Forty Under 40 Perspectives: Remote sales success By Kellie Baker

Starting with the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020, the Bailey inside sales group has navigated many changes in these past four years. We went from 10 of our team members working at the main office in Minnesota, three in Oregon and one in Illinois, to now having the majority of our team working remotely from their homes across the country. 

Kellie Baker

Around the same time, we had many promotions and retirements within the group, meaning we have hired over half of our inside sales group within the last three years. This has challenged us to look at and change how we train, how we interact as a group and how we interact with the rest of the company. 

My manager, Tiffany Nohl (Forty Under 40 Class of 2022), and I have worked together to improve and rework our training process to adapt to these changes. Here are the steps we’ve taken to build a strong culture with a largely remote (and new) group: 

Check in regularly. Tiffany makes it a point to have a one-on-one with us every other week to talk about how things are going and address any questions or issues that have come up. It gives a space to talk about things that have popped up but might not be worth a separate email or call. She is also great about checking in with us as people and asking about our lives outside of work. We all know that she cares about each of us outside of the job. 

Set up peer mentors. When a new person starts, we set them up to meet weekly with a peer mentor — someone in the same position who is more experienced. This mentor is someone besides my manager or myself who the new team member feels comfortable reaching out to, who is on their level and who is doing the same things they are. It also helps them to get to know one another on a deeper level. 

Use training tools to their fullest extent. Everyone learns differently, so we try to have several ways to approach training to best match different learning styles — learning by doing, screen sharing, making how-to videos or referencing written instructions for procedures. We’ve also learned that sometimes a new person connects best with one particular trainer over another; if that happens, we roll with it. New technology has given us so many tools to close that gap that can exist training someone remotely versus in-person. 

Encourage questions and general curiosity. We try very hard to make sure either my manager or myself are largely available for quick questions that pop up throughout the day. Back in the days of in-office work, it was easy to shout out a question over a cubicle wall and get an answer instantly. We stress that no question is too small for a quick chat or call. 

Create a space for conversation. We have an inside sales group in Teams with a running chat where team members check in throughout the day to say good morning, let us know when they have to step away from the phones and ask the group quick questions. We also allow this to be a space for normal office conversation that no longer happens when you work remotely; a place to share pictures of vacations, kids, pets or funny stories. 

We try to strike a good balance and not get carried away with off-topic chatter, but allowing and encouraging those organic conversations really helps to bond the group together and can take away some of the workplace loneliness that remote workers can feel. 

Get creative with education opportunities. The more our inside sales reps understand the “big picture” of the company and how their parts of the process fit in, the more effective they will be doing their job. 

Getting the reps out to the nearest farm to tour and see the product or different processes is so valuable when possible. Every new inside sales rep spends time grading our bareroot product in the winter to get hands-on experience with our product. 

If in-person tours are not possible, we can set up a virtual tour. If someone expresses an interest in learning more about a particular topic, our manager is happy to connect us with someone in the company. This is not only educational but also provides an opportunity for the team to connect with others at the company. 

Make time for in-person interactions and make the most of that time. Even though our ability to connect virtually has increased immensely over the last few years, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting the team together in person as opportunity allows. Having a face-to-face connection greatly improves relationships when it is back to remote work. It tends to strengthen and improve understanding, trust and communication. 

For us, this happens by traveling to trade shows, traveling with territory reps to meet customers and participating in national sales meetings. From joining the inside sales team almost eight years ago to now being someone who helps train and shape that same team, I feel so fortunate to have current and former managers who have done an excellent job of building a strong team culture. I’ve had excellent examples to follow, and I’m excited to keep helping shape the team in the future!

Kellie Baker

Kellie Baker is sales coordinator at Bailey Nurseries. She is a member of GPN’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2023 and can be reached at