Building up your own sales team is not an easy thing. You might think that having the right people with passion for sales make your sales team a self-runner. But successful sales – especially in today's digital age – do not just happen overnight. So, how can you build a successful sales team? Which methods should you be familiar with that work best? Which tips and tricks do you need for success?
When to Build a Sales Team – perfect timing
First of all, the success of a sales team depends on several factors. That said, the most important ones are the following:
- The success of your product
- The targeted market
- Your target audience
- The size of your company
- The size of your sales team
- The skills of your sales employee
- The experience of your sales employee
As you may have noticed: The listed points are divided from more general aspects to more specific ones. Your product should have proven itself on the market, be firmly established and the need for it should be there before you focus on building a sales team. You should also know your target audience and the market for your product before you hire employees with specific skills and experience.
Product, target market and target audience should be your main focus!
If your product is successful, your pipeline will fill automatically – your "problem" should rather be that you can’t meet the demand. This is where new employees come into play. From this point on, your company can grow or expand. Your sales team grows accordingly.
However, the size of your company naturally also influences the size of your sales force: If there are too few employees in customer service, the HR department etc., a huge sales team is not worthwhile either.
What Skills do Your Sales Representatives need?
As soon as your company is well positioned in terms of product and staff, you can start looking for more suitable salespeople for your sales department. While you’re out there searching, remember to start with the basic requirements of a new employee first.
Skills on the Interpersonal Level
Roughly speaking, you can concentrate on the following interpersonal skills of your future employee:
- Does this person fit my product and my company?
- Does this person fit into my team?
- Do I see this person in my company in the future?
- Is this person motivated and can he or she motivate others?
- Is this person a team player?
A little sidenote: If you don’t “click” in the first conversations, then it probably isn’t meant to be. There is enough talent in the market – go out and look for them! Of course, you can also get help from someone external to find talents. A mix of salespeople with experience and rookies should not be underestimated either. A bit like Yin and Yang – one often doesn't work without the other.
The Necessary Skillset for Selling
Of course, your new employee can’t just score points with charm, sympathy and good manners when dealing with colleagues. He or she should also be able to sell. So here are ten points that the new employee should be able to do from a sales perspective:
Pretty obvious, still necessary to be listed. Your future employee should be extremely adaptable and flexible – both on the phone or in meetings as well as in writing. Whether in cold calling or social selling.
It's not what you say, but how you say it.
Communication skills can, of course, be taught and learned (by the way: Have you ever thought about sales coaching?) – but a good sales manager should still know what kind of impression he or she has on others.
2. Business Acumen
A certain business know-how should not be missing for any salesperson. He or she should understand the term turnover, ROI and general financial figures of a potential customer. This is what makes him or her even more of an expert.
3. Social Selling & Storytelling
Both points must not to be underestimated in today's business world. Your sales managers and sales reps should be familiar with social networks and use them on a daily basis. Addressing a potential customer via LinkedIn should also be done eloquently and not just a quick copy+paste. In doing so, a sales person will be very authentic and credible. Which leads us to the next point...
Authenticity equals likeability!
Storytelling, whether on social media or in a call, is all about talking use cases and solutions with a (potential) customer – in an exciting and target-oriented way!
4. Active Listening
A lot of people – not only salespeople – find it more and more difficult to listen to what someone has to say. The world is spinning faster and faster, goals are getting higher and higher. So why let the customer finish if he or she doesn't get to the point? Active listening requires concentration and focus. Only someone who listens can read between the lines and recognize exactly what the other person needs.
5. Present & Negotiate
Sure, sales people should be able to present your product. But please do not just rattle off all the features in a hurry. A good sales manager should be able to adapt the presentation of the product to the respective pain points of the potential customer.
In an informative and yet appealing way.
The next step is to remain charming even during tough negotiations. Here too, it helps not to stubbornly recite a text, but to talk about the price and clearly explain the solutions that arise from the respective product.
Curiosity opens conversations, an open exchange and makes the (potential) customer feel seen and heard. It's hard to believe, but a good sales manager should actually be curious and open to the problems of his or her target audience.
How do I decide which conversation is worth continuing and which is not? How do I interpret the gestures and facial expressions of my counterpart? Does my potential customer find the offer interesting or not? Salespeople have to constantly sort through the complexity of an interaction and within minutes, if not even seconds, decide which path to take. Do they continue the conversation? Is there potential? What type of character is the counterpart made of and much more. A good sales manager or sales rep must therefore be decisive.
