In sales, only 34% of sales teams reach their quotas.
This means the vast majority make mistakes that not only cost them revenue, but drastically hamper both their team’s morale and productivity.
In the fast-paced and cutthroat sales industry, these underperforming sales teams struggle to survive.
The power to build a top-performing sales team falls on one person — the sales manager.
Sales managers assemble their sales team and set the overall tone and dynamics for their department.
A great team isn’t built overnight, however. It takes long-term planning and strategy, as well as time, know-how, and an understanding of what exactly your team needs to stay ahead in an ultra-competitive industry.
In this comprehensive guide, you will learn everything you need to know about what makes a successful sales team, how to onboard and continuously train your reps to be the best versions of themselves, and how to give your team the resources, skills, and mindsets to find success.
We’ve carefully compiled this all-in-one management guide to help you create and maintain an ultra-high performing sales team.
Let’s dive right in.
So what makes a successful sales team? The answer lies in a study conducted by Harvard Business School which focused on top sales teams.
The results of the study showed that the most successful teams shared these 3 key characteristics:
Even the best salespeople in the industry will struggle in an environment that doesn’t provide them with opportunities to thrive. It is important that a thorough, efficient sales process is in place from day one. Reps need to understand their roles and responsibilities within the team.
Nothing kills a sales team’s momentum like confusion and disorder. Streamline your sales team’s operations, and you will clear the path for your reps to focus on closing deals.
Top-performing teams document, monitor, and automate their sales processes.
A structured process is proven to make sales teams more productive — and profitable.
Salespeople should consistently be working to surpass their quota. If a sales rep doesn’t feel held accountable for underperformance issues or mistakes, the standard for the entire team can slip. It is important for sales reps to understand what is expected of them.
While they shouldn’t necessarily fear for their job if they fall short of their quotas once or twice, it is also their job to perform at a certain level.
Top sales reps understand that it’s unacceptable to consistently fail to meet their goals, and will do anything they can to make their numbers add up month after month.
The results from this study proved that all successful sales teams have strong leaders that use knowledge and experience to monitor team performance and establish processes.
Sales is a fast-paced and often unforgiving industry. Successful sales managers must move quickly, and take measures when reps are regularly falling short of expectations.
A gradual and realistic growth of a sales team’s goals will incentivize and motivate your reps to out-do their own past performances.
Great sales managers think of dynamic and innovative ways to drive sales and push their salespeople to perform better.
Yet, to have a successful sales team, you first need a successful manager. Read on to discover the qualities that make top sales managers thrive.
The best leaders in the industry have gotten where they are because they know how to be a good sales manager.
Through leadership and vision, a dazzling sales manager takes their team to heights that otherwise would be impossible to reach.
These are the core qualities that you need to have to be a great sales manager:
The most effective managers in sales understand the ever-changing landscape of the industry. They have their finger on the pulse of how the industry is trending, and a keen understanding that their team must evolve in order to remain productive and stay ahead in the sales game.
This includes knowing what resources their team needs, what metrics are most important to focus on for team success, and what changes are coming down the pipeline for which they must prepare and adapt.
Having a firm grasp on the newest sales technologies is also key. There is no better way to increase your team’s efficiency than to leverage these new advancements to their advantage.
Barking orders and displaying a lack of empathy is too often the preferred management style in sales. But it’s the managers that truly carry themselves like leaders or coaches of a team that see the best results.
There’s no greater way to earn the respect of your team than to be a manager they can rely on when times get tough, willing to put in the necessary work alongside them.
Trust is the foundation of any great relationship, and character is the foundation of any great leader. By being a hands-on, empathetic team captain, you create a loyalty that will keep your team on your side through thick and thin. It will also motivate your sales reps to work harder and have more pride in the work they’re doing.
Managers understand that their team is only as good as their latest performance stats. They also understand that if their team doesn’t adapt to industry changes, they’ll only fall behind.
Sales management is not for those seeking out a lifestyle of complacency. It is a non-stop push, with constant tweaking of strategy and focus.
There’s always going to be another sales team out there working hard and making the changes necessary to outperform their competitors.
Be the manager of the team that other sales teams look at as the leader and influencer in the industry!
Being a great sales leader isn’t just about making sure your sales reps are doing their jobs well — it’s about inspiring them to go above and beyond their standard performance.
