How to Build a Successful Sales Team

Even the best salespeople won’t make the best sales team on their own. Professional sports teams don’t become champions without a significant amount of planning, strategizing, and flawless execution. Hiring the best may work in the short term, but that doesn’t guarantee the success you need to drive lasting growth. How do you build a successful sales team? Let’s examine some best practices and pitfalls to avoid. If you put in the hard work and plan effectively, you’ll find the success you need in no time.

Steps For Building A Successful Sales Team

Step 1: Making Top-Down & Bottom-Up Models Work For You

The products or services you provide are what determine how you will implement both a top-down and bottom-up sales structure. 

The top-down model is a formalized approach intended to impart the value of your product or service to prospects. Your sales team possesses the skills and knowledge to demonstrate the importance of all features across the board. Their explanations of criteria setting, packaging and pricing make the benefits of your product/service offerings tangible to customers. This results in superior penetration into the enterprise considering your product and greater product appreciation with higher revenue for the customer. It’s a winning strategy for all stakeholders.

Implementing a bottom-up model isn’t necessarily a less effective strategy, but it is better suited to specific offerings. Products/services that are in high demand and provide specific solutions to common problems are an excellent choice for a bottom-up approach. Here’s the catch: end users don’t always know how to take full advantage of your product/service. You may move more units, but your sales team doesn’t possess as great an opportunity for repeat business. 

Well-trained inside sales teams can generate significant revenue from a bottom-up model, especially if they know how to effectively value add. Outside sales reps with the right training are best poised to leverage a top-down model and build strong customer relationships. Layering both models effectively to complement each other is the key to starting and maintaining your successful sales team.

Find Your Optimal Sales Team StructureStep 2: Find Your Optimal Sales Team Structure

The name of the game here is accretion. Every member of your sales team needs to bring in roughly five times their respective compensation. What makes this 5X accretive structure so effective? Here’s a brief list that should clear things up:

  • Your company should be cash flow positive by a few million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).
  • You can hire as many reps as you can find
  • Sales numbers won’t be a stressor from a cash point of view
  • Marketing costs become more manageable
  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), specialized sales reps and account managers can all be adequately funded to maintain growth and increase revenue

Sales-driven companies with efficient capital management should have no trouble attaining and maintaining a 5X ratio for average quota/average on-target earnings. What does your sales team get out of this?

  • No more forcing your team members into segments that don’t have enough demand or provide sufficient leads.
  • Avoid burning through your cash reserves “buying” sales. 
  • No more “starving” your team members with a drought of opportunities.
  • No more intense competition for sales in areas where you might not otherwise attempt to compete.

Buying sales isn’t necessarily an ineffective strategy. Many companies drive growth using this model successfully. Those who can raise enough capital to do it can squeeze out even the most tenacious competitors. That being said, your sales department does not need to be a cash drain. If anything, sales should be driving profitability.

Step 3: Streamline Your Team

Many companies are finding that the pod model is the most effective structure for keeping your teams efficient and customer-centric. Pods are small, tightly-knit and highly focused groups within your sales team that have designated roles for each member. Let’s say you split your sales team into six-person pods comprised of three SDRs, two account executives (AEs), and a single customer success representative (CSR).

Each pod is assigned to a specific market segment or account type to keep revenue flowing in. They are entirely responsible in every way for all business conducted with that account or segment. With designated specialists, each account or segment has its own dedicated group that establishes and maintains a close business relationship. No needs get lost in the shuffle between departments if they have an issue or require additional product/service support. Their pod handles everything for them.

Better still, your sales team goes from competing between departments to competing between pods. Organizing your sales team into pods allows for superior adaptability, allowing them freedom to develop and execute their ideas independently. It’s also an ideal structure for established companies to optimize their sales staff and expand their reach into new markets. 

Choose An Acceleration Formula For Hiring The BestStep 4: Choose An Acceleration Formula For Hiring The Best

There are a plethora of formulas out there for pre-qualifying and identifying ideal candidates for your team. Most of them center around developing a structured interview that uses correlated attributes of what makes an exceptional sales representative. Here are a few potential attributes you may want to consider:

  • Curiosity
  • Coachability
  • Intelligence
  • Work Ethic
  • Passion
  • Prior Success
  • Adaptability
  • Preparation
  • Brevity
  • Competitiveness

You can prioritize these in any way that is consistent with your established company values. These attributes are typically organized and scored on a spectrum, then tallied up to determine a percentage of compatibility. From this percentage, you can decide if a candidate is going to be successful within your sales team. It may seem like a minor detail, but it has made and broken many sales teams.

Step 5: Establish a Team Culture That’s About More Than Quota

Hiring the best candidates isn’t a guarantee of sales success.  You can still lose at cards playing with a stacked deck. By the same token, a team of cut-throat prima donnas can be a recipe for disaster. Truly successful sales representatives have a deep commitment to achieving and exceeding their own personal quota goals. Moreover, their actions also demonstrate a deep commitment to company values and goals, too. What type of actions show you who they are? Let’s consider the following:

  • Prioritize delivering customer feedback to product and service teams
  • They are enthusiastic and passionate about working with teammates to develop best practices and scalable processes.
  • Fiercely defend your non-negotiables.
  • They uplift their teammates with an instinctive understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Do these attributes translate directly to data? It’s difficult to say. What is certain is these behaviors combined with a culture that promotes them yields specific results: customers’ experience improves and you provide better products and services that are easier to sell. Everyone wins.

