The Comprehensive Guide For Building A Better Sales Team

by Adam Luckeroth, on Nov, 21, 2013

Your sales team is the engine that drives profitability.  It is comprised of men and women who bring in clients/customers and convert those prospects into cash.  Your sales team is one of the most important components of your business and warrants a considerable amount of scrutiny and ‘handling’ from upper level management.  Below you’ll find tips and tactics you can apply in the real world to build a better sales team from scratch or revamp one you already have in the field.


Evaluating Your Needs

As Entrepreneur notes, building the best sales team starts with an evaluation of your current staff in light of your needs.  One of the most important factors you should consider is the size of your sales team.  When you’re just starting out, you may be able to handle all of the face-to-face selling yourself, but you’ll likely want to expand rapidly.  However, it’s important to control the urge to hire on.  Expanding your sales team too quickly will lead to a lot of dead weight and will likely cost you business (there’s something to be said for the ‘lean and hungry’ type). The size and configuration of your sales team will very much hinge on the type of business you’re running, the manner in which that business sells (online or in person), and how much “business” the business can handle.

Once you know what you need, take a look at what prospective position holders have to offer.  Some people are natural born salespeople—they have that unique combination of the gift of gab, insight, and empathy to ‘read’ your prospects and tailor a pitch to fit perfectly.  Some people are not.  Still others have valuable assets you can bring to bear but might not cut it on the front lines.  Once you understand just what each team member brings to the table, you can mix and match personnel to create the perfect balance.

Hiring The Right Team Members

Finding the right people to work for you is essential for building a better sales team.  Sometimes that means looking internally.  Customer support operatives can often easily make the transition into a selling role, as can operations or administrative individuals if they have the proper training and motivation.  However, often you’ll have to look outside your company.  That can involve a lengthy and expensive head-hunting and candidate search process.  To make the search go faster, Entrepreneur suggests:

  • Asking current employees for referrals
  • Letting suppliers, customers, and other social contacts know of an opening before putting it on the job boards
  • Look in professional associations
  • Reach out to local and/or attractive colleges for eager upstarts
  • Go online—a post on your company’s blog or website can be the best place to start

But how do you know you’re hiring the best of the best?  As Bob Gaudreau, director of Regus, wrote for Forbes, “insist upon a structured interview process with two key components: a formalized interviewer questionnaire and dual interviews with at least two separate managers.  This leads to consistent questioning, tests candidates’ competency against the job description, and ensures that an objective decision is made.”

The iconic stereotype of the crafty salesperson has for decades fooled us into believing that Alpha Predator types make the best salespeople.  These are the go-getters who have the drive, ambition, and know-how to get the job done, no matter what obstacles arise.  And while there is a lot to say about drive, ambition, and dogged determination, being a team player is often just as important (if not more so).

Create an airtight onboarding program (it’s not just about orientation).  You need to bring your new hires in line with the company policy and culture as quickly as possible in order to maximize profitability.  The only way to really do that is through critical job skills training combined with cultural integration.

Ongoing training is also essential.  Mr. Gaudreau says it’s important for salespeople to “live the product,” meaning they understand what your company is selling backward and forward.  However, it may be just as important—or maybe more so—for your sales staff to “live the company.”  When their goals and ideology align with the company it creates a synergy that natural sells products.  When your salespeople have faith in the company, they have faith in the product.  Look at some iconic brands such as Apple and Google for validation of that.  Their company cultures are so immersive you might think they were serving Kool-Aid in the cafeteria.

Measuring Team Member’s Performance

Many resources say that one of the best metrics to have on hand when evaluating any sales team is productivity in a dollar amount.  That’s the amount of profit the team is bringing in divided by the number of members on the team.  However, that figure gives you an average and leaves you without an objective way to evaluate individual team members.  When it comes time to do so, you should also have that team member’s productivity so you can compare it to the average.  This will let you single out your top performers and also spot underperformers in whom you should invest.

These hard figures (dollar amounts) are generally held as the gold standard of sales team evaluation, but other less concrete metrics shouldn’t be overlooked.  Client turnover is a giant red flag that should immediately trigger further scrutiny.  If your top performers are raking in new clients but then leaving them hanging, offending them, or just plain dropping the ball, you definitely want to know about it.  That’s why it’s also wise to collect feedback from clients and customers to get a view of how they see your sales team from the outside.

Learn to drop the axe when appropriate.  When Barbara Concoran headed the Concoran Group, she liberally doled out pink slips to salespeople in the bottom 20th percentile.  While some employees can be trained, you have to decide if it’s worth the time, effort, and expense to do so.  Don’t be afraid to cull the herd.

What strategies have you implemented to build up your sales team? Leave a comment below.

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