As a sales manager or sales director, you can either lead your team like a spreadsheet manager or like a coach.
Spreadsheet managers are more focused on results and are usually less involved in team activities. Coaches, however, are always ready to jump in and help when needed. They are always tuned into their team’s needs, and understand their image as a role model in employees’ minds.
The best sales managers incorporate both leadership styles, combining a results-oriented approach with an empathetic sensibility.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” — Zig Ziglar.
As a sales leader, it’s vital to set challenging yet attainable goals for your team. Realistic and measurable goals keep sales teams moving forward and looking ahead. But it’s not just your sales reps that need clear goals.
It’s also essential that sales managers have goals of their own, steering their team toward success.
It takes more than just enabling your team to do things right. It’s also essential to guide your team to be aiming for the right targets.
Clear strategies with concrete goals are how sales teams become the best version of themselves.
Leading means being the connection and buffer between your team and the executive level. Aligning the objectives of both should be a high priority for every sales leader.
The best way to do this is to ensure that there is a healthy channel of communication so that everyone on your team understands and shares the company’s strategy, mission, and values.
At the same time, it is also important to keep executives informed of strategies and actions taking place within your team, without getting the executives too involved. That way, there are no unfortunate surprises, yet both the executives and your team have space and freedom to do their jobs.
It is also your responsibility to communicate changes and directives from the executive level. Be clear and thorough, and ensure that your team understands at all times what is expected of them.
Great sales managers also need a sales structure that supports their strategy. In the following section, we’ll help you to identify the best structure for your sales team.
Every sales team is structured differently depending on industry and individual circumstances. However, certain roles are a part of every sales team. These include:
Success starts by hiring the right people.
Finding, onboarding, and retaining talent is essential to getting your team to perform at an accelerated level.
Smaller organizations might have sales managers handle hiring decisions, while bigger companies will have a specialist for this.
No matter who does it, they are responsible for identifying and acquiring the right talents and personalities for sales teams.
Once the right talent has been found, they must lean the ins and outs of the sales process and become familiar with the team's tech stack.
A sales trainer is responsible for ensuring that every member of the team knows their role, as well as their team’s sales process.
By getting everyone on the same page from the beginning, the sales trainer makes sure new hires get onboarded in the shortest amount of time and gives reps the tools they need to crush their quotas.
Administrative tasks such as scheduling, planning routes, and record-keeping take up a huge part of a salesperson’s time.
Often, assistants support the sales team with those tasks. The administrator helps to keep everything organized, freeing up time and energy for your reps to focus on closing deals.
This role is important in the development of leads for the sales team, focusing on outreach, prospecting, and lead qualification.
Connection is their focus, and it is their job to find potential customers, and determine if they would be a good fit for the business.
They then hand these leads off to the account executives..
Sales reps are key figures in any sales team. They make and close deals, and act as the drivers of all profits for a product-based business.
Other members of a sales team or organization support the representatives, making it easier for them to do their job seamlessly.
An account manager handles new customers after deals are closed. They maintain long-term relationships with customers and search out opportunities for upsells.
Larger organizations will make this an individual position, while smaller teams often task their sales reps to also handle this role.
Once the deal is closed, customers’ needs and questions are handled by the customer service team. Customer service reps are more common when there is a low number of account managers, as the responsibilities of the two roles partially overlap.
They assist customers with any concerns, making the experience pleasant while solving any problems they may have with the product.
We’ve identified the roles — now how are these roles structured?
There is no “one size fits all” option when choosing a team structure — what works well for one sales team might not be a good fit for another.
Evaluate your market, culture, available resources, and organization to determine what structure would work best for your own team. Sales managers should also carefully consider data and relevant feedback from team members.
Every business is unique, but in general, there are 3 popular structures of sales teams:
This is the most traditional model, as well as the most loosely structured, and is largely dependent upon reps working independently. Reps are provided with training, general back-end services, and a commission structure. The rest is up to them!
This can be a very competitive model, where salespeople must go head-to-head not only with external competition but internal competition as well. It can be a great motivator for self-starting reps who work great under pressure.
This structure can often be found in traditional sales businesses such as real estate.
Another thing to consider: Management has little control over the representation or management of the brand in the market.
