The”game” of sales has changed and you know what? Everyone has an opinion on how to build a sales team and there is so much to think through. It used to be that when someone wanted to build a sales team, you put the word out and received some candidates. You interviewed for certain skills and then make some decisions. The skills you looked for were typical for sales people – aggressive, fearless, could take rejection, self-motivated and so forth. Those same skills haven’t lost their importance AND there is so much more to envisioning and then building a successful sales team in today’s recovering economy where the “war for sales talent” is now on full blast. In the good ‘ol days some sales people worked out and some didn’t and that was expected. There were always more to be interviewed, on boarded and coached. At the risk of repeating myself, times haves changed and so must our thinking about how to make a sales team and how to make them great.
Allow me to share my perspective on the areas to focus on when you are building a great sales team:
- All sales people need to think big and see the company as a whole engine working toward sales. My mantra and entire speaking and consulting practice is built around the principle of building a sales culture. As the title of my book says “Everyone’s in Sales. Everyone impacts the clients. I expect that all sales people lead the charge here and have the DNA and intuition to engage people in a way that inspires and motivates them to want to work toward making sales happen! Great sales teams are inclusive and thankful and unentitled.
- Humility counts. Great sales people are humble and don’t read their own press. They stay focused and keep going and regard the accolades and congratulations as a reward for work well done. Entitlement is a lethal attitude to great sales professionals.
- The team is sum of parts not a silo. Sales teams that excel know they are part of the whole and no one sales person can get any deal done in a vacuum. It’s up to a great sales person to know this. Sales are not now and never will again be linear. A sale being about a relationship only between the sales person and the client is so ‘80s
- Speaking of relationships how well do your sales people keep their relationships portable and close as they transition through their careers? I speak often on my principle of Relationship Portability ™ and the role it plays in success. I don’t want to hear sales people name drop – prove it to me that you know the person and they are close and see them as a part of their business success.
- Compensation must actually have a relationship to the behaviors and results we want. I learned a long time ago to keep the compensation plan simple and easy to calculate. If senior executives want to limit compensation because they are worried a sales person makes “too much” then they don’t get it and never will. Further to the point, metrics – quotas and activities must be realistic, achievable and just enough of a stretch to inspire and not demotivate. People need to be held accountable.
- Sales leadership must understand that their number one and ONLY function is to coach, develop, motivate, and inspire their staff. That’s it. If you think that your job is to step in and DO the job of the people you hire, then you will be at work forever. Your job is a noble one, namely to help people be as good as they can be! Amazing managers never, ever, miss an opportunity to coach people UP. Coaching happens all the time, and it can be planned or serendipitous. There is a difference between coaching and telling. Great managers get that and live for it.
- A successful sales team has people positioned in places where they are most likely to succeed! Everyone has skills and they should be used in the best possible way. A hunter is not a farmer and vice versa. A sales person is not a bill collector.
- Onboard correctly. Those first few days and weeks are critical to make sure the sales person knows they made a good decision. Onboarding should be structured and formatted to give the best possible view on HOW to be successful. The HOW is important and so often neglected.
- Reward and recognize all contributions not just the “top sales person”. Many people in a sales culture contribute to the sales team being successful. Recognizing that means more success and collaboration. Want to kill sales? Keep the sales team and the accolades insular. The rest of the company are all honorary sales people.
So much to do to build a great sales team. The reality is that building a great sales team is an iterative and never ending process. There will be pieces that you get right and pieces that need revisions from time to time. Staying ahead of the curve as it were and listening to the sales team will make for a better long term structure.
The final secret? The sales team is not just sales people. It’s everyone.