespeople was an Account Director at Yelp in New York City. Another one was a Senior Account Executive at a leading SaaS (software-as-a-service) company in San Francisco. Working remotely is a value proposition for them to work for WeTravel. They can be in Colombia last month, Mexico this month, and Estonia next month, but they still deliver results. High-performing individuals work better when they have flexibility and independence. As long as you equip them with collaboration tools, they are good to go.
5) Alternative and niche recruiting channels perform better
We started with just 2 channels: Indeed as a general recruiting website and AngelList as a tech hiring platform. Along the way, I researched a list of websites that focus on remote jobs and sales jobs. The hidden gems were Facebook Groups. Simply search “digital nomad jobs” or “remote jobs” and you can find many online groups where you can post jobs. Which channel is the best? Indeed generated a lot of applicants at a cheap price but almost none has the right fit. I found a few extremely good people through remote job websites and Facebook groups although the rest were not even trying. AngelList has gained a lot of popularity among digital job seekers, but the salary expectation is still skewed towards tech jobs so you just have to be really clear about how much you can pay. This is the list of the recruitment websites that I found:
Why does this remote sales model work for us?
(a) We are still a small company so the co-founders still have time to recruit ourselves and interact (online) with everyone to ensure consistent company culture. When our company grows beyond 30-40 people, we will have to think differently about how we manage our distributed team.
(b) We sell software-as-a-service. Our salespeople can show the product to our potential customers from anywhere as long as they have internet. Our salespeople can also easily show our engineers if there is any problem with the product.
Leave a comment if you have experience building a remote sales team, if you have other ways to find great remote employees, or if you have any feedback how I can make my sales team operates better!