Tracking sales numbers can also be a bit problematic, as each rep manages its own records. On the other hand, this structure requires less oversight by management and works best with short sales processes.
As the saying goes: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” The classic principle of an assembly line doesn’t just apply to factories — it can also apply to your sales team.
Typically, this “assembly line” process separates your team into 4 different groups working together to gain and maintain loyal customers.
This first part of your team represents the beginning stage of the “assembly line”. They are responsible for lead generation and gathering contact data from prospects.
They essentially hunt for new prospective customers, and decide which customers they will send down the sales “conveyor belt.”
The next in the process is the team’s prospectors. They reach out to prospective customers and qualify them, identifying customer needs and pain points, as well as what decision-making processes they use.
Knowing and understanding a customer’s situation makes the sales team’s job much easier, and helps to personalize the sales process.
When the customer has gone far enough down the sales “assembly line”, account executives act as the closers — that is, they contact qualified leads, present the product, and manage objections to ultimately close the deal.
They work closely with the customers to ensure happiness with the product and help to cultivate a loyal, long-term relationship.
Once a deal is closed, keeping customers happy is key to increasing their lifetime value, or LTV.
CSAs are important for maintaining long-term relationships with customers, while always seeking out opportunities to upsell.
There are a lot of benefits to using the “assembly line” model for your own sales team. Results can be measured easily, thanks to the structure and the roles involved.
By having team members who specialize in specific parts of the sales process, there is a higher level of efficiency throughout the sales cycle. It also makes it much easier to pinpoint potential problems, allowing sales managers to know where and how their sales process can be optimized.
This team structure requires a well-built and fully-functioning team. Startups early in their development might struggle with having the manpower for the “assembly line” structure.
In addition, there’s often a risk that customers might get lost in the funnel while being handed off between stages, so effective communication between team members is vital.
The pod model is essentially a refined version of the assembly line, meant for larger sales departments.
It creates a sales team focused on the customer by building tight-knit groups, or pods, that work together to serve the customer’s needs. For example, a 5-person sales pod might consist of two SDRs, two AEs, and one Customer Success Representative. Each pod is responsible for the entire customer journey, working with their own different roster of customers.
Using the pod model, sales teams enjoy the basic premise and advantages of the assembly line, while also employing tactics that keep the team agile and adaptable. When done correctly, the pod model makes the sales process near-seamless, creating a highly-adapted team for your business.
Now that you’ve decided what structure will best serve your team’s needs, you are ready to start building your team. In the next section, you’ll learn how to define the attributes of your ideal candidates and the interviewing techniques that will help you identify them.
Now it’s time to assemble your own sales team. What steps should sales leaders take to ensure their team is successful?
To make sure you hire the best candidates for your team, the first thing to consider is what kind of sales team you need to build in the first place.
Your product, industry, and clients determine the nature of your sales team. For example, the kind of salespeople that you’ll bring on board if you sell cloud storage systems will be very different from what you’d end up with if you sell organic granola bars.
In the case of selling cloud storage systems, a great sales team would be one that is not only persuasive but also technologically sound. These deals usually involve longer sales cycles, so a great candidate would be good at prospecting and keeping the pipeline full at all times.
In addition, you need people that are socially intelligent and capable of having conversations with high-level executives.
The granola bar industry, on the other hand, is highly competitive, so you need sales reps that have a knack for identifying holes in your competitors’ products.
This industry also has a high churn rate, so seek out reps that excel at building long-lasting relationships. This customer and prospect base will be large, so the team will need someone methodical with their planning and follow-up process. Efficiency is key here.
Another thing to consider is the revenue generated by a single customer. The bigger the number, the more important retaining each customer becomes. If you sell a high-value product, it’s important to hire salespeople that understand that the closing stage isn’t the end of the sale, but the beginning. Touching base regularly to ensure your customers are satisfied at all times is as important as sealing the deal.
What team size are you hiring for? The smaller the team, the more important it is for its members to be well-rounded and self-driven. With larger teams, it’s more effective to hire people with specialized skills, to carry out more specific tasks.
Last but not least, you’ll need to make sure that candidates fit with the company’s culture and team hierarchy. Some people work better in a flatter structure, while others prefer a more hierarchical organization.
These are good things to ask potential hires about, to get a feel if they will be a seamless fit for your team.
