More often than not, it is usually the tech, product, and management teams that get the most limelight at most startups and small & medium businesses. But every entrepreneur worth their salt will swear by the fact that a strong sales team is a key driver of their success.
Great sales teams don’t happen by chance, they are made by design. And it is no easy job creating the perfect sales team that crushes it month-on-month. Sales is a function that has a direct correlation and impact on the revenues and bottom-line. It is the Sales teams which, after all, bring in the money.
The importance and need for a killer sales team is not lost on you. You need salespeople that have the drive to be successful and the potential to help your business maximize its revenue. But a roadblock you possibly have is figuring out how to find these sales rockstars.
Key skills you must evaluate a sales team on
When it comes to hiring for a sales role, you have to look much beyond the standard job description and resumes. Sure, prior experience and a record of excellent past performance are good indicators.
In fact, they are the first things you should check. But those should only be the first step of the screening process, not the deciding factors.
To build a killer sales team, you have to look beyond the obvious. Because it will be these skills that will make or break the team.
The patience to build a relationship
The salesperson is the face of the company – they are usually the only ones who talk directly with your target audience. They represent you every time they get on a call and write an email. As the face of the company, one of the key skills they need to possess is the art of relationship building.
Sales teams must build a one-on-one relationship with their prospects. They need to understand the individual customer really well to be able to sell to them. Through this relationship-building process, they get to learn about:
- the specifics of who they are selling to
- where the product or service they are selling fits in
- what drives the prospect and how they can add genuine value to that
- their motivations and the true problems they need solving
When they build such a relationship, they can empathize with the person they are speaking to. The empathy shown allows the leads and prospects to place their trust in them. Trust is key for every business, and trust that is built on a solid relationship with the prospect always brings in the revenue.
You will have customers who will be far more loyal to your business, simply because they like doing business with you. And this will be because your sales team connected with them on a human level, and has developed a complete understanding of what they need.
“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer, author, and business trainer.
Confidence is always an advantage
Being super confident in themselves and the business they are representing is critical for a salesperson. It is the confidence that allows them to approach prospects and initiate the conversation. It is also confidence that gives them the drive to be relentless in their pursuit.
Working in Sales comes with its downsides, with rejection being the top one. Rejection never feels good. It is human instinct to feel low when hit with rejection. But it is the trait of confidence that will allow them to brush off the rejection, pull themselves up, and keep at it. Winning comes from standing up after we fall down, and the confidence to keep going.
It might sound like a bit of a cliché but confidence is the inherent skill a salesperson needs to succeed in their job. Salespeople have to be fearless – meaning they can never be afraid to take their shot. They cannot have a fear of rejection, as the job entails a lot of it.
Willingness to go beyond expectations
Sales, like every job, has expectations that people working in the role need to meet. A salesperson should always be willing to exceed what is expected of them. They might not be able to actually do it every single time, but their willingness to do so is a key indicator of their success.
It shows their determination and grit, and their want for success. This is an important trait for a salesperson as their job will often require them to do more than what is asked. Stopping at the line of expectation will rarely get them the results they need.
Their drive to do more and get more will enable them to never give up. As well know, never giving up eventually leads to success.
The ability to learn new techniques
Just like any role, the sales job is evolving. And can vary widely between sectors and domains. But it’s the ability to quickly learn to work with new tools and techniques that will help in settling in faster.
For example, in a B2B setting the skills of prospecting and the ability to research about the client is crucial. This includes spending time understanding their business, their potential pain points, and how to pitch to them. But if a salesperson is new to this, they might not be aware of it. But if they are able to learn how to go about doing this quickly, they will do better.
With sales automation being quite prevalent now, they should be able to learn to automate their emails and follow-ups. According to a report by McKinsey, over 30% of tasks in sales can be automated. Sales automation is a great booster for revenue and helps in keeping costs low.
Any redundant and recurring process that they can automate, gives them more time to focus on going after more deals and wins.
The challenges of building a great sales team
Now that you know what to look for, let’s take a look at the challenges that come with trying to find your killer sales team.
Good only on paper
More often than not, you will come across salespeople whose work seems excellent on paper, but doesn’t necessarily translate into the perfect hire.
It’s tricky to evaluate someone when hiring them for a sales role. They might not be able to express the skills they have listed in their resume.
This could be either because they are not able to explain themselves or because the achievements they listed hold no ground nor did they add any meaningful value to the business. Both of these are something you do not want in a salesperson.
If they aren’t able to sell their own skills to you, it is going to be difficult to expect them to sell your product or service.
The rarity of the right salesperson
Let’s face it, great salespeople are rare and it is not easy to find them. This is probably the biggest challenge to building a successful sales team that delivers. The demand for salespeople is always high. Trying to find one that is available within your budget and also has exceptional sales skills is a tough ask.
Finding salespeople who have that inherent curiosity is unusual. It is this drive that helps them learn more about a prospect. It also helps them in building out their professional relationships.
There is also the challenge of them already being employed elsewhere. Getting them to see the value in making that jump to your business will prove itself difficult. Nobody wants to let go of a skilled salesperson, and competing offers lead to a bidding war.
Evaluation can become arbitrary
It so happens that sometimes you don’t recognize the right person, or take a bet on someone who seems like the correct choice but doesn’t turn out to be when push comes to shove.
The skills to be evaluated for those perfect sales hires are not direct and take a lot of effort in identifying. Standard recruitment processes do not account for that.
Being able to test them on these skills isn’t as straightforward as it might be for some other roles. Someone is either a great salesperson or they are not, there is no middle ground. And it is this extremeness of the range that makes it even more difficult to spot the great ones from the good ones.
Because at first glance, the distinctions between the two are subtle and are not apparent to someone who doesn’t know the difference.
Building the dream sales team
So say you’ve now found the great salespeople you were looking for. The next step is to bring it all together, and it is the responsibility of the leadership to do that.
Training is key
To build that killer sales team that you want, you need to know their individual strengths and weaknesses. As a business leader building the team, the onus lies in you to provide them with everything they will need to chase that success.
It is important to understand the strong suit of every team member and optimize to get the most out of them based on their unique abilities. They need to be fully trained on things such as:
- the product or service what exactly it does
- how it solves a problem the client is facing
- the product philosophy and evolution so far
- the right questions to ask to maximize the information learned
Goal setting incentivizes their work
Once they have the necessary know-how of the product, the company, and the market, you will need to set the goals and expectations for them. Because without goal setting, it will not be easy to align them all and get them on the same page.
The expectations have to be clearly laid out, and goals have to account for both the short-term and the long-term. Tying their bonus and incentives to long-term goals helps them see the bigger picture and work towards it.
Show them how their progress will look like if they were to achieve their targets. Explain to them how the growth of the company will have a direct impact on them and their role.
Create an environment where they can succeed
When it comes to working with great salespeople, it is best to give them what they need and step out of the way. And then see how they flourish.
It is important to regularly give them information on the developments with the product or service offering. They need to also learn about what clients are saying about the offering. This creates a learning loop for them and with each iteration, they become better at understanding the market needs better.
If they don’t already do, teach them how to automate their repetitive tasks. Conducting regular workshops and trainings helps them get centered, and pursue their targets with that much more focus.
Killer sales teams are not easy to build. But once you get it right, there is no stopping them. If you as a leader make the extra effort in relentlessly building and refining your sales team, the results will speak for themselves.
There is nothing that makes a huge impact on how your business will shape up like having a well-oiled sales team does. When it clicks, it’s almost like magic.