Managing a team of remote employees is no easy feat. How can you be sure of exactly what they're doing and when they're doing it? What can be done to increase the amount of trust you have in your team?
What follows is a list of four strategies to help you become a more successful field team manager:
1. Establish a Process, and Adjust that Process as Necessary
Without a set process in place letting reps know the tasks that need to be accomplished and when they need to be accomplished by, they'll simply be floundering when they're out there in the field, wasting time on tasks that might be of a lower priority while neglecting those tasks that really need their attention.
It is up to the field manager to provide his/her team with a process of how things are supposed to go, and then to adjust that process as tasks are completed, or as tasks of a higher priority come up. For example, maybe one store did really poorly on their recent audit and needs a bit of help. This is the kind of issue that can't really be predicted but that must be planned for anyway so that you can ensure that you will have a rep on hand and ready to help if the situation presents itself.
2. Communicate with Your Reps Regularly on How They Should Be Performing, and Evaluate Their Performance Frequently
Successful field managers keep their reps on their toes, constantly assessing and correcting anything their reps might be doing wrong, or informing them when they did something particularly well so that the rep knows how to repeat that going forward. Then, you are justified in giving your reps lower marks come review time if you gave them all of the tools they needed to be successful and yet they still missed the mark.
That's when you need to develop a new plan with that rep to ensure that s/he understands exactly what is expected of them and how they need to achieve it. Maybe it was the plan that was at fault. You won't know unless you are regularly communicating with your reps, giving them frequent feedback and allowing them to defend themselves.
3. Measure Your Reps' Performance Once Feedback Has Been Provided
This goes hand-in-hand with point 2 above. There's no way to know if your reps have improved on what they were supposed to improve unless you reevaluate them. Measuring their performance both before and after you provide them with feedback gives you a clearer picture on whether or not a) they are understanding what is required of them, and b) if you have provided them with the right information to help them get there.
Maybe it is you who needs improvement on their communication. Maybe the store that rep was assigned to is particularly difficult for some reason. Or maybe the rep thought s/he understood the plan but was way off the mark. You need to approach the process of giving your reps feedback in the same way that you would audit a store: look at their performance history and compare it to how they are doing now, then find the weak areas and figure out how to fix them.
4. Reward Your Top Performers
After administering feedback, it's easier to see who your top performers are on your team, and it is important to reward them for their hard work so that they know that their efforts are both noticed and appreciated. A small incentive, like a gift card, can be enough, if it's just not in the company budget to hand out raises quite yet. Also, publicizing a rep's good work, like having a "Rep of the Month" photo tacked up at the head office, can inspire some friendly competition amidst the members of your team. And this benefits the company as a whole when everyone on the team is striving to do their very best every day of the week.
Successfully managing a team of field reps is a hard job, but it's definitely not an impossible one. One of the most important things you can do is COMMUNICATE. If everyone on the team knows what is expected of them, and if they are regularly kept abreast of how they are performing and how they should improve going forward, then the rest should hopefully fall right into place.
How effectively do you feel you are managing your team? See how you stack up against your peers by clicking below to receive our free Field Force Productivity Assessment.