When hiring for your sales team, it’s important to ensure that you’re bringing the best people on board. But what features do the best sales reps have?
Look for candidates that can communicate ideas clearly. It’s a huge part of the job, so having reps that not only communicate well with customers but also with their teammates is a must-have.
Equally important is their ability to listen. Great salespeople listen more than they talk and use this talent to be detail-oriented with their customers.
A strong sense of empathy is key to any successful salesperson. The ability to place themselves in customers’ shoes to guide them through the buying process is instrumental in garnering trust and loyalty and connecting with customers on a human level.
No one wants to do business with someone who comes across as unfeeling or only motivated by money. This skill is very hard to teach, so make sure to identify this ability during the hiring process.
Great sales reps understand what it means to work smart, rather than work hard. You need people that know how to prioritize, and leverage technology to be more efficient. By organizing their day-to-day routine with help from apps and industry-leading software, sales reps streamline their process, freeing up their time and brainpower to focus on closing sales.
Coachability is another vital trait to look for in any prospective salesperson. The industry is full of very good sales reps who are not open to feedback, which can potentially cause problems within the organization despite their talent. Having someone willing and able to learn new techniques and evolve with the industry — as well as their team — is important to their success as a salesperson.
People that are naturally curious about their customers and how to be better at their job are generally great salespeople. They ask the right questions, as they are genuinely interested in helping their customers. They notice things that may go unnoticed by less curious salespeople and tend to explore things from angles that can blow new doors open for the sales team.
Your team can also benefit greatly from members who are creative, able to think on their feet and map your product or service to new situations. Thinking outside of the box is a trait that can open new approaches and possibilities.
44% of salespeople make the mistake of breaking up with prospects too soon. Patience is important to get more time-draining deals closed. Most deals take a little time. If you push too hard too soon or act too anxious about results, the deal can fall apart.
Loyalty and commitment are traits that are more likely to create value for a company than someone who is brilliant. Team players are important, especially when working in small, intimate groups. A true team player will be excited to meet their potential teammates, be interested in past and present projects your team has tackled, will personally align with your company's values, and be prepared for their first day in the office.
An organization is made up of its people — those who have proven their worth and loyalty are invaluable to the culture and success of an organization.
Grit is another characteristic that is important, as the job can present many challenges and roadblocks that can easily discourage some salespeople. Your reps must have the fortitude to keep working toward targets that might not come easily.
Think of the specific qualities you are looking for when preparing to interview prospects. What are their responsibilities going to be if they are hired? What personality type will not only fit in well with your team but will help bring the team’s overall performance to the next level?
Beyond asking typical experience-based questions, the secret to hiring great sales reps lies in asking smart interview questions that catch candidates off-guard, give you insight into how their minds work and reveal their true strengths and flaws.
Some questions to consider are:
Lulls in conversation are also common. See how your candidate handles a few moments of awkward silence. If they feel the need to fill the silence with babbling, or if they allow the silence to continue awkwardly themselves, these are big red flags for how they will handle calls with customers.
At the end of the interview, give the candidate an overview of the company, its goals, compensation plans, benefits, and other job specifics. Then, ask them if they have any questions. Pay attention to what their questions are, beyond providing them with an answer.
When all is said and done, a great way to avoid unconscious bias hiring is to seek out a second or third opinion of candidates. This ensures diversity in your sales team, which allows you different insights into your business.
Remember to let candidates know if anything changes with the hiring time frame. Not only does it show that you’d be a great and communicative manager for them to work under, but it also helps keep your best candidates from taking offers somewhere else while you’re making your way through a potentially patience-testing hiring process.
After hiring the right salespeople, you’ll need to onboard them. Effective onboarding eases new hires into your organization’s culture and work processes, laying the foundation to your reps’ future performance. In the following section, you’ll discover the best onboarding and training techniques for your sales team.
Now that you’ve hired the best candidate for your sales team, it’s time to get them up-to-speed with the day-to-day operations.
In the fast-moving sales industry, there’s no time to waste. Preparing your hire to hit the ground running is vital, but it takes more than just a couple of weeks of training. Onboarding and training should be continuous processes for all of your employees.
In sports, it’s routine for teams to study the “plays” they run in games. They pay close attention to what worked and what didn’t, then make appropriate tweaks to their strategy going forward.
