Your business is growing and it is no longer possible for you to manage the sales process alone. Although your company will immediately die without sales, this most vital of professions does not have common agreed professional standards. You have invested everything to get this far so you want to build the world’s greatest sales team. Here is how you go about it.
Pick a strong match for your target customers
When it comes times to speak with prospective sales team members, be very clear on your customer profiles. Have a clear and understandable proposition based on the problem you solve.
Next, remember that sales personnel fall into two camps. Some are hunters who relish the task of uncovering new prospects and new propositions. They adapt and grow into a challenge, and will stop at nothing to match their customers with the organisation. They need strong support and permission to hunt – to go do what they do best. On the other hand, some are farmers who build strong relationships and develop an account to greater heights.
Mixing roles is doomed to failure, as hunters will fail in a mature market, and farmers will go into meltdown if faced with a greenfield proposition. So make it clear to your prospective team member who they will be assigned to and what the main milestones are likely to be.
Your sales team represent you in the field. Give your candidate a clear chance to differentiate themselves.
- Ask about recent successes and why they happened. Same for failures. Look for evidence of resourcefulness and recovery from setbacks.
- Ask them the most difficult questions that you get from your customers. When you find yourself wishing you had thought of the answer just delivered then you are on to something.
- Ask them for a 10 minute presentation on something that they are passionate about, covering the pro and cons of their passion. Then have three people with you ask questions.
You get to see how they perform on a topic they are passionate about. It also exercises their ability to develop and deliver strong argumentation, defend a position without getting emotional, and shows their ability to take critical feedback. You may even learn something new!
All of this will help your targeting and also convince the candidate that there is a path to success.
Have something to sell
Be very clear what it is that you are selling. What benefit will your solution deliver? Top Dog sales people will pick up on your points instantly. You are being interviewed just as much as the person you may want to bring on board. The good ones will know when things are unclear and they will walk away, so work hard to understand – and quantify – the value your solution brings.
Have a clear view on how a sales team works
- Clearly lay out what needs to be done then track it, because what gets measured gets done. Remember, transparency is vital and if things are not going to plan there will be no problem as long as things are recognized quickly – and corrections made. Sales performance, pipeline development, movement at each milestone in the sales process – these are all metrics that are typically first on the agenda at senior meetings, so set the key metrics from day one and track religiously.
- Hold regular account reviews. This keeps all internal stakeholders up to date, encourages a shared sense of destiny, and helps to uncover the gaps. Always look for the gaps – the hole in their knowledge or plan that can either save the day or invite disaster. Beware of reviews where everything is known. Keep digging until you find the gap, then prioritise and encourage the whole team to help brainstorm ways to get the information and build a plan.
- Hire the best – and empower them. Once metrics are set and jointly agreed, let your team do their job. Resist the urge to micromanage and never undermine your team members. When you are holding an account review resist the urge to turn it into a calling plan – you are looking for gaps and alternatives, not for an accounting of who called and when. Make sure your team bring you in to assist when needed, visit prospects regularly with your team, try to ride shotgun with them on a regular basis. Treat your team with respect – they are representing you in front of the customer so ensure they step up to the responsibility by directing any meetings. This way you can build trust and rapport.
- Always be training. There is a lot to learn and not all sales teams come with the same history, so have an annual sales training programme to keep your teams sharp, current and relevant. Plus it keeps them on their toes and you get regular feedback from the facilitator.
- Try to see your team from the outside in. Bring your sales team in for a formalized session, where you act as the customer. The point of the exercise is primarily to hear your company pitch from the outside-in. This can yield surprising benefits and gaps. If it is a complex sale which requires multiple customer touch-points then appoint some colleagues as CxO (eg CMO, CTO, CFO).
- If you prefer, get some trusted external colleagues to act as a customer, but do the exercise. Be tough, but professional. Ask the really hard questions in a polite and open fashion – you are looking for excellence and an ability to adapt, not humiliation. Without doubt your team are going to face the tough questions someday – wouldn’t you prefer them to be asked in a risk-free internal environment?
Done well this type of exercise can be one of the single most powerful tools at your disposal.
Know how to motivate
Have an easy to understand commission structure, write it down – with sample calculations – and do not be afraid to pay out on it. If you are concerned then calculate what 200 or 300% of target will pay out and adjust if you need to – but what a great problem to have! Understand clearly the difference between booking a sale and delivering the revenue. Have a clear view on exactly what will pay out and when.
A simple and powerful commission structure is essential, for sure, but strong teamwork, pride in company and product, exceptional skill levels, a challenger mentality and access to the tools required to win are all a key part of the mix.
Legendary sales teams are grown, not born, and it is vital to understand what is actually involved in sales, how teams operate and how to motivate people correctly. With the basics clearly understood and in place a high performing sales team can exceed any expectations you have.
These basic guidelines have consistently worked for me. Do you have additional items that you always watch for?