In 2007, LessEverything was a Ruby on Rails consultancy, and we made our money primarily from building web apps for clients. Steve and I spent most of our days managing clients, developers, and on sales phone calls. We were and still are a global team, distributed across many time zones.
When we were on the phone with a potential client, the majority of the time we competed against web development firms just like ours–except they had an office. During the initial phone call, the client lead would usually bring up the fact we didn’t have an official company office headquarters. They often asked, “Where are you located?” or “Where is your team?” or “How big is your team?”
Even now, many people feel like when they hire someone they want to know the company is stable. An office used to establish a sense of normality for vendors. A feeling of, “We’ll be here, we’re safe.” As a service provider without an office, you must able to rebut a possible objection to your choice of having a remote team.
Client lead: “Do you guys have an office?”
Me: “We don’t have an office. By choice, we decided to have a remote team. We wanted to hire the best people we could afford in the world. Not just the best people we could afford to relocate.”
At this point, you can ask the lead if they want to meet with you in person. Which is fine, you can meet them in their city, or have them come to your city and meet in a coffee shop or co-working space. They might ask these questions not because they think offices are a must, but because they want to know how you manage a remote team, or if you ever meet up. Use this as an opportunity to tell them more about your team, company, style, etc.
Me: “We meet with the team annually, and our last hire has been with us for X years. We really love having a remote team. Everyone is available via Skype or cell phone. We usually have separate project meetings every other day. Running a remote or global team isn’t about finding the most underpaid people in the world and taking advantage of them. Having a remote team is 50% finding the best we can afford to hire within our budget, and 50% having the type of company we want. I don’t want to be forced to go into an office every day, or force my employees to do that.”
Some people will never change. They will always put a high value on a company with an office headquarters. But ask yourself, is that the type of client you really want? This type of client is probably the same person that wants to meet four times a week for a small project and waste countless hours.
“This is a very traditional business mindset and one I have found is particularly evident once you reach a threshold that can best be described as ‘enterprise’ level clients. The bigger the company or the bigger the budget, the more likely they will view a remote team with suspicion.” Paul of 16toads.com
Sales is an interesting game of framing. Having a remote team might be looked at as a negative, but it can be turned around to frame yourself with a competitive advantage or unique selling proposition.
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