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How to Develop a World-Class Sales Team

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Download the free PDF here.

And the cheesiest team photo award goes to…Yes, the photo is extremely cheesy, but, I’m sure you’d be happy if your sales team looked like this every day after reeling in those quality leads they’ve been nurturing.

If you want to know how to make your sales team jump for joy like this bunch then please take a seat, relax, and read on where I’ll be going through my Top 5 Tips for developing a world-class sales team.

1. Evaluate your Sales Manager

If you are reading this as a Sales Manager, it would be wise to start by measuring yourself against a set of recognised core (sales) competencies; this would help you gain a clearer picture of potential areas for further development.

In our experience, companies that have a world-class sales team start with a world-class Sales Manager who is also an effective leader. Yes, the best sales teams have both excellent sales people and excellent leaders. And yes, a team of excellent sales people may well win sales and hit this year’s sales target, regardless of who their manager is, but this will be short lived.

An “average” manager will eventually bring the team down to their level. On the other hand, a truly world class manager and leader of people can take an average sales team and coach them, nurture them, motivate them and help them deliver exceptional results.

To evaluate a Sales Manager, the most effective way is to measure their capability against a set of recognised core competencies, critical to the success of their sales performance. The most important of which are:

               1. Leadership

               2. Coaching

               3. Business Acumen

Let’s talk a bit about leadership; Leadership often gets confused with management – they are different. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s definition hits the nail on the head;

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because THEY want to do it.”

Similarly, in the military they teach leaders to lead from the front (not push from the rear). It means you are on point with your troops, risking getting killed just like them.  Don’t ask others to risk their necks for you unless you are prepared to risk yours for theirs!

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Only once you have a strong Sales Leader can you truly reap the benefits of a world-class sales team. If your Sales Leader doesn’t cut the mustard – then consider bringing in an experienced specialist that can coach and develop them into top notch, high performing individuals.

Why waste money by recruiting when (potentially) you may well have the capability internally already?

2. Evaluate your Sales Team

So now you have a first-class Sales Manager, what next? Well, now that you are confident you have the right person to lead the team, now you need to understand how your current team performs and discover areas to focus development.

To gain a basic understanding of sales performance across the team, first work out the average sales productivity figure by dividing the volume of sales by the number of sales people in the team. This will tell you how each individual salesperson is doing compared to both the “average” and more importantly the “best” performing sales person in the team.

Again, measure individual performance against a set of Core Sales Competencies that an effective Sales professional is expected to have. There are various key competencies, here are a few to consider;

  • Customer Acquisition
  • Key Account Management
  • Questioning and Listening
  • Closing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Decision Making
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Influencing Conflict Resolution
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Management Controls

Be warned, a truly profitable and sustainable sales model requires more than the ability to win orders. Your sales force may be moving a lot of product now but costing you sales later by alienating customers with poor service. They may be making promises you cannot deliver, overburdening your production and distribution departments. They may be selling the wrong products (items with low margins or high support costs) while ignoring your more profitable lines. Check to see if certain sales people have large numbers of returns or tend to sell to customers who don’t pass credit checks. These sales people could be costing you more than they’re worth.

3. Find the right people

As mentioned previously, a world-class Sales Leader must be able to coach, nurture and motivate an average sales team to become a world-class sales team.

However, even a ‘World-Class’ Sales Leader cannot work miracles, some people just aren’t cut out for a job. Here are some tips to optimise your recruitment process and save money;

Promote from within: This motivates employees, increases performance and boosts employee retention.  The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting study looking at the cost of hiring employees from the outside versus promoting from within; external hires scored worse in performance reviews, were 61% more likely to be fired from their new jobs and 21% more likely to leave the job on their own accord. Interesting eh?

Ask for Employee Referrals: Employee Referrals are a vital tool for attracting high-quality talent to your organisation. They have a 13% higher retention rate and are 32% more likely to stay for 3 years or more compared to those employed through a jobs board. (Source: Jobvite 2014).

Use your Network: Be it suppliers, customers, colleagues, advisors or social contacts. This can be cheaper, faster and more reliable than advertising to the general public. Not only that, but doing the rounds within your professional network gives you an excuse to talk about your company and what you are up to, as well as a chance to reconnect with those who may not have heard from you in a while.

4.Create a Success: Reward Culture

Winning is fun. Celebrate it! This may seem obvious, but some Sales Leaders wait too long and then don’t celebrate enough. Celebrate small wins, often. Effective Sales Managers understand that the best way to dispel some of the pressure is to openly reward wins – even small ones – as often as possible and use it as an opportunity to give everyone a little boost. A little celebration creates motivation, and that goes a long way.

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It’s a well-known fact that sales people are more carrot-loving than stick-hating when it comes to motivation. With a competitive personality and a passion for winning, sales people want as many carrots as they can get their hands on. So, when it comes to rewarding them, why should their carrots be capped? If you have a world class sales manager who monitors long-term profitable sales productivity- ensuring no sales corners are cut, then why would you want to tell a salesperson on a roll that they should stop selling? The answer is – you wouldn’t, so stop capping carrots (commission).

5.Good Quality Coaching

And last and most definitely not least – good quality coaching. Coaching is the responsibility most neglected by Sales Managers, because it requires them to borrow time from their already busy day. World-class Sales Managers realise that placing a high priority on coaching will build confidence and drive performance in the team – better and faster than any other single practice. Therefore, they take every opportunity, scheduled or unscheduled, to provide feedback and support that will make their sales team perform better.

World class Sales Managers also understand that developing a world-class sales team involves (1) Refresher training for existing skills and methods; coupled with (2) Advanced Skills development.  Without (1) sales techniques are likely, at best to become stale and at worst totally ineffefferctive as they are simply “going through the motions….” with clients.

The most effective Sales Managers will most definitely be on top of (1) and some may even delve into (2) in the precious few hours they have free outside of their busy day job.

However, to reach World-class status and deliver truly exceptional results for your business, it is worth involving a seasoned Sales specialist who has the time, knowledge and experience to develop  them and the whole team accordingly.

To discover how your Sales Team can deliver  more Profitable Sales, start your benchmarking journey right now with SalesBenchmark

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