This isn’t anything new, but it’s a proven, highly successful strategy. So, why not use the same strategy in sales?
Identify the top performers on your team, and record their calls with customers. Then re-play them later for new hires. You don’t need to show them extraordinary calls. In fact, it’s often best if hires get an idea of what typical calls are like.
What “plays” can they study?
Have new hires shadow experienced team members throughout a normal day on the job. Your top reps can act as mentors for the new hire, to pass along their best strategies when it comes to qualifying leads, prospecting, negotiating, and closing.
Give new employees time to explore the product and its features on their own. By using the product hands-on, your new reps will quickly learn the functionalities of the product, and better understand how customers feel when first engaging with it.
Show some customer testimonials to your new hires and create opportunities for them to speak with your best customers. That way, they can come to understand what their typical prospect will look like, what’s important to them, and what will make them choose your product over competitors.
The more interactive and engaging onboarding is for the new hire, the more likely the information will stick. Videos and training games are your best resources to spice up the process for trainees and is an engaging method that works better than traditional studying.
Once the new hire is up-to-speed and begins working with customers, meet with them regularly to assess their performance and offer guidance. The more feedback they receive as they get started, the more you can assure that they are on the right track and not falling into bad habits.
The success of a sales team depends greatly upon the training they receive, both at the beginning of their tenure and continuously throughout their employment. A focused training strategy should:
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your training process, some questions to consider are:
Training isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t end after onboarding. Because there is constant evolution and innovation taking place in the sales industry, training must be an ongoing and continuous process. Equipping your team with the latest techniques and strategies is necessary to keep up with ever-changing demands.
Appealing to a variety of senses helps to engage trainees. When making a training program, remember to keep it visually interesting through the use of infographics, charts, and color-coding.
For those who find numbers particularly engaging, statistics and figures are not only interesting but also help to add context.
For aural learners, podcasts and webinars are helpful.
Keep in mind that to successfully train your team, you need to be strategic about your training. Each team is different, so make sure you customize their training to their unique characteristics.
Every team is only as good as the coaching they receive.
Fortunately, sales managers can utilize their team members’ help in coaching. Tapping top-performing reps to act as coaches is the most effective way to not only get reps up-to-speed, but also to increase the confidence and enthusiasm of those doing the coaching.
First, evaluate your team. Rate your sales reps on a scale of 1 - 10, taking into account their performance in each step of the sales process. This includes prospecting, overcoming objections, following up, and closing.
Use your own judgment combined with data from your CRM to help determine who is best at each field. Compare sales metrics like the number of calls, meetings, and closed deals. Also take into account the more intangible talents top reps might exhibit, such as the reps with the best attitude, and those who seem to have the best relationship with their customers.
If there is a certain skill you want to improve within your team at which no rep is particularly strong, you can tap an expert or consultant to come in and coach your team on that skill or ability.
Then, identify who takes on this new information best. Going forward, this person can be your coach for that skill with new hires, developing and refining it further within themselves as they teach.
Once you have identified your top performers in each category, coach these reps to recognize and articulate their own skills, to make them better teachers for your team. Ask them to explain their process to you, and talk with them about how you can work together to distill their skill into teachable elements.
Analyze their daily schedule. How do your best reps use their time to operate at a high level in their given area of expertise? Focus on:
This is a win-win situation. Not only does turning your high performers into coaches push the team to be better, it also makes your successful reps feel recognized, appreciated, and empowered. By essentially “cloning” your top reps, you bring out the best in your team’s performances across the board.
Group training sessions are also an easy way to get everyone on the same page and improve teamwork. Try having your team practice these skills in pairs or groups, acting out situational exercises.
Performance-rewarding games are also a great motivator to create healthy competition between your reps.
Your sales team is fully onboarded and successfully trained. Now it’s time to lead your sales team to success. In order to be a great leader, you need to have a streamlined sales process. In the next section, you’ll discover how to create an effective sales process to enable your team to surpass their quotas.
You’ve been chosen to lead the sales team, a responsibility that comes with the pressure to perform.
But there are steps that you can take to ensure that your team is the best version of themselves and that they have the proper processes and resources to do their job — and focus on surpassing their quotas.
It’s simple — sales teams that implement a structured sales process outperform those that don’t.
