What does it take to create a successful sales team, and how should you as a sales manager go about that process? This is particularly challenging considering that sales is a highly competitive, individualized profession in which salespeople are traditionally evaluated solely on their individual success.
However, a sales organization that works effectively as a team will consistently outperform a sales organization that solely consists of isolated individuals, no matter how motivated or capable those individuals are.
In order to achieve the greater results that can be achieved by shaping a successful sales team, you can move toward your goal by taking four essential steps to set the right stage and craft an effective team culture:
1. Focus the sales team on the sales process.
The first key is to shift everyone’s focus from purely considering their individual performance to examining the processes that lead to better results. Focusing on the sales process means working with the team to seek input and ideas that will improve each aspect of the sales cycle — from targeting the marketing more precisely to qualifying leads more effectively. Each step in the sales process will benefit from examination, and by involving the team as a group you gain the benefit of individual contributions and a shared sense of mission and benefit.
2. Select the right model for your sales structure.
There are two major models commonly used for organizing a sales team.
The first model is built around territory management. That territory can be defined geographically, or it can be defined by industry or by the size or nature of the customer (i.e. small business solutions vs. enterprise sales). This approach generally benefits from clearly defined territory boundaries or definitions, and gives each person the opportunity to ‘build a business’, which appeals to more entrepreneurial and independent sales professionals.
The second model is centered on interlocking roles, and divides the staff by function. In this scenario, you might have a business development rep who just focuses on outbound phone and email activities to generate leads; an inside sales person who takes new leads and engages them until they are ready to take a meeting; and an outside sales person who meets with the prospect face-to-face and attempts to close the order; and a technical or product sales professional who provides support to the inside and outside leads to ensure that the customer’s questions are fully addressed throughout the sales cycle.
Both models have their advantages and disadvantages, but what is important for effective sales managers is to choose a model and stick with it. You may also consider creating a hybrid approach with both models, which would have the added advantage of building a more cross-trained team, if you believe it can be managed effectively.
3. Compensate for collaboration.
In many sales organizations, compensating sales personnel means, essentially, paying a commission for each deal the rep closes. However, the problem with compensation strategy emerges when management treats sales compensation as a ‘zero-sum’ game. In the zero-sum approach, a deal that is closed by two sales reps working as a team results in a 50% cut to the commission for each of them.
Similarly, companies that have dedicated strategic account reps for the largest deals often compensate those strategic account experts by taking funds from the field sales reps they are supposed to partner with. You cannot encourage collaboration by taking money out of a salesperson’s pocket every time they work with a team member, so it is essential to develop a compensation strategy that balances the company’s reasonable commission budget constraints with the legitimate interest of encouraging collaboration — and seeing more deals closed as a result of that effort.
4. Implement CRM effectively.
Your customer relationship management (CRM) system is the lifeblood of your sales operation. Without it, you can’t effectively track, manage, or communicate. And communication is the key to true collaboration.
That means not only making sure everyone on the team uses your CRM system (including you) — it also means establishing processes and workflows that support information sharing. If a contact or opportunity meets certain criteria, it should be shared by the system so that all relevant team members can see it and review the details.
5. Use a team approach to close deals.
Remember that sales is – at its core – about relationships. The stronger the relationships you build with your prospects, the more they will trust you and follow your guidance. Taking a team approach can have a profound impact on building this trust.
First, taking a team approach shows controlled vulnerability by letting the prospect test what you say against what a coworker says and developing confidence that every member of the team believes in the product or service you are offering. By presenting a unified and integrated team, you show the customer the best side of your business.
Second, it allows one person to focus on listening and observing while the other is presenting or engaging. Collecting information or observing nonverbal cues can help the sales team to better interpret and follow up on each meeting. And third, it allows sales professionals to learn from one another as they seek to work toward the same goal…together.
Use these five strategies to set a strong foundation for your sales team and you’ll see the results emerge as your team increases its confidence, strengthens its perspective and becomes more engaged in the strategy, process and relationships that lead to sales success.