Core Principles of Running a Successful Sales Team

No matter what business model or vertical applies to your company, most likely, sales are what drive your profits. All other things being equal, the more successful salespeople you have, the more sales you will generate. Ergo, adding sales personnel and improving your existing sales staff are essential parts of growing your company.

But in most cases, hiring sales people and training sales people are not the make or break factors that determine consistent success – it’s how that team is managed. With that in mind, carefully review these core principles of managing a successful sales team and try to implement these time-tested strategies into your own team.

Set Your Goals

With a shared understanding of where you are headed and why, you and your team can more easily collaborate and communicate. When ‘why’ is understood, the team has a better chance of figuring out the ‘how’. It won’t require a lot of thought for you to come up with a good description of what you want your sales force to achieve. Remember all goals must be clear, simple and measurable.

Assess Your Current Sales Force

Is your current sales team able to take on your current goals? For some companies that do most of their selling through mail order or the Internet, a sales force is optional. In this case, you may expect your sales force to handle only the larger accounts, leaving the smaller orders to customer service personnel. For other companies, however, the salesperson is the most visible – and often the only – outward manifestation of the company seen by customers.

If you don’t have the team you need, you must be prepared to rebuild. Constantly recruit and reach out to interesting prospects. Good salespeople are more than likely not immediately available for hire the first time you connect with them.

Measure Sales Productivity

The simplest measure of sales productivity is the dollar amount of sales per salesperson. More useful, though, is to know how each individual salesperson is doing compared to the average. If you apply the 80 / 20 rule, 20 percent of your sales force will be responsible for driving 80 percent of your sales.

If this is the case, it is imperative that you know what that very productive 20 percent is doing differently, so it can be duplicated. Also keep an eye on how your products or services are being sold. If your start salesman makes the sale but then alienates customers with poor service or is selling a lot of the wrong product (items with low margins or high support costs) you will have a problem on your hands.

Maintain High Standards

It reflects on your company’s values if you let poor practices develop without instant intervention. Slow response to a customer, casual email communication, bad manners to internal colleagues, poor quality proposals to customers, or arriving late or unprepared to a meeting, all let you (and the whole team) down.

Finally, ensure sure that your sales team is aware of your expectations and provide them with the tools and support to meet them. Deal reviews, account plans, sales process refinement, and smart sales software are all tools you might use to keep your team prepared and on track.

Create an Environment of Constant Improvement

Share feedback, recognition and rewards in order to break the employee turnover cycle and accelerate sales growth. Imagine what would happen to the productivity of your sales team if you had a company culture that focused on identifying (and sharing) individual and team goals and accomplishments; it would create an environment where coaching, sharing successes and learning from mistakes are values that are encouraged.  As a CEO, director or manager your goal is to create a working environment where performance management is social and coaching is the norm.

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