How to Build a Successful Sales Team

by | Jun 21, 2016

Building a successful sales team is not easy. You’ve got to have the right people in place, the right incentives, and a culture that makes people want to succeed. Through my experiences in sales, starting as Business Development Representative and making my way up to Director of Sales, I’ve been able to pinpoint the things that make a team successful. I’ll share those with you here.

Hire Great People

The first point may seem obvious but it’s worth stating. The foundation of a successful team is the people on it. You need to hire great people. That means you’re always looking to improve. You should never stop interviewing. Keep your funnel full just like you would for a sales funnel. I interview two candidates a day, and I’m always looking for the best talent out there. If you can’t do that, at least set some time aside to interview people weekly. Having a talent pipeline will keep your team motivated to perform, and will give you the insurance to fill in a seat, as sales is a fast-moving position.

In order to make interviewing efficient, you need to develop a process. Before you start interviewing, develop a process that cuts to the heart of what you’re looking for. Don’t go into hiring without a strategy or you will lose out on top candidates when it comes time to actually hiring one. Be able to grade your candidates objectively on the criteria you are looking for, and when you find one, move fast to bring them in.

Set Expectations

It’s important, especially when hiring a young or inexperienced candidate, to set their expectations for what it takes to be successful. Just like college was more work than high school, real work is more work than college. They should understand that, and embrace it. They are going to have to work harder than they ever have, but it will pay off more than it ever has as well.

Have a defined career path

No matter the age or experience of the candidate, you need to show them that there is a defined path for them to advance, even if that means they go somewhere other than sales (especially if this is an entry-level position). Show them a basic organization structure, visualize the career path for them, and they will see the value in the position. This not only gets them to buy into your leadership, but establishes trust and makes them feel valued as an employee.

Incentivize your team

A career path isn’t the only thing candidates care about. Salespeople need to know they can make money now. You can incentivize people two ways – think of the proverbial “carrot or stick”. I prefer the carrot. I like to motivate people to push themselves to achieve more, rather than motivate people to achieve the bare minimum. Salespeople like to brag about their wins. My job is to make sure they have something to brag about. I try to incentivise lofty goals with lofty bonuses.

Have a winning culture

Culture starts on the sales floor. You want to have a high energy atmosphere. Encourage the swagger and confidence of your team. Give high fives, ring the deal bell, and recognize the people that go above and beyond. You want to create a competitive and supportive team atmosphere, and recognizing individuals on big wins will help bring out some of the competitive nature of your team members.

Part of the winning culture also involves creating common language. Your team should be sharing the messaging pitches and values props that are successful. The competition shouldn’t be so tough that team members are hiding valuable insights. After all you are a team, and along with individual recognition, you need to reward your team as a whole to encourage people to share their methods to success.

Have fun!

This last piece should not be overlooked. Everyone knows they’re in the office to do a job, but if it becomes only a job, people will start to lose the drive and camaraderie that makes coming to work enjoyable. There will always be stressful times, but make sure there’s a balance. Keeping your employees happy and looking out for their mental health and attitude shows that you care about them, but also leads to a more productive and energized team.

By Sam Whelan

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