6 Ways to Revive Your Sales Culture While You’re (Still) Remote

September 22, 2020

If we had a dime for every time we heard “new normal,” “unprecedented” or “uncertain times” in the past six months—well, we’d be some pretty rich quarantiners.

But the truth is that when Covid-19 arrived, no one really knew that the new normal (sorry) would slowly become the norm. We still don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s pretty clear that a lot of teams and offices will be remote through the end of 2020 and beyond.

Whether your sales team’s transition to remote work was seamless or tough, or somewhere in between: you’ve likely gotten into a groove. Hopefully you’ve created new processes and workflows and identified the right tools to motivate and engage your remote team so you can look toward the coming months with (a least a little) more confidence than many of us were feeling back in March 2020.

Related read: How to Lead a Remote Sales Team

Unfortunately, many sales orgs are struggling with a key challenge that directly impacts productivity and performance: sales culture.

Is Covid crushing your sales culture?

When everyone rushed to go remote, a lot of teams went into triage mode: business models pivoted, roles shifted, and not surprisingly, culture took a backseat to protecting jobs and revenue.

That’s true even for teams that were already remote. Travel has been minimized or eliminated, so those valuable opportunities to meet up with colleagues in-person, to connect with industry peers, or to attend professional development conferences or events are pretty much off the table.

The thing is that culture is directly related to your reps’ performance. Happy, engaged employees are more productive and less prone to burn-out and turnover.

Even if your team has settled into a rhythm, don’t make the mistake of neglecting your sales culture—or assuming that it’s all good. At Ambition, just like we adjusted and adapted our processes and tools, we’ve also been thoughtful and intentional about how we’re supporting and engaging our people.

If your sales culture could use some attention, here are a few ideas and tactics that have worked well for us.

1. Plan virtual events

No, we’re not talking about another webinar.

We know people may be Zoom-ed out, but we’ve had great success with internal “events” around specific themes that our people are passionate about. A few we’ve done so far:

  • Philanthropy spotlight: We’re lucky to have a company of activists, so we set up a recurring monthly session where employees can share the ways they’re impacting the community and how others can get involved.
  • Wine tasting: This wasn’t just your average Zoom happy hour. We sent wine to team members who signed up—partners and roommates were welcome!—and put on our sommelier hats. Our team selected our own wines, but if you want to do something slightly more formal, and both look like they’ve got some legit offerings!
  • Current events and coffee: Another recurring event. Every month, employees who sign up get a gift card to the coffee shop of their choosing and we chat about the hot topics of the world today. Don’t worry—we keep it friendly.

The great thing about these mini-events is how they foster connections across departments—which, thanks to the pandemic, can be harder to maintain.

2. Recognize and celebrate teammates

Public recognition is one of the keys to a killer sales culture, and reps also say that it’s a very effective motivator. But if you’re used to giving high-fives and fist bumps on the sales floor, that’s not possible (or CDC-approved) at the moment.

Since the pandemic hit, many sales teams have made an effort to build a more remote-friendly tech stack. Make sure you’ve got a tool (we make one!) that will alert your team to wins in real-time (think: via Slack or email), so that you’re tapping into that team spirit the moment a meeting is set or a deal closes.

Slack screenshot

3. Run a competition

Sales contests are great for engagement and accountability, but they’re also a culture play. Get the friendly smack talk going again and re-ignite the competitive spirit with contests that are well-suited for distributed teams.

Recently, we ran a “Wheel to Win” competition inspired by Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak would be proud. How it worked:

  • We identified a few key metrics to measure (e.g., calls, meetings set, SQLs).
  • Then we selected on some key “achievements,” and determined many raffle tickets they’re worth.

Recognizing teammates

  • Once our SDRs achieved one of the targets, the correct number of tickets were placed in a raffle for them.
  • At the end of the week, we drew a winner in the raffle. Every weekly winner got to “spin” a virtual prize wheel (we made one here) to determine their weekly prize. (Our wheel had a few different categories with set dollar amounts. Once a rep landed on a category, they could choose from a few different options. For example, “Summer Fun” could be sunglasses or sandals.)