Step 6: Passion Is As Important As Compatibility

It has been said that passion is not a trainable attribute. You can teach skills, methods, techniques, strategies and product knowledge ad nauseam. You can never teach someone how to be driven, how to be passionate, or how to be determined. 

When you interview candidates, ask what they are truly passionate about. If they respond with some generic answer focused on your business you need to stop them right there. What in life are they truly passionate about? It could be their football team, or art, or music or movies. 

You need to see how hot that passion burns regardless of what they are passionate about.  Anyone who has a fire inside about something can bring it to their job. It is the responsibility of effective sales leadership to inspire even the smallest transfer of that passion into working for you.

Step 7: Find Team Members Who Know How To Blend Art And Science

The nature of sales has evolved tremendously over time, and it continues to evolve with each passing year. Before the era of big data and marketing number crunching, sales was all about influence, persuasion, charm and social skills. In 2021, sales work now demands a better-than-average understanding of data analysis and predicting buyer behavior using statistical models. 

The most successful sales teams will be the ones that can blend the artistic aspects of sales with their scientific counterparts. Team members must navigate the spheres of skilled relationship management and precise data analysis with grace and poise. You will find your top performers demonstrate high social intelligence and an aptitude for interpreting patterns in your sales numbers.

Step 8: Weighing Salary Versus Bonus Compensation

This part is fairly straightforward: the more you leverage compensation plans for results consistently, the better off you and your team will be. Commission and bonus-heavy compensation gives your sales team the best incentive to help you grow your business. Furthermore, your team has the potential to earn significant additional income compared to a fixed salary compensation plan. Best of all, bonus and commission models always attract the best sales talent if you are trying to bring in fresh talent.

After you have established how your team will be organized and paid, you are ready to put them to work. There are, however, a few caveats to be aware of as you establish your team and develop your unique team culture.

Dos and Donts of Building a Successful Sales Team

Dos and Don’ts of Building a Successful Sales Team

Here are some potential issues to be aware of as you build your team and start to organize.

  • DO NOT “Checkbox Hire”

Spend extra time on your hiring process and focus on getting the overachievers. Hiring the wrong person for your team is drastically more expensive than taking your time to find the best fit. Don’t bring anyone aboard just because they check all the right boxes.

  • DON NOT Cut Corners On Training & Sales Enablement

Your people need the best training and support to achieve the above-and-beyond success your business needs to grow. Make sure they are learning from the wins as much as the losses when it comes to their sales numbers. The more you invest in them, the greater the return will be as they grow and learn.

  • DO NOT Cultivate A Culture Of Fear

Team members need to be accountable for their performance, but no one should live in fear for their job. Sales performance always suffers when reps feel that leadership doesn’t believe in them or that they are doing things wrong. Their energy drops, and they start to take other reps down with them. The team fails and so leadership fails. You have the choice to foster a culture of excellence and achievement without using fear as a motivator. Always choose excellence over fear.

  • DO Provide Clarity For The Sake Of Focus

The greatest gift you can give a sales team is clarity. Clarity of responsibilities, clarity for sales territories, and clarity regarding compensation are what matter most to individual sales reps. Offering clarity on rules of engagement, company objectives and potential career paths are most important to sales leadership. Clarity prevents roadblocks to success that arise when reps and leadership do not understand expectations and objectives. 

  • DO Hire A Diverse Team And Foster Communication

Hiring the driven and talented is important, but the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is no less important. You need people who think differently if you want your team to challenge one another to grow and improve. Get them to talk and keep them talking. It’s in those conversations that the real magic happens and records are broken. When you look for new hires, consider their background and perspectives as much as what’s on their resume. It could be the “x-factor” that catalyzes the entire team.

  • DO Set Stretch Goals

Always have something to offer for those that want to go above and beyond because they are hungry for more. Keep your people challenged and outside their comfort zone while they focus on achieving core objectives. The best and most lasting personal growth is always found when your team stretches to achieve more.

  • DO Celebrate Success

Big or small, celebrate every success. The big accounts and the little accounts deserve recognition, and you need to always keep that in mind. Celebrating every deal you close allows the whole team to share at the moment and enjoy progress as a cohesive unit. These celebrations large and small can go a long way to developing your culture of excellence and achievement. Best of all, they build confidence and positivity about success in each team member’s mind and heart.

Final Thoughts

All things considered, building a successful sales team is about three things: 

  • Careful planning and strategizing
  • Making choices that align with your state values 
  • Ensuring your compensation model fosters success

Whether you are building a new team or refitting a veteran sales force, take the time to examine these steps carefully. You will find something good and useful no matter where you are in the team-building process. It may be challenging and time-consuming, but it is well worth the investment.

Contact Selling Revolution

If you need help building the perfect sales team, Selling Revolution has the tools you need to succeed. We pride ourselves on being the experts in building successful sales teams and effective sales strategies. Click here to sign up for a quick, 20-minute consultation with one of our sales experts.