A clear structure will keep your sales team organized, and ensure that no customers get lost in the shuffle.
Dividing your sales process into these 7 simple stages will help your team close more and faster.
More than 40% of salespeople say prospecting is the most challenging step of all. And with good reason — every step following it depends on having found the right prospects to sell your product to. It’s also the most uncertain step of the sales process, and therefore requires a fair amount of homework.
Identifying customers that are a good fit for your business is key to beginning the sales process. This means finding leads and prospects who will most benefit from using your product or service to solve any challenges or pain points they face.
By asking the right sales qualification questions to all leads and prospects, you can identify if these potential customers are a great fit.
A great phrase to live by when prospecting is, “Show them you know them.”
Do your research, and know in advance specifically how your product will help the prospect. If a salesperson works this hard to understand them, the prospect will know that the rep will work even harder once the deal is closed.
The goal of qualifying is to identify whether a lead is actually a prospect after all — that is, someone with the potential to be converted into a customer. Qualifying a lead accurately is important as it makes sure you don’t waste time with someone who can’t, won’t, or has no reason to buy your product.
Some questions to ask when qualifying leads are:
Keep these considerations at the back of your mind, and use all early interactions to get answers to these questions.
A great way to learn more about who your ideal prospects are is to look at your current customer base and search for patterns.
Going forward, help qualify prospects by asking upfront about these relevant commonalities, to see if your prospect shares any.
Preparation is key to any profession — and this rings especially true for salespeople. They are expected to walk into any sales meeting fully able to answer any questions or concerns the customer may have. In sales, being prepared means knowing everything about your product and knowing as much as possible about the customer.
A pre-call with your prospect before any group meeting can be the line between failure and success. It’s a great way to make sure the company’s concerns are addressed, while also gaining insight into who your main blockers will be.
With the information at hand, you will be prepared to address any particular pain points or objections that stand in the way, while also pitching the product features that can benefit your customer the most.
Your salespeople must be able to present your product in such a way that even the most skeptical customers might be convinced of its value. Most reps are good at describing their product features, but fail to connect their product features to tangible benefits and business value.
A great template for a quick, persuasive sales pitch for your product is:
How can you apply this model to your own product?
Just as important as understanding the features of a product is understanding and anticipating the objections customers might have when presented with it. Again, this comes down to product knowledge and having a grasp on its pros and cons.
Think of the sales process as a game of chess. Salespeople want to be thinking three steps ahead of their customers. If there’s a plan in place for every objection faced, it becomes much easier to counter and steer the conversation.
Your sales reps shouldn’t wait for prospects to raise objections — instead, they should bring them up first, and get the roadblock out of the way. That way they own the objection, making it easier to overcome.
For example, if price objections are a frequent hurdle your salespeople face, they should say during the pitch something like: “A lot of people ask about price, and that's always an important thing to talk about.” This allows you to focus on demonstrating why the value gained from your product will be much higher than the price paid for it. It shows proactiveness and can make you more trustworthy in the eyes of your prospect.
A key way to increase your customers’ trust and loyalty is to demonstrate that you care about their well-being in the long term.
Following up immediately after the first meeting, then scheduling future follow-ups, shows customers that you aren’t just in it for the quick close, never to be heard from again.
You care enough to create and maintain a lasting relationship.
Your team should use these opportunities to reinforce the value of the product. Avoid having them call customers just to touch base or check-in. Instead, your reps should use these interactions as an opportunity to provide value and end each conversation with a clearly defined next step.
Now comes the fun part — getting down to the deal.
Customers want the best bang for their buck. While it’s important to land the deal, make sure your reps don’t give away too much in order to make it happen.
After presenting the terms of the deal, your sales reps should always allow the customer to speak first. It’s impossible to absolutely know what the customer is going to say, so let them get the initial word in, and work from there.
There’s no point in trying to convince someone if they’re already convinced! So give customers the floor to speak their mind.
When negotiating the price, never offer a discount, only an adjustment. For example, you can give two months off if they commit to an annual subscription. This way, you don’t give away the farm, and both sides walk away from the conversation with a good outcome. This creates a win-win situation.
Don’t put anything in writing until the conversation is complete. Negotiations tend to swing all over the place. By waiting until the end to get it in writing, the terms have been fully hashed out, and by writing it out a true sense of finality is established.
