When building and developing any successful sales team, a leader must focus on the three primary components that provide a model for sales success: 1) people; 2) process; and 3) planning. It is also necessary, whether building a team from scratch or improving the current team, to address the three components in the order of which they are presented.
Component #1: People
As it relates to salespeople, there are very few eagles – the absolute superstars. These eagles are self-sufficient individuals who will succeed and be the best despite any structured guidance, management or leadership provided by the organization of which they are employed. Most salespeople fall into the “A” player or “B” player categories, or below. The key to building and leading a successful sales team is to hire and retain one or two eagles (if you are lucky – there is no science unfortunately to find and hire these individuals), then employ a strategy to attract, select, and hire “A” players and “B” players. THEN you must provide a systematic approach to cultivating, training, coaching, and motivating the “A” players to continue performing at a high level while enabling the “B” players to ultimately perform like “A” players. Easier said than done! This “systematic approach” is known as a “Prescriptive Framework for Sales Success”.
Let us look at how to implement the Prescriptive Framework for Sales Success:
1. Hiring Salespeople
a) Identify what past experiences tend to predict future success, and consequently, determine a more effective and efficient sourcing strategy based on your findings (i.e., where are these “A” players right now?).
b) Determine the hard skills that are most important and develop a screening process with the appropriate benchmarks for these hard skills.
c) Determine what soft skills / core competencies are most important and build a behavioral interview to consistently identify them in potential candidates.
d) Develop a customized assessment test for benchmarking the sales position, which will be used in the sales recruiting and hiring process. This assessment should be automated as an online assessment test if possible.
e) An ongoing sales recruiting strategy should be employed by all key leaders and salespeople within the organization. This strategy should be supported by a formal sales recruiting process workflow, of which every member of the sales leadership team is involved in at least one step in the process.
2. Preparing Salespeople for Success
a) A formal new sales rep orientation program should be developed to indoctrinate all new salespeople into the organization within the first week (Day 1; Week 1). The focus should be on quality as it relates to information provided and the fastest rate in terms of time it takes to get all new sales reps to a proficient level of selling.
b) Following the orientation program, a new sales rep should then shift into a formal 90-day on-boarding program. This program is supported by a sales success reference guide, measurement of a new sales rep’s progress against Sales Performance Indicators (SPI’s) and Key Performance Benchmarks (KPM’s), and a formal process involving 30-60-90-day reviews with formal coaching sessions provided by your organization’s sales leadership team.
3. Cultivating & Supporting Salespeople
a) Most companies refer to this process as “managing salespeople” or “sales management”. However, if you hire the right salespeople and provide a Prescriptive Framework for Sales Success as the sales management structure, then you will really be cultivating, supporting, and motivating these high performers versus managing them.
b) The cultivation process is really an extension of hiring and preparing salespeople for success. It is important that once guidelines and a structured indoctrination process are incorporated, that the sales leadership team hold both the sales team and themselves accountable to what has been mutually agreed to up front in the process in terms of expected results.
c) At least one weekly team meeting should occur, specifically where the emphasis is on learning and improving. The topics should revolve around products/services/solutions in addition to fundamental and advanced selling skills and strategies.
d) At least one weekly one-on-one meeting should occur between the sales manager and each sales rep. During this meeting, such topics as a review of actual performance versus benchmarks should occur, in addition to addressing any challenge areas to be improved. “What’s working well” should also be reviewed during this meeting.
e) At least one weekly coaching session should occur for each individual as a personal sales coaching session that is private and between coach and coachee. Under no circumstances should management topics (such as reviewing their sales pipeline or where they stand versus quota) should occur during these sales coaching sessions. The sole focus should be on helping the individual address Challenges-Issues-Goals (CIG’s). If a sales manager does not have it in their DNA to distinguish between managing and coaching then an outside organization who specializes in sales coaching should be brought in to facilitate the coaching sessions, thus freeing the sales managers to focus on what they are really good at: managing.
f) Finally, goal setting, and career-pathing should occur between the sales rep and the sales manager. It is important that the sales rep is always striving to accomplish personal and professional goals – the manager should be tied into these goals and hold the sales rep accountable for achieving such goals. These topics can be addressed during Quarterly and Annual Reviews.
Component #2: Process
In order to get the most out of a successful sales team, it is necessary to have sound repeatable processes supporting the sales team’s efforts. This is where a lot of organizations make a mistake – they assume salespeople know what to do and how to do it. They leave their ability to succeed to chance or luck. The reality is that processes are different at every organization. Although a salesperson knows inherently how to “sell”, including basic processes to follow in general, they need to be trained on your organization’s specific processes to be most effective.
Without the initial overview of clearly documented processes and expectations, sales cycles will be lengthened (and even lost) as a result of mismanagement of the process.
Documented processes that are easy to follow and understand should be implemented and adhered to by all members of the sales team in order to improve the growth rate of the business. Processes can also be in the form of programs that support the sales team’s efforts.
Component #3: Planning
What is a Strategic Sales Plan?
A strategic sales plan is a portfolio of ideas, processes, and technology that guides a sales organization’s strategy and provides the resources and tactics for reaching sales goals. It defines your company’s go-to-market strategy and expected costs and returns. Sales strategy planning starts with executive and senior leadership working with sales to set goals and define where your organization wants to end up in the next year. With goals in hand, sales leadership must then assess and determine the needs and means to achieve those goals. A strategic sales plan should include capacity planning, quota allocation, and territory design with strong data to back it all up.
Conclusion: Understand Your Team’s Needs
To put it simply: in order to reach your sales goals, you need the right number of resources. A successful sales organization needs productivity gains in order to achieve goals. As part of their strategic sales plan, companies usually invest in the following areas to aid productivity gains—people, processes, and technology.
The sales organization as a whole has goals handed down from senior leadership. Quotas are then broken down into expectations for each sales rep who will collectively help the company achieve its goals. It is important to note that sales quota planning should begin and end with the mindset that not every rep will hit their number (aim high, plan realistically).
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jimmy K. Curtin is the founder and CEO of Next Level Sales Performance, LLC where he helps sales professionals, leaders and organizations increase sales and earn more money. He has more than 40 years of highly successful hands on C-Level experience building "World Class" sales teams in the technology and services business. He has successfully recruited, hired, trained and coached hundreds of sales people and sales managers over the past 40 years. It was from this successful experience that Jimmy developed the tools, knowledge and certifications that lead to the founding of Next Level Sales Performance. Check out his professional Youtube Channel that can be an asset to your salespeople and your business.
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