Leadership, Motivation, Sales Management

6 secrets to building a winning sales team

Managing a team of sales professionals is one of the hardest jobs in any business. You have a group of guys and girls that will, no doubt, be a mix of talent, skill and ability. That is just your starting point. Then you have to lead, manage, motivate, engage and coach this lot. Throw into the mix what they have to deal with the day to day… huge highs and lows of being in sales. It is not like finance or product teams where they can just put their heads down and finish their task or project with fewer interruptions or curve balls. It is a whole different ball game. So when you put all this together with the pressure of sales and delivering a number it’s a big job, and a very hard one to get consistently right.

At Reward Gateway (which was Asperity), we went from doing less than 250k per year in 2007 to £2.9M a year in 2011, just in new business. Recently a VP Sales asked me what the secret was behind this. He was looking to make 5 new hires while scaling and growing his SaaS business. The truth is all the things you naturally think of as being really important like Lead generation, CRM management, Marketing automation, Your Sales playbook and Pipeline Management are not the defining factors in high performance. Most VP’s of Sales can come into a business, work with the team and vendors, and implement these processes. What truly makes a high performing Sales Team is the other magic you put on top of this. Here are the 6 things that I feel are most important when building a successful sales team.

Be a true leader

If you have not watched this talk by Simon Sinek, “Why leaders eat last”, then you need to now. Being a true leader is about putting your team before yourself, backing them and supporting them. I often see this not happening in business all the time, when people are selfish or want to protect their own skin. If you put your team first and act like a true leader, you will get the long term rewards and your team will do anything for you.

Support & coaching

It is important to do 1-2-1’s every two weeks or month and the HR performance reviews! They are important but usually manufactured around performance and how you are living up to or displaying the company values.  As a world class Sales Manager, you need to be supporting and coaching your team every single day. If this is not the biggest part of your job then you really need to look at how you are actually spending your time. Coaching can come in all shapes and sizes. Listening to calls, going to meetings together, helping them through difficult emails, tasks or situations. Just make sure you are giving enough time to each and every team member. If you can help them to become great at their jobs they will love their job even more. That has the benefits of great results and better retention.

Give your team your time

Be accessible all the time and be approachable. My wife is one of the best people managers I have ever seen. She is the master of this and taught me to do it even better. When you take the job as Sales Manager, Director, VP, it is not about you anymore. It’s about your team. Your mentality needs to change . You should think of yourself like, a School Teacher or a Parent (I am not joking). You are at work 80% of the time and you are handling their careers and progression. You need to be their support network. You need to be there for them on a professional and personal level. I am not saying you have to be their psychologist, If you just listen and spend time with your team it will have a huge impact. Sales management is hectic and stressful but you can always find time. A great way to do this is to block out a morning or afternoon each week may be off site or somewhere close tot he office. They will know that they can come talk to you about anything at that time.  This will give you so much trust and insight. They will love you for it.

Give your team autonomy  

You need to not make all the decisions for your team. Otherwise, how will they develop and grow? Giving your team the opportunity to try new things, make mistakes and even help with your workload will always work in your favour. Everyone will want a certain level of trust and freedom in their role.  It is your job to create that for them in the right way.

Group of creative people working online improving sales and showing growth statistics on the computer

Make every day fun

Sales can suck and it can be a grind. If it was easy everyone would hit their quota all the time. Everyone can have their own style of making an office a fun environment. You will need to work out the best way to do this for your team. My ethos was to have fun first but made sure we were clear when we had to  get our heads down and focus on work. I found a great way to do this was to have an environment where everyone could joke and have a good amount of banter. The more relaxed the team was the better they performed. Sales is intense so we always had dart boards in our office …a great way to take 5 minutes out together,  have some fun and refocus our minds. It costs nothing in the grand scheme of things to take your team out for a drink and bite to eat. I would often do this out of my own pocket. This does not happen frequently enough in most companies to create that great team dynamic. Once a week is a great thing to aim for even if it’s during lunch break.

Instil a winning mentality

This is talked about in sports a lot but you can apply it in sales the exact same way. The team, for starters, has to believe you have the best product in the marketplace. If you don’t build that confidence, you’re screwed from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, all products have floors but you can’t focus on them. You need to push the positives all the time. If they don’t have 100% faith in your value prop forget it. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, but I would train the team to know our competition inside and out so we were super confident. We could sell over the competition in the right way every time. We would always believe once we got to a certain stage in the process that we were 100% the right fit for the prospect. We’d do anything we could to make sure that our prospect knew that. We very rarely lost to competitors but if we did, we did so gracefully. Straight away we would want to find out why, with an interview or survey, so we could make sure it did not happen again. Externally, we always had a soft consultive approach which worked well when working with HR. Internally we were ruthless and winning was everything.

To get high performance from your team they have to want to go the extra mile for you. To do that they need to feel loved, inspired and special. When you are a sales leader your job is not simply to deliver revenue numbers. Your job is to develop, nurture and coach your team. By doing all this really well the end result will be delivering amazing world-class revenue numbers.

I hope this helps

2 thoughts on “6 secrets to building a winning sales team

  1. Nice article Tom. Having worked with a number of sales leaders in the past it is really interesting to see the points you raised and being able to see which of those were in place with those leaders. Some were successful and some weren’t but the successful ones have displayed the ones you described.

    Great blog post

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