Building a successful sales team | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Building a successful sales team

10 October, 2021

The success of a commercial entity depends on more than the solutions they provide or the services offered to their clients.

Behind every noticeable and successful organisation is an exceptional sales team that relentlessly connects with potential customers and closes sales deals. The sales team forms the lifeline of any organisation. They bring the income needed for survival and growth, in this fiercely competitive market.

Building a consistently winning sales team is much more than hiring salesmen, giving them a script, and hoping for the best outcome.  A performing sales team has a distinct and well-defined mission, flawless skill in communication, and a perfect process to achieve high performance. Hence, the team must consist of the right combination of members, starting from the top. 

Determine objectives

First and foremost, the top management must determine what the intended sales team does for the company. The answer is bringing in sales. However, the objective of the sales team must be to bring home new business continuously. Evaluating and understanding the best type of structure for the organisation to achieve the company’s goals is the most important starting point.

The type of sales team structure depends on the business model, the nature of the products and/or services, the target market segments, and the growth trajectory. For example, if the products and services are for selling outside the premises, the management has to look for field salesmen with experience in field sales. 

On the contrary, if it is retail selling, the hiring criteria must be formulated differently. Also, at this initial stage, the organisation must decide on the processes and tools to support the team members. Planning these aspects will ensure the quality of recruitments. 

Establish strong leadership

Establishing a strong leadership for the team to start with is one of the key tasks of the management. Behind every successful and performing sales team, a capable leader who can provide guidance to steer the team exists. A good sales leader communicates effectively with the team, gives them confidence, teaches proficiency, and inspires the team to excel. The best sales leaders are target and deadline-driven and take accountability for their teams.

However, when a company hires a person to lead the sales team, assessing and evaluating the field sales experience is the single most important factor. The selected leader must know how to sell in order to guide the team. If the person selected was not involved in the selling process and does not understand the concept of selling, the entire team can be in jeopardy. Therefore, a leader’s experience as a sales practitioner is important although other leadership qualities and traits matter. 

Identifying the right type

Identifying the type of salespeople the company needs is important.  The roles and responsibilities of the sales team the company needs to fill vary. Experience, knowledge and skill levels, and specialisations of the sales team members largely depend on various circumstances such as the company size, product portfolio, competition, present market conditions, and so forth.  The requirements of a start-up can be different from those who are already in business. Therefore, the management has to focus on specific needs and future goals before doing the actual hiring.

Recruiting salespersons for the company’s sales team is as important as choosing the leader, simply because it is the sales team that will go out and bring revenue. No matter if all other related factors are impeccable, if the sales team fails, the organisation will be in ruins.  Therefore, the recruiting process of sales team members to a company is a tedious and strenuous process. 

Looking for recruits who match the company’s mission, values, and culture is essential although finding such people is not an easy task. There are two paths to hiring sales staff. The company can both recruit people, and then train and motivate them to fit in or recruit people who already have the required traits to Suit Company’s culture.  

Simply, the candidates who easily blend in with the organisation’s culture are highly effective in their performances. For example, if the organisation is fast-paced, energetic, independent, and bustling with activities, the recruited candidate must be able to suit the environment. On the other hand, if the company is hierarchical and subdued with serious attitudes, a different type of person may fit in better. 

Looking for diverse skills set

When hiring members for a sales team, looking for candidates with diverse skills must be useful.  Although the logical action is to recruit salespeople with the same industry experience, hiring a professional from an unrelated trade can give fresh perspectives, new strategies, and different selling techniques. Having a more well-rounded and diverse team can be more productive, particularly when confronting competition. 

As mentioned many times in my previous sales-related articles, employing the right sales practitioners is a daunting task for a company. Even with the best knowledge and longest industry experience, selecting a salesman can be tricky with a few short interviews. Specifically, often employers come across candidates with a fixed mindset who hardly see reasons to change. Detecting candidates with such a mindset in a limited time is complicated. 

Coachable candidates

Therefore, finding coachable candidates who want to learn and grow is exceedingly important at this stage. It is the cleverness of the interviewer that discovers such candidates who are self-motivated to grow.  The management should be alert to identify candidates who possess ongoing passion and the willingness to adapt and evolve. 

It is common knowledge that a motivated sales team sells more, boosts the value of individual sales, and increases retention. By leveraging morale and self-esteem, the management encourages them to perform better and do more. Keeping the sales team motivated is an ongoing process. Sales managers find numerous ways to motivate the team and hold their enthusiasm intact. Particularly, those who are engaged in field selling under rugged conditions have to be given special attention. 

Motivation 

Motivating the team does more than just encouraging them to do better and succeed in their respective roles. It also creates better organisational loyalty. Rewarding people on performance by way of financial or non-financial benefits engenders a better work environment for the sales team. Motivated employees are happy employees and invest more of themselves in the success of the organisation.  

After the team is built and ready to roll, they must be provided both on the job and off the job tools to carry on from the beginning. More importantly, after going through a gruesome process of recruitment, the company has to have a strategy to retain them. 

In my long experience in sales, I have realised that the cost of new recruitment is much higher than holding on to a performing salesman. Therefore, the retention strategy must be strong and clear-cut. In addition to the cost factor, high employee retention is damaging to the organisation’s reputation as prospects, customers, and business partners most often prefer to deal with longstanding employees. 

Common mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that occur when building a successful sales team, mainly related to the recruitment of team members.  An experienced interviewer never hires a salesman at face value. Most frequently experienced and smart candidates sell themselves at interviews successfully. Therefore, although time-consuming, doing proper due diligence before filing the slot must be done carefully.

At interviews, many interviewers talk about only the good side of the job and ignore stating the hard facts. While avoiding creating a fear culture about the company, the interviewer must balance both sides properly to avoid misunderstanding later on. 

Finally, the company must not underestimate the importance of sales enablement. The team must be provided with all the tools to ensure their future success. These tools mainly comprise training, mentoring, coaching, quality leadership, and any other support to perform effectively.

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