Developing a championship caliber sales team should be the goal of any sales leader. All champions, whether it is the Cubs, Patriots or newly crowned, Tarheels, are focused on doing their individual roles as well as possible, committed to the on-going improvement of themselves and the team, the culture sets high expectations, and the teams win. As difficult as this may be to accomplish for your sales team, it is not as hard as you think if you can implement these four championship elements:
1. Champions Have a System: Most companies hire sales people from different walks of life and let them sell based on their prior sales experience. The problem with this approach is that everyone sells differently. There is no consistency in approach. Think about forecasting. Every sales person looks at things through their own lens. Since they each evaluate different criteria, the results are often inconsistent, and forecasts are inaccurate. The same goes for pipeline management or managing the sale.
Players come to a sports team, for example, from different avenues as well; draft, free agency, trades, etc. Even though they also come with a variety of experiences, when they join the team, they must execute the team’s system. Everyone gets on the same page and drives towards the same mission. They speak a common language so that there are consistency and accountability. This creates predictability in achieving quota and results. And when not succeeding, it gives them a system to rely on to help them find out where things are going wrong and correct them. It would be crazy to let the players each run their own plays with no regard for what the others were doing!
2. Championship Teams Develop Their Players. Most sales leaders are focused on hitting their numbers instead of managing the selling skills and behaviors that will help them achieve their numbers. A sales leader, for example, tasked with building their team's pipeline, may tell their people to "make more calls" instead of teaching a step by step process to make the prospecting calls more effective. They push the numbers, but without improving effectiveness, the result won't improve, and everyone becomes frustrated, causing excuse making and unnecessary turnover.
Sports teams also have to "hit their numbers" and win games. But to win games, they work on developing the player's skills and behaviors that will help them win. Then they practice them to perfection. The coach’s job, like a sales leader, is to oversee these improvements and make sure the team follows the process and executes the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that will bring success.
3. Championship Teams Develop A Winning Culture. With a common process and behaviors, a culture will develop. The Patriots culture utilizes the mantra "Do Your Job." This implies several things such as: following the system, discipline to the system, coaching, on-going skill improvement, preparation, and no excuse making. When this is accomplished, the players police themselves; they help each other execute the system. As a result, coaching and accountability become easier to implement.
Your sales team can accomplish the same results in talking through best practices and skill transfer. Do you have top performing people but somehow can't transfer those same skills to others? The key is to build a mentoring culture, create a playbook for the underperformers to follow, and practice.
4. Champions Set Expectations: Most companies onboard new hires with a few days of product training and HR policy. With a sales process, you can onboard with expectations of the proven processes that will make them effective. An example of this would be learning a best in class prospecting process, setting agreements and outcomes, asking the right questions and creating value before discussing price. Continued skill development and coaching must become part of the culture to support these efforts and successes. Other sales people, because they are using the "system" can act as coaches and accountability partners to support each other. This makes the manager's job easier and allows them to work more strategically.
Though most companies and sales leaders would agree that these four elements are important to any team's success, without a system, there is "no glue" to hold the team together.