Creating an effective sales process isn’t enough for the success of your sales team. Being a great sales leader is also about tracking your team’s performance and delivering accurate feedback to drive the best results. In the coming section, you’ll first learn how to identify and list top sales metrics, to later design a culture that promotes growth through feedback without micromanaging.
Sales managers often struggle to get accurate insights into their team’s performance. Luckily, data exists today to keep managers updated on almost everything involving their team’s sales process.
Software solutions such as CRMs record the data needed to properly oversee sales teams and their activities. A data-driven approach to decision-making is often the best way to ensure you are guiding your team in the right direction.
As the wise Peter Drucker put it: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Sales team performance is the measurement of a sales team’s activity against the goals outlined in a sales plan. With all the options available to sales managers in the modern sales industry, choosing the right metrics to monitor your sales team can be challenging.
The performance of a sales team impacts not only the sales department but also the entire company. In a field with such visibility, it is vital to be led by smart and results-focused management.
Effectively monitoring your sales team’s performance will help you improve accountability and optimize processes, seeing in real-time what is working and what isn’t.
There are a lot of different metrics out there to analyze different factors and nuances of the sales process and its performance. When managing, it is important to focus on the right metrics for the growth and success of your sales team.
It is important for a sales manager to keep track of the number of opportunities each salesperson generates. Who is reaching their quota, and who isn’t? Is there an issue with the salesperson, or are the quotas set too high?
Use this basic data to get an overview of your sales activities, and form an idea of what next steps to take.
Share the numbers with your team in monthly or weekly meetings, so they can see who had the best performances. This will create a healthy sense of competition, and provide your team with extra motivation that may uplift their individual performances.
It’s a good idea to explore how your sales break down regionally, or even by store. Comparing sales volume across locations and territories will help you understand where demand for your product is highest and lowest. This can uncover areas where you should be focusing your resources.
Imagine the following: Your sales volume in region A is much higher than in region B. You can use this opportunity to create customized services or products specifically for that region with higher demand.
You can also try experimenting with different strategies, such as A/B testing, demos, discounts or other sales tactics in one store, and see how these tactics impact sales.
Understanding where your sales team enjoys the most success, be it a particular store or a territory, gives you the power to target accordingly and maximize the time and resources spent in these areas.
This conversion rate illustrates how effectively your team is converting prospects into customers.
This metric is important when it comes to aligning your sales and marketing team, as both teams can use this metric to determine the quality of leads.
You can find this number by dividing the number of converted leads you have, by the number of qualified leads. You can break this down in several different ways — by campaign, program, channel, and more.
If your lead-to-sale conversion ratio is low, you can also break it down by individual reps, and identify what can be done case-by-case to improve this ratio overall. For example, if your leads are not converting because they think your solution is too risky, train your team to reassure them that your product is absolutely reliable.
By understanding just who is converting and the factors that contribute to their decision, you can adapt your sales strategy accordingly.
Ads, creating a website, and social media marketing cost a considerable amount of money. The cost per lead metric is an excellent way to calculate how much you are spending to attract prospects, and how often they are converting.
If you add up all monthly marketing-related costs and divide it by the number of monthly new leads, you will find the cost per lead. Divide marketing costs by the number of new customers per month to get the cost of conversion. If your cost per lead has gone down, it means your brand awareness has increased. If it is getting more expensive to convert leads, it might be time to take another look at your marketing strategy.
This metric is fantastic for any sales manager trying to track how effective the company’s marketing strategy is when it comes to the finer details. The goal is to lower your cost per lead while generating the same revenue from each lead.
Cost per lead is a particularly important metric for direct response marketing. The action is easy to track, so determining the cost per lead coming through the channel is straightforward. Simply take the amount you spend on that particular channel, then divide it by the number of leads generated through it.
Your churn rate, or customer turnover rate, is the annual number of clients that have stopped using your products or services.
It’s just as important to understand why some people walk away from your product as it is to understand what makes your long-term customers happy.
For any organization, losing customers is not out of the ordinary. However, if you notice that the rate is too high, or notice a disturbing pattern of churn, you should identify the customers’ reasons for leaving, and act immediately to improve any weak areas.
