5 Rules For Managing A World-Class Sales Team
This is a guest blog by Niraj Ranjan Rout, the founder of Hiver, an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users.
What is a world-class sales team?
- A sales team that can deliver every single time?
- A sales team that has ingrained innovation into its very work process?
- A sales team that is resilient in the face of adversities and setbacks?
- A sales team with a higher purpose and unbreakable spirit?
I say a world-class sales team team is all that and more.
If you want to build and lead a world-class sales team, the first step is to bring together a clever mix of different personality types, and then it’s all about leading them in a manner that’s good for the team first and foremost, and then the individual members.
Here are 5 rules for managing a world-class sales team to get you started.
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1. Set targets for the sales team, not the individuals
Here’s why setting targets for the sales team is important:
- It shifts the focus of the team members from individual wins to collective wins.
- It helps them see the bigger picture when everyone brings what they know to the table.
- It’s great for responsibility and accountability to your customer. When the team does well, the customer wins.
As a sales leader, you can choose to build two types of teams: the ‘I’ team and the ‘We’ team.
- The ‘I’ team will meet once every week, set individual targets to accomplish by the end of the week and everyone works for themselves, without sharing or networking with the other team members. Meanwhile, you’re left wishing that somehow everyone’s work will fit into the bigger picture on its own.
- The ‘We’ team will meet at least twice a day or even more, and share everything with each other and be watchful of any new adjustments required. This team will have the capacity and the means to produce work that not just satisfies clients but impresses them. The ‘We’ team will always go the extra mile.
One way to build a ‘We’ team is by constantly communicating those values to your sales team through feedback and performance evaluations. According to a recent Harvard Business Review case study, how we communicate is the crucial factor in determining team success.
Did you know that about 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”, yet only 18% of employees get evaluated on their communication skills at their performance review?
If you want to build a world-class sales team, don’t be in the 82% not providing the right feedback.
2. Know when to lead the sales team and know when to follow
Most sales leaders do a great job in playing the leadership role, but they may not understand that sometimes you can be a better leader by allowing someone else to lead.
For example, when a HubSpot employee comes up with a good new idea, they get “fired” from their day job and hired as the CEO of that project (like an in-house startup CEO).
At my company Hiver, we thought this “ temporary CEO” ideal was so cool that we started to implement a version of it. If a team member comes up with a project idea, or if leadership thinks the employee has a better understanding of the work the project demands, we appoint them as the Project Head for that particular assignment and follow them like the other team members, without micromanaging. The new Head doesn’t even report to their manager during the tenure of the project.
This can give the sales rep a higher sense of purpose than just meeting daily targets and pre-set goals. Research shows that sales reps who are passionate and engaged in their roles are better able to stay motivated and have 37% higher sales.
3. Improve your sales team’s productivity through unlimited vacation
Although unlimited vacation is still rare, it’s a trend is that’s growing beyond Silicon Valley. Perks like unlimited vacation can be a great way to manage your sales team’s productivity.
As Richard Branson said when he announced Virgin Group’s unlimited vacation policy:
“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred percent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!“
It sounds counterintuitive, but unlimited vacation may help improve sales productivity by allowing your sales reps to recharge when needed.
4. Don’t give impossible challenges to your sales team
How often do you say to one of your sales reps, ‘Let’s see if you can do this?’
If it’s a difficult challenge but you see that the sales rep has the capacity to achieve it, go ahead.
If not, pushing your sales team to undertake tasks which they aren’t comfortable with will do more harm than good. Everyone has a level of experience and a particular set of strengths that you have to take into account when assigning goals and tasks.
For example, you have a new sales rep who’s been working on smaller customers for a month now when you decide to give him more exposure. You send him to pitch an important lead and he fails to overcome the prospect’s objections.
Who’s at fault here? It’s you, because you made a bad judgment call by letting a new employee face a big, important buyer early on without the right preparation.
If you have an amazing prodigy on your sales team who can handle just about anything, that’s great! But most sales reps have a significant ramp up period with a lot of learning on the job at their own pace.
5. Know when your sales team needs some tough love
The next time a member of your sales team fails, don’t tell them that it’s okay and that they can do better next time.
Here are the negative effects it can have on your sales team:
- It will make them think that it’s okay to underperform sometimes.
- It sends a wrong message to the high sales performers too.
As the leader of the sales team, setting the right expectations is extremely important. When you make it clear to your sales team what’s expected of them, there’s a better chance for them to rise to the standards you set.
If you truly want to help an underperforming sales rep on your team, instead of telling them it’s okay to make mistakes, here is what you can do.
- Underperformance usually happens from a deeper rooted problem: have discussions with the sales rep and figure out what the true problem might be.
- Set achievable and progressively more difficult targets, instead of throwing them out in the wild without the proper training.
- Give honest and regular feedback and be tough with your sales reps when you have to be.
- Research shows the best way to keep underperforming sales reps motivated is through quarterly bonuses that serve as pacers for hitting their annual quota.
And remember that firing every underperformer is not the best way to lead. Why not try and help them instead? After all, that’s what a leader does.
Building a world-class sales team is a long and arduous journey but the effort you take is worth it for you, for your team, and for your company.
None of us is as smart as all of us. – Ken Blanchard