How to Build a Winning Sales Team
When it comes to business development, having a winning sales team is about as important as it gets. Whether you are a growing start-up getting ready to put together a sales team for the first time, or an established company looking to improve and build upon your existing sales force, there are many important things to keep in mind.
Make sure to consider the following steps when building your sales team.
Take stock of where you are right now.
Good leaders need to be able to connect with strangers, initiate conversations, and find opportunity in every interaction. Encourage your future leaders to attend as many in-company events as possible – after-work events, luncheons, etc. and have them network beyond the people they normally talk to. After that, have them go to larger events in the community or the industry. At the beginning, it might help if you attend some of these events with them, but as they become comfortable, they can represent the company in your place.
When hiring salespeople, make sure you’re posting positions that match what you need. If you are starting from scratch, decide whether you are going to need a couple of people who can wear a lot of hats, or whether you are ready and able to invest in a more comprehensive team, with more specific responsibilities.
If you are looking to improve or revamp your existing sales force, figure out what you have and what you wish you had. Maybe you already have a successful sales team and you’re just looking for more of the same. In that case, build job descriptions based off of the identifiable skills of your top performers.
Or you might need to create and fill some new roles, such as a Director of Sales or couple of Sales Development Reps, in which case you’ll want to determine exactly what you’re looking for and build job descriptions for those roles. Especially if this isn’t a role you’ve hired for in the past, you might want to consider enlisting an experienced sales recruiting agency to help you seek out the right people for these positions.
Hire people who fit your company culture, and who have natural energy and charisma.
Start to delegate some of the unique responsibilities you have as a manager. Don’t just give them tedious tasks you don’t feel like doing; invite them to attend management meetings with you or have them give a presentation in your place. Consider strengthening those skills they otherwise might not get a chance to develop, such as public speaking.
Of course, there are some characteristics that just go hand-in-hand with being a good salesperson. You have to be a charismatic “people person.” You need to have a confident presence, and be able to think on your feet. You need to be a self starter who works well with defined goals.
Other characteristics to look for in your sales recruiting process for will depend on the distinct culture of your company. Make sure to hire people who will want to work together and support one another, as a collaborative sales environment is preferable to a competitive sales environment.
Once you’re into the interview process, one great tactic is to utilize each communication style the sales candidate will be using with prospective clients during the interview process itself. Will they be writing emails to new prospects, or spending a lot of time on the phone? Get a feel for these communication styles on their feet before bringing in potential sales team interviewees for their in-person interviews.
Onboard properly, and never stop training.
Give a man a fish or teach him how to fish? It’s always best if you can be hands-off and give your future leaders the chance to problem-solve on their own. You might help by pointing them in the right direction or introducing them to a piece of software or colleague in another department who can help them, but don’t be the one to jump in and resolve every issue.
A good training period for a new salesperson is about 90 days. It is really tempting to get new sales staff on their feet quickly, or stick them in support positions, perhaps making calls or answering emails for your sales managers, but proper onboarding is essential when it comes to building a solid representative of your company.
They need to know your product or service inside and out, and feel comfortable with absolutely anything that might be thrown their way. Establish a training manual or at least a basic, agreed-upon training schedule and checklist, so that you can learn from the successes and failures of one salesperson’s training and improve for the next. This will also help to streamline the onboarding process as your sales team grows larger and larger.
One important thing to ensure during this onboarding process is that all types of sales pitches be rehearsed! Roleplaying might feel corny, but playing out a variety of sales scenarios with sales leaders or members of your management team puts your new staff in a position to succeed during their first calls and meetings. You don’t want a real prospect to be the first person to whom a new salesperson has ever said a speech!
Beyond the initial onboarding and training period, make sure that your sales staff is always learning. Particularly when it comes to your service, there should be nothing new or in the works that they’re not 100% apprised of and ready to speak about.
It also never hurts to go back to basics and work through call scripts or pitch decks even with your more senior sales staff, particularly when services or clientele are shifting or there’s been a lull in their sales performance. It should be a goal of your sales team to never stop learning!
Structure compensation and goals clearly and openly.
This covers two topics that are distinct, but particularly when it comes to sales, very closely related.
By trusting your employees to be autonomous and giving them space to make their own decisions, they’ll feel empowered, confident, and valued. Remember that mistakes are learning experiences, so let them happen. Your future leaders need to feel like they have ownership over what happens in the company – they’ll be more invested, more engaged, and more passionate about its future. This is how they’ll rise to the top as the next leaders of your company.
More than in any other position, performance is generally directly linked with compensation in sales. So, while clarity and openness is important across your company, it is of particular importance when establishing compensation expectations in sales.
When building a sales team, one of the first considerations should be how they will be paid. You can choose to pay your sales professionals a straight salary, commission only, or a hybrid of base and commission. Something in this last column is the most common, as it avoids the pitfalls of both extremes. A salary-only structure is uncommon, as the incentive to sell more is often driven by financial reward. Providing some base salary in addition to commission, rather than commission-only, ensures that sales members aren’t punished for fluctuations in the market and feel more able to take time to help out other reps or further their own training. Your sales team should feel driven to make sales, but not like their ability to pay their rent depends on how they do month-to-month.
When setting goals for your sales team, there are two primary methods to utilize: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down methodology relies on management predictions or goals for a period, and then breaks that down by salesperson.
For instance, management might decide that they want $100,000 in sales revenue for Q1. If there are 4 salespeople, this might mean that $25,000 in revenue is expected of each of them during this quarter. This may be the way you need to structure things to start, as a jumping-off point, but once you have an idea of what is actually realistic, you should also consider bottom-up goal setting. Bottom-up goal setting involves looking at recent sales, analyzing the conditions in which these numbers were obtained, and making future goals based around that.
Of course, growth should always be incorporated in the future forecast, but using past numbers to inform future numbers helps make them realistic. If you find that the goals you set aren’t being met, communicate openly with your sales team. Ask them for feedback. It’s possible that there’s something the customer wants that isn’t being fulfilled by what you’re offering, or that there are other snags that you aren’t aware of, keeping sales from being closed.
Establish a sales culture of personal responsibility.
Sales is an incredibly results-based position, and it is important that anyone in sales is ready to take ownership of their successes and failures. One key way to help your employees feel accountable in this way is to allow them to work as independently as possible. Once a salesperson is fully onboarded and ready to go, they should be able to structure their sales efforts in whatever way best suits them, within reason. By showing your sales staff that you trust them, and allowing them to work in whatever way is best for them, you create their absolute ideal sales environment. And from here, they will naturally feel ownership of the entire process. Their end of this bargain is acting like the responsible party you are treating them as, and being ready and willing to discuss and accept their successes and failures. You want your salespeople to learn from what they do, and for there to be a culture of accountability and communication, so that everyone can learn and grow together.
Building a winning sales team is one of the most important things you will do for your business. Let CulverCareers pair you with the top sales talent who match your company’s culture and needs. With a targeted network of over 400,000 candidates, we can help you find the sales talent who will take your business to the next level.