8. Technical Affinity
Similar to point 3, sales is not only a thing on social networking platforms now, but it has also arrived in the 21st century through digitalization. There are already numerous tools that can facilitate everyday sales work. Ideally, a sales manager knows these tools – whether Sales Intelligence or CRM – and knows how to use them. Otherwise, he or she should be willing to learn about such innovations in order to optimize sales processes.
9. Time Management
A day has a limited number of hours available. So, the time window for closing a deal is even smaller. A good sales manager must be able to organize his or her time independently and sensibly. Estimating time windows and processes as well as setting priorities are decisive skills in the end.
10. Research Skills
Knowledge is power. So, if you know as much as possible about a potential customer, you may already know their pains before the first direct contact. Extensive knowledge of the market, target audience and decision-makers is essential for successful sales conversations. For research support, there are sales intelligence tools (e.g. Dealfront) which collect data and information. Those tools make data available in a clear and concise form.
The Right Structure for Your Sales Team
So far so good. You took care of your product as well as capable and motivated employees. But how can you now build up your sales team effectively? There are some strategies for a meaningful sales structure, which we would like to introduce to you at this point:
The Island Strategy
The island strategy is about – as the name suggests – each sales employee forming a "one-man island".
This strategy is characterized by a rather strong competitive spirit. Each sales person looks after one customer – from the prospecting process to customer support. This means that everyone is responsible for their customers and projects and the founder or CEO often acts as the "boss".
This model may seem stressful at first glance, but it requires comparatively little implementation effort and can be applied immediately to young, growing sales teams. Therefore, this strategy is often found in start-ups.
Of course, in many cases this model leads to a quite high competition between salespeople and may therefore be more suitable for one industry over another. This approach also has advantages and disadvantages regarding customers. On one hand, the salesperson can build up an intensive relationship with the customer by accompanying him/her through the entire sales process. On the other hand, it is also possible that certain customers "disappear" as soon as the respective employee leaves the company.
Especially with short sales cycles, this model proves its worth through its proactive approach and intensive customer contact
CEOs and founders basically give up control of their product to the respective sales person and his/her selling strategy
Thanks to the more emotional connection to (potential) customers, more deals are made
Can create a rather aggressive and competitive atmosphere within the sales team
Easy integration and implementation without much effort
The individuality of the sales process makes the traceability of key sales figures difficult
The Assembly Line Strategy
In contrast to the island strategy, the assembly line strategy requires a large sales team with employees who are well coordinated and who work together.
A sales representative does not accompany a customer through the entire sales process, but only through one stage of the process. This means that each sales manager can specialize in a different sales section.
However, communication within the team must be excellent in order to ensure that the handover of a (potential) customer to the next phase within the sales process happens smoothly.
Although the division of the team may vary (also depending on the marketing department's area of responsibility), the following assembly line strategy teams usually includes:
- A lead generation team gathers potential customers and relevant information and passes it on to
- A sales development team qualifies potential customers and passes the best of them on to
- An account executive team which usually closes the deal and hands over the new customers acquired to
- A customer support team which helps new customers with onboarding and any sort of questions
Although this structure prevents a close connection between the sales person and the customer, it also enables smooth processes, consistency and efficiency. The employees act in perfect coordination which makes this strategy a boost for team spirit. It is ideal for newcomers to sales to find out which part of the process they are best suited for.
Turnover and estimates are easier to evaluate with this model
More difficult to implement in start-ups or companies with fewer resources
Makes it much easier to identify problems
Establishing a deeper connection to the customer is rather difficult
Productivity and efficiency are pushed, stress is avoided
More prone to missunderstandings between departments
The Pod Strategy
This approach is a mix of the two previous approaches. Here, your sales team is divided into several small "pods" which in turn accompany the (potential) customer through the entire sales process.
Teams consist of sales employees self-organizing themselves similar to an assembly line. On one hand, one assembly line consist of several members for different process steps, but on the other hand compete with the other teams. In other words, this approach promotes a healthy competitive spirit and a certain team spirit within the "pod".
Since these teams must be carefully assembled to ensure a smooth sales process, this approach is less suitable for young companies or startups. Even as an established company wanting to restructure to this strategy, there may be hurdles in putting together the teams.
