If your company employs a field team to represent your brand at retail, you know how valuable it is to have someone make an impression on those stores in person. On the flip side, working out in the field away from the company's main office opens the team up to significant communication challenges.
Building a cohesive culture and keeping communication tight won't come naturally with a field team - it takes deliberate and proactive management. We asked Mike Volpe, CMO at Cybereason and veteran marketing executive, for his tips in improving communication across dispersed teams. In this post, we'll share his suggestions for creating synergy both between managers and reps, and between the field team itself.
Improving Communication Between Managers and Reps
1. Use Video Chat to Capture Context
Face-to-face opportunities are the building blocks of strong relationships between managers and their team. Unfortunately, these opportunities are few and far between with teams that do their work in the field. While texting and emailing can be convenient, try to also mix in video chats. "Seeing" each other face to face introduces context and nonverbal cues that are lost over text, and can help improve understanding and clarify meaning on both ends of the line.
2. Share Information Via The Cloud
In the field, reps need a procedure and a tool with which to report information back to their managers. Using an intuitive mobile app is key, because ease of use is essential to getting buy-in from reps. Beyond that, managers should also look for tools that automatically sync data collected in the field with a back office system so managers won't have to wait on reports form their reps. Ultimately, communication can only be as strong as the tools your team has on hand.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Define specific goals and objectives for your reps to help them focus on a unified standard. Implement both personal and team expectations, and be sure to write them down - it’ll help keep both you and your reps accountable. Keep these goals where reps can see them and revisit them.
Pro Tip: Regularly review, update, and monitor the progress and success of these standards in one-on-one meetings, where you can tell reps exactly what you want to achieve, and help them develop a plan for success.
4. Take Time to Get to Know Your Reps
Reps aren’t always comfortable reaching out to their supervisors and relaying important information. Establishing a relationship of trust and openness will help reps feel comfortable asking questions, voicing concerns, and making suggestions. This will improve the flow of information and status updates from the field.
Building Camaraderie Among Reps in The Field
5. Get The Team Together
Even with reps geographically dispersed, carving out time for everyone to meet and interact is the first step to building strong relationships within the team. Whether it be quarterly meetings, reuniting after a company milestone, or monthly luncheons, schedule regular get-togethers so your reps can meet one another in person.
This will give employees time to build relationships with their peers and absorb the company culture. Setting aside special time to promote camaraderie will ultimately reflect the company image and philosophy while instilling a sense of union among reps that they can use as the basis for strong communication across digital channels.
6. Facilitate Collaboration
Because the work reps do in the field is so independent, it’s up to managers to facilitate collaboration and encourage reps to work together. Volpe recommends setting up team-based competitions based on some of your typical KPIs, pairing reps together to hit certain goals - and hopefully stimulate some friendly banter in the process.
7. Encourage Casual Communication
Introducing informality humanizes what can be an otherwise digital and rigid discussion. Quick messages praising team members’ successes and check-ins just to say “hey” are a few ways to maintain relationships across virtual platforms.
Pro Tip: Create peer learning groups where reps can communicate casually with one another about the challenges they face and the strategies they use to overcome them. While it might be tempting to overformalize this process at first, try taking a back seat and letting reps develop mentor/mentee relationships with themselves after your initial encouragement - casual communication is more likely to develop without a manager's oversight, and will likely lead to more candid (and ultimately helpful) conversations.
Gabrielle is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly with an enthusiasm for creativity and innovation. While pursuing her passion for writing, she is studying economics and philosophy at Boston College. She spends her free time exploring Boston in search of the best cup of coffee and cannoli.