Persistence, everlasting optimism, empathy, and an always-on demeanor are pretty potent weapons in a sales professional’s arsenal. They are rather useful, too, in shoring up courage and shrugging off the resignation that must set in when you have to face the proverbial door-closing-in-face phenomenon. The go-getters who populate the world of sales certainly don’t have it easy in a highly competitive world high on expectations and short on patience. That is why it is important to invest in building a strong, robust, and skilled sales team to succeed.
Just like Rome was not built in a day, a reliable sales team that can deliver results in the long-run also cannot be put together at once. There are many steps and stages to building a sales team that is going to give you stellar numbers consistently. And they are:
Step 1: Recruiting a Sales Team
Finding the right people for the job is a delicate undertaking. It requires a lot of patience while researching applicants, and a meticulous detail-oriented mindset to do a thorough search. As a team leader, no one knows what kind of talent you’re looking for better than you. So working with the Human Resources (HR) teams to hunt through job portals and resumes, contacting references, and sitting in on interviews are all essential. But more importantly, focus on what kind of skill sets your team needs and if the resource you are interviewing is bringing that to the table.
Sales, for instance, is a huge function that is spread across industries. So, when putting down a job description, you can focus on someone who has industry experience or someone with transferable skills (to get a fresh perspective). The key is to have the good-to-haves and must-haves criteria cleared sorted.
Spend those five extra minutes for pre-screening candidates. Firstly, you will be better prepared for the interview. Secondly, you will be able to root out any candidates that might not be a good fit. It saves your time and that of the candidate’s.
Step 2: Familiarizing New Team Members
Every organization has its own way of working and the members of your sales team need to be keyed into the company’s particular aims and objectives, goals, work culture, etc. It is important to create a cohesive environment where team members identify with the business they represent to the outside world and the clients.
Sales is all about people skills. So, to familiarize your new sales team members start with a social occasion like a town hall or a team meeting.
Step 3: Training a Sales Team
Getting the right people in the right spots is just the beginning. Training them is as, if not more, important. Expecting them to do the job without some amount of hand-holding would be a fallacy and only serve to alienate them from the team and the business. Continuous training and helping sales reps reach their full potential will play a big role in the success of an organization. Not to mention, taking interest in training your team members will make them want to stick around too. Given the high attrition rate in this field — and the fact that 47% reps cite poor training and onboarding as the reason — this takes on even greater significance.
Having rock solid processes help in getting through the basic training quickly. However, it’s best not to treat the training process like an assembly line. Every member of the team is unique in terms of skills and needs help with specific areas of their function. Be open to customizing the training as and when required.
Step 4: Upskilling – Is it a Question of ‘If’ or ‘When’
Related to the training that sales teams must receive is the clear and present need to upskill available talent. We live in a rapidly changing, highly competitive world and upgrading skills is totally necessary. According to a study, 42% of employees have pursued training on their own after the coronavirus outbreak. This shows us that there is an increasing need to stay relevant in all industries, particularly rapidly changing industries like sales and marketing.
Organizing masterclasses with sales leaders or recognized online courses like the Kellogg Sales School program (Professional Certificate in Sales) that will help up their sales game. This seven months program helps sales and business development professionals and entrepreneurs of smaller enterprises to finesse their sales skills and learn new ones. Designed by Professor Craig Wortmann, who is known to have helped some of the world’s largest organizations in developing successful sales teams, the program will also have other industry leaders share their knowledge. This program helps to build sales knowledge, skills, and discipline as a salesperson. It also creates a roadmap to fast track your sales career and personal success in current and future roles
Continuous learning is the only way to stay relevant in this highly competitive sales ecosystem. And learning as a culture comes top-down in any organization.
Step 5: Enabling and Empowering
There is a tendency to believe that throwing your sales team into the deep end of the ocean is the best way that they will get the hang of sales operations. While true, it would be a good idea to dive in after them and help them navigate uncharted waters. A sales enablement program will play a big role in driving the success that your sales team achieves in the field. This program refers to comprehensively prepared content that is developed particularly to help the sales team focus on their objectives. This, in turn, will lead to revenue generation and have a positive impact on business, and that’s a good look for everyone.
Step 6: Setting Goals
Clear, smaller objectives are a good way to break down the job of sales professionals so as to not over-burden them with high-pressure expectations. For instance, annual revenue goals are more intimidating than breaking them down into quarters, or even monthly or weekly targets. Taking small steps is the best way to ensure your reps are motivated and not buckling under pressure. Also, it’s important to not lose sight of the larger picture; so having a waterfall goal is a must.
Setting goals is probably one of the important aspects that determine a sales team’s success. And it is dependent on the Chief Sales Officer or equivalent position. Kellogg’s Mastering Sales Program is a great scope for sales leaders to up their game. This program gives you access to 30 different tools that are invaluable for sales professionals. It also helps you learn the best practices for recruiting, training, building and managing high-performing teams.
Step 7: Demarcating Responsibilities
Sales is an intense, many-sided job and every sales professional brings something specific to the table. It is, therefore, important that their roles and responsibilities are well defined. Someone in the field whose job it is to pull in new clients should not be burdened with the task of following up with older and long-term clients, for example.
Step 8: Retaining Talent in Sales Teams
It is one of the biggest bugbears that businesses face, specifically in the sales team. Attrition rates in sales were 39% in November 2021, according to the LinkedIn Economic Graph. There are many reasons this happens, and sometimes, people simply move on. However, there are those jobs that can be saved too, if sales leaders truly engage with their team members. From explaining their role to providing encouragement and training, and creating a positive work culture (in short, all points discussed above) — it all plays a significant role in retaining talent. Keeping open channels of communication, adapting to a work culture that is fast changing, making your team members feel included, and of course, rightful compensation are very important to keep your reps with you and flourishing. Afterall, it is always more efficient to retain talent instead of hiring new talent.
To create the best possible atmosphere for a sales team to flourish, the leadership needs to understand how sales as a function fits into the overall marketing mix. Columbia Business School’s Building a Sales Team is just the program for such an endeavor. This six-month long online course helps sales leaders understand brand voice and the building a team that stands the test of time. Watch this space for more online courses for building a sales team.
By Gauri Kelkar
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