So, this is either a further development of the customer-centric island strategy in which the one-man team is simply expanded or designed as a fragmentation of an existing assembly line strategy.
Involves a high investment of employees in the entire sales process due to its holistic approach
Sales managers are not "process section specialists" here, as each one is responsible for different tasks in the sales process
Strengthens communication and avoids friction between teams
Some salespeople may want more competition to keep them motivated
High degree of flexibility and agility is guaranteed
It is your decision to determine which strategy is suitable and how you want to structure your sales force. You can also adapt the respective strategy to the development of your business over time. Nothing is set in stone.
The Right Sales Channel
Basically, you can choose between a direct and indirect sales channel. Depending on the product or service and depending on whether you want to support or complement your internal sales team, there are different possibilities.
With the former, you sell your goods or services directly to your customers – either at your location, at the customer's premises or via your own website. In any case, no other person or company stands between you and your customer.
In the second case there is a middleman. An example: You sell a face cream via a drugstore chain and/or via Amazon – in both cases, the end customer is not your direct contact and buyer of your goods, but wholesalers and retailers.
Often, however, companies use a mix of both. On a B2C (Business to Customer) level many products are sold indirectly and on a B2B (Business to Business) level, larger quantities are sold directly to companies. For example, many electronic goods can be ordered online by a private person or ordered by a large company in larger quantities.
The Right Sales Method
Have you already thought about how your sales team should proceed in the acquisition process? Do you want to do only classic cold-calling? Or would you rather generate leads with content strategies as well? You will inevitably have to decide between inbound sales or outbound sales – or take a hybrid approach. Let's take a closer look at what this is all about.
With inbound sales, potential customers come to you. This could be through your website, a blog post or a webinar. First, you identify potential customers, arouse their interest and collect information and data. In the next step, you contact them and analyze their needs more closely. Your pitch then reflects more of a solution to the potential customer's problems. The most important point is, that you only contact people who have already shown interest.
With outbound sales, it's the other way around: You go directly to the person you want to contact via telephone acquisition, social selling or e-mails. This means that you target specific customers in your target markets and take the first step in making contact. This gives you direct contact with the customer and usually immediate feedback.
Many companies take a hybrid approach and work closely with their marketing department to provide content (blog, white papers etc.) attracting potential customers.
Get your marketing on board!
This creates new selling potential via inbound sales. On the other hand, paid ads, mailing campaigns, message templates and much more can also be created in cooperation with sales and marketing which your sales team can use for outbound sales. It’s up to you which way works best for your product or service.
The Right Coaching for Your Sales Team
Before you now decide on a structure and strategy, you should consider whether you want to train your employees in advance. This ensures that they know your product perfectly and sell it exactly the way you want it.
Invest in coachings!
You can take seminars and coaching on body language, voice training or proper presentation into consideration here. Especially for new employees, trainings can form the basis for their first successes and provide an orientation. For this purpose, external trainers can be called in to guarantee high quality improvement in the aforementioned skills. Do not be afraid to ask experts for help!
How to Build up Your Sales Team Sustainably
Acquired five really good people in one go? Congratulations! But for long-term success you should stick to your recruiting parameters. You can use the following points as a guide:
1. Define Your Team Strategy
Determine in advance what strategy your team needs. Are you at the beginning? Do you already have a well-coordinated team? Are you rather looking for employees with strengths in cold calling? Or do you need a B2B influencer who is ahead in social selling? Think about your goals, and align your team strategy accordingly.
2. Define Your Recruiting Process
Especially at the beginning of the application process, you should thoroughly examine the respective candidates. Especially in young companies, team members can have an extreme influence on the mood and motivation of a team.
Here you can ask yourself whether you should do the recruiting yourself – after all, you know your product best – or whether you should leave the search for a suitable candidate to a headhunter, for example. The headhunter in turn has more than enough qualified personnel at hand, but doesn’t know your product as well.
3. Set Your Budget
Especially in sales, performance is often linked to a direct reward in the form of commission or something similar. Therefore, a suitable candidate also expects an appropriate salary in order to switch on his or her “sales alter ego”.
Here you have to manage the balancing act between an attractive salary and the respective rewards without straining your budget, but still remaining competitive. Or you have to think of another way of rewarding your employees, such as more days of vacation or other goodies.