Sales team recognition

  • At the end of the month, we chose a grand prize winner from all the weekly raffle tickets—i.e., one big drawing from cumulative results. That rep got a cash prize.

This contest was particularly successful because it involves skill and luck, which means everyone (not just your top performers) has a shot at the prize on any given week—including the championship.

Of course, your contests don’t have to be 100% work-related. Get creative and go company-wide.

Here again, it helps if you’ve got the right tools in place. Your sales floor TVs may be gathering dust, so be sure you’re leveraging a sales gamification platform that can show real-time contest standing and results in your reps’ own browsers.

4. Stay tuned in

There’s a lot that happens in the office simply through osmosis. That’s especially true when it comes to how your people are feeling. In person, it’s easier to pick up on changes in attitude and behavior, work-related or otherwise.

It’s not quite as easy when you’re remote. Plus, as we approach the fall and new personal challenges may be arising—e.g., parents are struggling to work while helping their kids with remote learning. Outdoor activities will become less feasible in certain areas as the weather changes. And who knows: another shutdown isn’t out of the question.

All of these things can impact how your employees are feeling, and ultimately performing, at work. Make an extra effort to do more frequent temperature checks. If someone seems off, ask. Show you’re ready and willing to support them, and do your best to resolve issues that may be impacting morale and performance.

We’ve found in our 1:1s that keeping questions open-ended is key. After going remote, our VP of Sales added a specific question to his 1:1s about any productivity blockers his reps may be dealing with in their current work-from-home setup so they can troubleshoot together. And he always ends his sessions with a simple: “What else?”, giving the floor to his employees so they can share anything that may be on their minds. (For additional inspiration, you can download his Remote 1:1 Template here.)

5. Seek feedback

If you haven’t already, solicit feedback from your reps. Find out what’s gone well in the past few months and what they’d like to see change. Again, we’re looking at more of the same for the foreseeable future, so acknowledge that your interim, “good-enough” solutions may not be right for the longer haul.

You can facilitate a healthy dialogue in an open forum, asking reps to come prepared to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions together. One method of doing this is to get each rep to share their thoughts in an “I like, I wish, how might,” format. For example:

  • “I like how we’ve been leveraging video calls to stay more connected.”
  • “I wish we didn’t have so many meetings in the middle of the day when I’m trying to make lunch for my kids.”
  • “How might we make it easier for us to see how we’re tracking against goals when we’re not in the office together?”

You can also create an anonymous employee survey, which can help to ensure you’re getting honest feedback. Include high-level, open-ended questions (don’t lead the witness!), as well as more specific questions. A few ideas:

  • What’s been the hardest part of transitioning to remote?
  • What do you think we’ve done well as a team?
  • Do you feel like you’re missing any important tools or resources that are impacting your performance?

However you do it, seeking feedback shows your people that you value their perspective and goes a long way in creating a culture of respect and transparency.

6. Get creative with coaching

Hopefully you’ve stepped up your coaching game since going remote, but training and development doesn’t necessarily have to completely fall on you.

Identify peer coaching opportunities to keep relationships strong among your reps. Consider hosting guest speakers to run sessions on relevant skills or topics. And don’t forget about professional development. Since conferences and retreats aren’t happening, consider putting some of that budget toward courses or virtual events that could benefit your reps as they work to advance their careers. (Udemy has a great selection!)

Even in pre-Covid times, it wasn’t unusual for sales managers to underestimate the importance of a healthy sales culture, or at least neglect it. That’s partly because managers are busy people, wearing a lot of hats; it’s also because it’s hard to know which levers to pull to impact culture.

A pandemic certainly hasn’t made it any easier. But right now it’s imperative to create an environment where your reps feel supported, engaged and connected.

By keeping your sales culture front and center even in these unprecedented times (yes, we said it), you’ll have a happier, more productive team—no matter what these next few months have in store.

More remote work resources


Brian Trautschold is a co-founder of Ambition, the acclaimed sales performance management platform built for data-driven and millennial-fueled sales organizations. Connect with Brian on Twitter and LinkedIn and start a conversation about some of his favorite topics: Sales, startups, marketing and NBA trade rumors.