5 Steps to Creating a Winning Sales TeamJul 31, 2022
Managing salespeople is more complex than most other types of employees. But help is here. There are ways to create a winning sales team. In this blog, I share the five steps to do so. These 5 Steps will create the best chance of success in your role as a sales leader. Please implement and practice using this five-phase process that I know will make you a better sales manager, thus substantially increasing your chances of achieving sales performance expectations.
Here are the 5 Steps to Creating a Winning Sales Team
- Give them a goal
Does that seem too simple? I include this because when companies hire me, I miss this step more often than not. If they do set goals, the goal-setting process is flawed and ineffective.
Where and how to determine a goal? It starts with a sales plan for the company. This does not have to be elaborate. For example, you can base a plan on a targeted percentage over last year's sales. Break it down by month. Then by the salesperson. If you have five salespeople, take the sales plan and divide it by 5. If that simple math does not seem fair, you can weigh it in many ways. Simple works, though in the absence of anything else.
Imagine any kind of sport without a score. The score is what keeps people informed on where they stand. They can gain a sense of success or the pressure to catch up. It’s simple and works.
Most often, well...almost always, “broken” sales teams have either no goals or fragile ones that are not well thought out. Let me tell you, this is a big red flag and probably one of the most critical reasons why they are not performing very well. They don’t know precisely what is expected of them.
The best sales leaders are target and deadline-driven. In personality testing, top sales managers scored 19% higher in the self-discipline facet, 20% higher in the success-driven aspect, and 27% higher in the priority-focused element than underperforming sales managers.
As a result, they have the natural disposition to fixate their team on achieving their revenue goals at the exclusion of all else. They block out distractions and compartmentalize negative news that might sidetrack their team or cause their department to flounder. They keep their team focused and moving forward with a sense of urgency, regardless of the circumstances.
- Hold Them Accountable
Sales Team Management is 80% leadership and 20% management. The sales managers who focus on strong leadership are the winners. A critical point of leadership is accountability.
One part of the accountability that often gets missed is fair accountability for all. No team member, including the manager, can get special treatment regarding clear responsibility.
The worst thing a leader can do to their team is allowed an underperformer or disruptor to stay on the team without repercussions. The higher performers will be affected by these underperformers.
It drives great salespeople crazy, and they often get fixated and demotivated due to these poor performers not being dealt with. They will almost always slip in performance themselves due to how lack of accountability affects their drive.
Face it; the team is looking for a manager to do something about this problem. Every day you avoid dealing with it erodes the level of leadership the sales manager has with the rest of the team. A little each day, the respect for the manager erodes, drip by drip, until you have a much bigger problem.
A sales manager risks the team losing one of the better performers due to this lack of accountability. Deal with problem team members professionally but deal with them swiftly.
“Management is paid to overcome problems, not live with them.”
Salespeople talk amongst themselves and feed on each other emotions. If you are dealing with a problem employee, they’ll know without ever having to tell anyone.
Great sales leaders hold their team to a higher level of accountability. 75%* of high-performing sales managers agreed that their salespeople are consistently measured and held accountable against their quota, compared to 58%* of underperforming sales managers.
However, their authority is not autocratically administered, as you might think. Instead, it is based upon establishing an environment where sales team members continually seek to prove themselves, thereby driving higher overall departmental performance.
- Meet with each individual sales team member before the beginning of the month. Sales Plans must be set and committed to by the salesperson and approved by the manager. This collaborative approach is a massive part of making this work well for sales managers.
- Share daily and weekly updates on performance. Be encouraging on down days and rewarding on good days. Celebrate wins, and catch them doing it “Right.” Feed their heads!
- Update the sales board daily. You do have a sales board, right? Make the salesperson enter their number each day. It needs to be in a visible location for the sales team but should not be where customers can see the board. Or, if your team is in the field most of the time, then share the results in a daily message to the team.
- Weekly sales meetings are mandatory. Share news and information during this meeting. Don’t try to be “rah-rah” or motivational during this meeting. One size does not fit all. At all costs, this meeting should never be a monolog or “beat down” session for the team or any individual member of the team. NEVER!
Glen Gary Glen Ross was a film, not a training video!
- Hire The Right Fit
Interviewing and hiring sales professionals can be efficient or it can be effective. You really must take your time and improve the effectiveness of your hires. Don’t fall into the trap of making pressure hires. Most of the time, you will regret rushing the process and making snap decisions.
Especially decisions that are based on experience. Don’t get me wrong; experience is a plus but not always a must. If you take an inventory of the traits and competencies of your best sales team members, use that as your guide for culture and job fit.
This is the main point that I know often get’s missed. There are skills, and there are traits in all of us. The difference is you can be trained in a skill. You cannot be trained for a trait or a competency. Those are how we are wired, and that drives how we behave.
You can train someone to follow a sales process or how to use a CRM. You cannot teach someone work ethic, competitiveness, personal drive, or ethics. So when hiring someone, you must ensure that the behaviors or competencies are already there. You cannot improve them later. You might as well tell them to change the color of their eyes.