4. Define Onboarding & Training
Instructions, whether given on a plane or when using a dishwasher, are always useful – just like a successful onboarding. If your trainees are accompanied right from the start and introduced to the processes and products, they will feel comfortable right away and start generating sales earlier. If a new employee does not receive a well-planned onboarding, your company suffers in the end.
The same applies to training and motivation of your staff in general. Over time, everyone develops their own routine; however, it is important to freshen up things from time to time. Organize motivation rituals or workshops that push your team and give them new impulses. In doing so, work will never get boring!
5. Choose the Best Equipment
The last point is actually the most logical one, but it has an enormous impact on your sales team. Equipment at this point means: software and hardware that move your team forward, not slow it down. This includes a suitable CRM tool as well as various sales intelligence tools like Dealfront or even a simple but functional headset.
Remote working equipment should also be considered here, so that your employees can perform best anywhere. But remember: Trainings for new equipment is very important! No software in the world will bring more deals if no one knows how it works.
How to Lead and Motivate Your Sales Team
Sounds worn-out, but it's the truth: Everyone is different. For everyday sales work this means:
Everyone works differently and is motivated differently.
So, you need to get to know your employees and find out what kind of motivation they need and how you can promote and manage them accordingly. You can also ask directly what motivates each individual and get feedback on your management style!
However, some core aspects of team motivation and leadership – regardless of the personality type of your employees – should include the following four things:
1. Set Specific Goals for Your Team
Only if you set clear team and individual goals, your employees will know what to do. Such a framework gives each team member an orientation and thus a corresponding focus on a goal.
2. Trust Your Team
Once you lay out goals, give them to your team and let them do their magic. Nothing is more stressful than a team leader constantly asking for the numbers. Every sales person has their own style and pace. Respect that!
3. Offer Support
If you notice that someone is stuck or struggling with something, offer your help. This can be an open conversation, further education, workshops or something completely different. Listen and be there!
4. Good Feedback and Praise
When some time has passed and perhaps some goals have already been achieved, it is time to look back. What went well, what was not that great? Learn how to give constructive feedback to your team! Professional feedback on a factual level is important to keep morale and in turn motivation up. If something went well, praise your team and think about how you can make them happy.
How Your Sales Team is also Successful in the Home Office
Not only during a pandemic, but also in other cases, it is very useful to have the opportunity to work from home or anywhere in the globe. This not only guarantees maximum flexibility, but is also very attractive for potential new employees.
But how do you stay in contact with your team? How do you lead and motivate when all team members only see each other on the screen? Here are seven tips for you:
1. Clarify Your Expectations
Make it clear to your team what you expect from them – both group and individual goals. This way your team always knows what is important to you and what they have to work towards.
2. Encourage Commitment
With weekly or daily team calls, you can try to praise your team members and show what went well. This will in turn motivate your team! Try to advance your team through appreciation.
3. Build up Trust
Show your team that you trust them. No control calls or the like. Let your employees work their way through their goals at their own pace. See if your expectations and goals are met before you take action.
4. Encourage Collaboration
Encourage your team to exchange and communicate regularly. Brainstorming sessions or coffee breaks can also be organized via video.
5. Equip Your Team with the Best Tools
Equipment is key! The right hardware is needed, but also the necessary software. Besides the usual sales software (don’t forget sales intelligence!) you also need tools that your team can use to communicate. This is the only way to make your sales people feel like they belong to a team.
6. Set Clear Processes and Goals
By providing clear processes, you can better manage a remote team and plan projects. Once something is done and goals are achieved, you can track what went well and what didn't.
7. Offer Coachings
As already mentioned, sales training and personality coaching for sales employees is a good thing. Further training in the area of remote selling might also be a nice idea. Selling via video will never be an obstacle!
There are a few things to consider when setting up, leading and motivating a sales team. It is important to keep your goal in mind and to remember your origins and your product.
Depending on the size of your sales team and the character of the respective employees, you can choose between the strategies and methods shown – but there is no use in copying things, your way must fit for your team!
If you are currently starting out as a start-up with a rather small sales team, the island strategy and outbound sales could be more for you. If your sales team is already large with many experienced sales managers and more resources, you could rather benefit from the herd strategy with inbound + outbound sales. You can go through and try all these strategies and methods while you’re growing as a company.
If you plan the transition step-by-step, you can also measure their effectiveness and make a decision based on the observations. It is important that you record, log and observe your processes in order to eliminate the bad in the end and hold on to the good.