It’s a fact: most organizations need a killer sales force. Business development, marketing, must-have products or services – these are all essential to meaningful revenue growth. But your sales team is the heart of production. Your salespeople are the ones championing your offer and driving precious profit. Your team should be the best it can. Period.
But how do you build a successful sales team? Buckle up, because it’s no easy task. As long as you follow these seven essential steps, however, you’ll have a team of sales all-stars under your belt.
1. Evaluate the sales situation
Good doctors don’t write prescriptions without a diagnosis. Following that example, you should treat your sales force as your patient.
Do you have the right resources already? Maybe you’re starting with a team of A-players that only need advanced sales training and a push in the right direction.
Alternatively, your team could be losing to demand. Your team can’t handle the volume of requests, and you need to add a few heads to keep the business growing.
Of course, you could be starting from the ground up. That means you’re working with a clean slate. But knowing how to build a sales team from scratch means knowing what to look for and how to find and attract winners.
2. Know whom you need and what they do
You’ve evaluated your environment. You know what you have. Now you need to understand what you do not have. To realize your next step, determine your sales team’s end goal. Is this a customer care team? Or a pack of aggressive cold callers? What does the team structure look like? Building accurate, functional job titles is critical to building the team itself.
Even if you’re working with existing employees, reexamine each person’s role. They may perform better in a different sales role with different expectations. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what earns wins.
3. Track progress and success
To build a winning sales team, you need to define what it means to win. However, understand that measurements for progress and success are different depending on your starting point.
Sales success is a factor of both Behavior and results. Focusing only on activity won’t encourage closing. Likewise, it can be discouraging to focus only on results, especially during a sales slump.
Examples for sales performance measurement:
- Ratio of cost of sales to revenue: Pure sales volume isn’t the end all of every industry. Whether you sell small-margin products or not, actual revenue is a true measure of production.
- Conversion rates: Is your team closing? How many touches does it take to close?
- Forecasted vs. actual sales: Salespeople who consistently hit forecasted marks know their clients, markets, their own expectations, and how to succeed.
Examples for sales activity measurement:
- Funnel health: The #1 categorical measurement for sales activity is the health of your sales funnel. It’s future facing and focused on the path to results. Record the status and quality of all prospects and the causes behind each. That way, when your team does or does not produce, you can examine the context and optimize your procedure.
- Total new accounts contacted: At the top level, new contacts open doors. Measuring the number of new prospects your team collects reveals your team’s overall hunger and tenacity.
- Number of contacts made in certain segments: Measuring contacts by their market segment allows you to track whether or not your team
4. Have a rock-solid hiring process
We’ve discussed the value of thorough hiring processes before, but it’s worth repeating. Ensure that your vetting procedures identify the right candidates in general, of course, but also gear your interviews carefully. You want to test your potential hires for how they’ll fare in your unique sales force.
Hiring is an incredibly time-consuming process. To find the best and build a great sales team, though, you’ve got to play the numbers game. There is a multitude of ways to prospect for new sales hires:
- Recruiting events: Recruiting events are beneficial because they put huge numbers of qualified candidates in front of you at a relatively low cost of time and money. Those who attend these events are hungry, too. However, you place yourself in direct competition with every other company building a sales force at the event, so you need to be prepared to differentiate your business.
- Referrals: Whether they come from current employees, friends, or business contacts, referrals are efficient for digging up pre-qualified candidates. Be sure to incentivize referrals to encourage the hunt.
- Advertising: Posting ads carries two key advantages: speed and reach.
- Outsourcing: When using an outside recruiter, it’s best to qualify the recruiting firm as you would a candidate for hire. Firms that aren’t a good fit are more likely to produce candidates that aren’t either.
Of course, there are other approaches. No matter how you choose to pursue candidates, cast a wide net.
The interview is key, as well. Engineer your interview questions carefully to scan for things like adaptability, resiliency, teamwork skills, competitiveness, and great communication. These characteristics all contribute to what makes a great salesperson, and great salespeople are the foundation of a winning sales team.
5. Keep the cash flowing
Money isn’t every person’s key motivator. More often than not, however, dedicated sales professionals have money on their minds. Even if the team you’re building isn’t primarily payday-driven, money is always important for security and comfort to some degree.
For building a sales team that needs a little security, offer base pay.
If that approach doesn’t align with your business objectives, try spicing up your commission scheme. Offer unpredictable incentives - monetary and otherwise - for performance.
6. Induct with care
If you’re building a brand new sales team or hiring new hands, good onboarding is invaluable. Take the time to inform new hires of your goals and vision for the force. Be transparent. Set clear expectations. Encourage your killer sales team to adopt the business or product as his or her own.
If you aren’t hiring, it’s helpful to remind your existing team of each of these points. Refresh their vision. Offer perspective. You need to walk the walk, to lead by example. If you can win, your team will feel that success and pursue it with vigor.
7. Pull out all the stops on training
What caliber training program do you plan on implementing? If you want your sales team to win (and win big), put everyone – that’s new hires, current employees, and even yourself – through rigorous sales training. Training teaches your sales team how to win. When your team knows the path to victory, walking it is simple.
High-quality sales training programs, like Sandler’s, focus on skills-based training. These courses test trainees’ learning in real time with hands-on exercises. Too often training programs focus on theoretical best practices, not real world applications.
Of course, the best sales training bakes reinforcement into every step. To keep your team winning, implement ways to maintain reinforcement training. Keep your team’s skills sharp at all times.
When it comes to building a winning sales team, there’s no silver bullet. It takes time, money, and a careful hand. That being said, the rewards are measured by the success of your company, and there is no greater reward.