You could say I’m a little biased, but I tend to agree with countless experts who attribute the success of an organization to the effectiveness of its sales team. For the better part of nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most talented sales professionals in human capital management, in roles ranging from smile-and-dial lead generation, to sales training, to management, and everywhere in between. In each role along the way, I’ve had a chance to experience first-hand what works, (and a lot of what doesn’t work), when it comes to creating a sales team that consistently delivers results and aligns solutions with the needs of leading organizations. In almost all cases, the success of the sales team depends heavily on the right combination of factors – no single rep, or new prospecting tool, or incentive program is enough to drive the success that most organizations are chasing. Instead, more often than not, it’s the strength of the team, the decisiveness of leadership, and the support of the organization that will determine your team’s ability to hit targets and achieve organizational objectives.
As sales leaders, we are always looking for new ways to strengthen our teams. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to help you stare down the end of the month (and the next month…and the next month… and the month after that):
1) Individuals are only as strong as their team.
We’ve all heard the saying that the best teams are more than the sum of their parts. It turns out this is just as true in sales, even as individuals are each responsible for their own quotas and growth goals. According to research from HBR, twice as many salespeople and sales leaders at high-performing sales organizations rated their organization as excellent, compared to average and underperforming respondents. Only 1% of high-performing team members rated their sales organization as below average compared to 10% of average and 8% of underperforming team members. This tells us that top-performing sales teams nearly unanimously attribute the success of each individual to the overall strength of the team. Your ability to create a team with complementary strengths will mean the difference between hitting quota and struggling to get deals across the finish line.
2) Implementing structured processes is critical.
Process makes perfect when it comes to creating a high-performance sales team. More structured sales processes will help you create results based on replicating the best practices of leading organizations and your own top-performing reps. Processes will also ensure that onboarding, training, and ramp-up periods are executed more efficiently, helping you get more of your team selling in less time. Leading organizations are twice as likely to report they had sales processes that were closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated compared to just 1 in 4 from underperforming sales organizations. In fact, nearly half of underperforming sales organizations say they had nonexistent or informal structured sales processes. Bottom line: if you’re not creating a structured approach to selling, your team will likely fail to consistently hit their targets.
3) Competition is less important than collaboration.
Ask any sales leader what they look for in a new sales rep and competitiveness will probably near the top of their list. But tools that aim to spur sales activity, like leaderboards and daily sales reports, can only take you so far unless there’s a way for your lowest performers to learn from your best. A team-oriented sales culture will ensure that reps who are consistently struggling to hit their numbers are coached and mentored by senior teammates. Sales leaders should give sales reps the tools and channels to share their strategies and successes with their peers, creating a way to help your team constantly improve as you break into new markets or verticals. Instead of purely incentivizing on individual quota attainment, you could consider building in incentives based on team-goals or organizational improvement. Collaboration is critical not only within the sales team, but with other departments. By helping your sales people find and connect with subject matter experts, thought-leaders, administrative staff, you’ll enable them to close more deals, build their product knowledge, and develop new skills.
4) Don’t forget to create room for growth.
Too many organizations have a churn-and-burn outlook when it comes to hiring for a sales team. Let’s face it: sometimes our need for positions to be filled sometimes outweighs our ability to filter through multiple candidates to find the ideal fit. But the best sales teams recognize that each new team member, whether they’re starting in a junior business development seat or in a senior account executive role, has the potential to be a leader in your organization. Modern sales teams hire a bullpen of future leaders and provide a clear path and ample resources for career advancement. If your sales organization hasn’t created a concrete plan for sales development, be sure to define a process for how your sales development reps can move to a more senior role, or how natural team leaders can move into management positions. Define a plan for coaching and development as the employee hits critical goals or objectives, so they can be ready for the next step in their career when they’re ready. When possible, try to help sales managers nurture their team’s development with weekly reminders or push messages to create individualized development plans without the added burden of tracking progress manually with spreadsheets.
5) Modernize your approach to leadership.
The final part of creating the ultimate modern sales team is responsible, proactive leadership. Even if every other piece of the process is put in place, you will not have a high-performing team unless you modernize the way you lead. This includes being engaged in thought leadership, coaching your reps,helping them on critical pursuits, and utilizing internal people insights to continuously shape your team’s success. Because you likely came from a sales rep position before taking on the role of sales leader, it’s important to remember that your primary responsibility isn’t selling. Leaders instead need to focus on enabling their team by clearing the path to success, and providing support along the way. While some leaders have a unique ability to keep important milestones, achievements, company resources, sales enablement material, and each rep’s career aspirations in their heads, a lot may need technology that will help them create a more effective approach to coaching and mentoring. That’s where tools that enable your success will come into play, and magnify your ability to get your team across the finish line month after month.
If your sales team is the engine of your organization, their success will ultimately determine whether or not your organization thrives. By equipping them with the right training, technology, and experience, you’ll help to ensure your team consistently achieves results that drive your organization forward. If you’re interested in learning more about how Structural helps sales teams deliver more effectively, let’s connect.