If you skip investigating this during the interview, which most do, you will only find out they are missing a critical behavior after it’s too late.
Use a sales behavior interview guide for all of your interviews. Don’t have one? Contact me and request a Free Sales Team Interview Guide.
What are some vital traits you should look to uncover in the interview?
- Ability to Connect with others
- Team Work
- Work Ethic
- Listening Skills
Notice experience is not noted. I swear to you that one of the best salespeople I ever had was a truck driver before moving into sales. Making the experience a “nice to have” not a “must-have” avoids having to break your new hire of bad habits.
Pro Tip: My experience has taught me that when you hire someone who starts showing problems early, they don’t get better with time. They only get worse. Then they are the hardest in the world to separate from. Believe me on this. I have the bruises to show you.
Everybody gets hired for a 90-day trial. RIGHT? Cut bait early and reduce your optimism that they will improve. I promise you that you cannot fix a bad hire, no matter how much work you are willing to put into their development.
Hire the right person, not the right experience!
Pro Tip: Use a pre-employment sales assessment. Don’t have access to one? Use this one for a FREE Trial Offer. Just Tell me you want a Sales Version of DISC.
- Use the “Ultimate Interview Guide.”
- Use the pre-employment sales assessment.
- Hire a person's behaviors, not the person's experience.
- Hire Slowly and effectively. Fire fast within 90 days if you’ve made a mistake
- Establish reasonable metrics to make sure they know what is expected of them
- Sales Intuition
As a sales manager, you must be empathetic to a salesperson's life and frustrations. In my book “The One Thing All Sales Managers Must Know,” I offer that 90% of a sales professional's success is mental. Keep their heads right, and sales will be better.
Get them fixated mentally on how they have been wronged or mistreated, and you have an anchor. The best ones can pull themselves out of a slump, but that’s the top 2% only. The rest fixate and are highly influenced by their mindset. They talk amongst themselves, which only builds the frustration and lets the air out of their drive.
Salespeople can be the biggest gossip on the planet. Don’t give them negative food to feed on. Provide them with high-performance mental food, then stand back and enjoy the benefits. Is that a contradiction to accountability? NO! Not if you are treating everyone with the same level of expectation.
If you are truly inspirational to each sales team member, they will kill for you. They will go through walls and not doors. In 100% of the interviews I’ve conducted for salespeople, when I ask, “Who is the best boss you ever had?” the response is around the manager who taught them the most.
Are you a mentor, teacher, advocate, supporter, etc.? They have to believe sincerely that their sales manager is their biggest fan. People work for people, not companies. If they are unhappy, it’s the manager's fault. If they quit, they quit the manager, not the company. If they perform highly, they do it to please and impress their boss and sometimes peers.
Sales is a mentorship-based profession, and a key differentiator of great sales leaders is their ability to dispense tactical sales advice and add value during customer meetings.
- Be a coach more than a manager.
- Read my book “The One Thing All Sales Managers Must Know.”
- Be encouraging, especially when times are tough.
- Advise and teach more than telling them what to do
- At all costs, avoid telling them how you used to do things
- Assign a sales mentor to someone who is struggling but has potential
- Coaching Adaptability
Great sales leaders understand that there is a diversity of selling styles by which salespeople can achieve success. Therefore, they don’t employ a one-size-fits-all coaching style.
Instead, they adapt their style to suit each individual. The fact that high-performing sales managers had a higher team effectiveness factor than underperforming teams supports these statements.
If a salesperson’s way is not working, you must help them adapt. There’s an old term in sales. “Let Loose to take hold.” If you allow them the empowerment to do things with their style, you dramatically increase buy-in from the team. This is one of those entries from the high-performance food group.
When you, as a manager, are faced with challenges, don’t leave the sales team out from sharing their opinions on how to address those challenges. Granted, some of their ideas will be a bit extreme or unaffordable.
Just asking and seeking their input is a massive motivation for sales team members. Use what you can from what they suggest. However, if a strong suggestion is not possible, tell them “Why” it is impossible. Don’t ever leave that suggestion hanging. That is harmful food.
Find the motivators for each individual team member
- Proving something to someone significant in their life
- Future financial goals
- Owning a home
- Starting a family
- Being part of a team and mentoring others to achieve
- Problem-solving and feeling included, relevant or important
My suggestion to put these 5 Steps to work for you is to pick one. Commit to it. Write it down. What do you want to achieve from applying this tactic? What metric will be improved? Remember, Repetition is the mother of skill. Do It!
Set your expectations to create minor improvements over time. Think 1% better every day. Think of these small improvements as compound interest for your effort. Over time it adds up to huge improvements.
Vaughn helps Sales Management Executives motivate their team, create winning strategies, improve performance, and increase close rates by leveraging decades of real-world, straight-from-the-trenches Sales Management training and coaching.
*Stats are From Harvard Business Review
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