Providing excellent customer service, as well as superior support to your existing customers, are excellent starting points to lowering your churn rate.
Customer Lifetime Value is the total amount of money a customer pays over the course of an entire relationship with a company. The longer the relationship, the better.
This is helpful when it comes to considering how much companies are willing to invest to acquire a customer. If someone is likely to be a customer for life, they are worth much more than someone that will be a customer for merely 6 months — or even worse, a one time customer.
By calculating this metric, sales managers can measure the profitability of various customer groups, and better understand the segment that returns the higher profit. What moves were taken with these customers to earn their trust and retain them for an extended time?
In the age of digital marketing, the power of your network is immense and can make all the difference in a brand’s success or failure. Your Net Promoter Score illustrates the strength of that network, showing managers whether their current customer pool is ready to recommend their product and service or not.
An easy way to get this information is by sending a follow-up email, either after they’ve ordered the product, or after they’ve had a window of time to use it. Ask participants to rank the likelihood of a recommendation on a scale of 0-10.
Sending surveys regularly will earn you great insights regarding your sales decisions. Calculate your NPS by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
Consider all factors, internal and external, when considering these scores. For example, a decreasing Net Promoter Score may indicate that a stronger competitor is targeting your customers with better services, rather than your sales team is going after the wrong customers.
It’s crucial for sales managers to regularly evaluate and discuss performance with their reps. This is an opportunity to discuss areas where your reps are succeeding and identify opportunities for improvement that will prevent bad habits from becoming part of their routine.
Weekly one-on-ones, combined with regular team meetings, are the best way to stay up-to-date on your team’s needs.
When offering feedback, always start by highlighting the positives. Great employees care what their managers think of their work, and understand that in order to improve themselves and their performance, they must be receptive to constructive criticism.
Feedback should always be seen from both sides as an opportunity for reps to be heard, recognized, and grow. Starting with negative feedback gives the demoralizing impression that managers only care about mistakes.
You can ask questions to understand what processes your reps follow, as well as how they face issues on their jobs. Some questions you can ask are:
Effective feedback should always be free of individual opinions, personal feelings, or hearsay. It should also be specific, and only address the issue at hand.
Always mention the “how” — don’t simply tell them they’re not doing well enough. Keep your criticisms constructive, and be mindful of your tone and delivery.
Provide actionable steps, explaining their value and what you hope the results would be from taking them. Help your salesperson visualize, with real examples, what they will accomplish with the actionable points you give them. It will provide great motivation for them to implement your feedback in their selling process.
Set clear deadlines for your reps to implement these changes. This makes it easier to set goals and keep track of improvements.
Feedback should also be timely. Negative behaviors should be called out and faced head-on before they spread across the entire team. Nothing destroys the morale of a team like an elephant in the room.
Avoid rehashing old issues that the salesperson has overcome, or which are no longer relevant. There’s no point in dwelling on the past — in sales, it’s all about the future, and taking steps to brighten it.
Giving positive feedback and suggesting ways to improve is important, but it’s even more important — and difficult — to address more touchy issues like low performance or a bad attitude with customers or co-workers. Be proactive and address these issues right away, before they have a chance to become a bigger and more deeply ingrained problem.
Always remember that feedback should be a conversation, and not a lecture or an argument. Listen to what your team members have to say, just like you would expect them to listen to you. Healthy lines of communication, and respect, always run two ways.
Just because a rep has worked on your team for a certain length of time does not mean that they know absolutely everything about their job. The best way to keep your sales team sharp is to have continuous training throughout their employment. The sales industry is constantly evolving and refining — and your team must evolve and refine with it.
U.S. companies spend over $20 billion annually on sales training, but most of the time it’s only a short-term plan.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a renowned psychologist, found that people forget an average of 70% of new information within a day. Within a week, they remember only 10%.
Therefore, repetition is key. Have your reps incorporate new skills in their daily sales practices, as well as regularly share what they’ve learned with the rest of their team. This not only helps your team retain everything they learn, but also ensures that the best ideas rise to the top, and your entire sales team benefits from these new ideas and strategies.
But not everyone learns and retains information the same way. Here are some learning methods that you can use to strengthen your team’s knowledge retention:
First, using reinforcement learning tools such as quizzes, games, flashcards, and bite-sized content helps to refresh knowledge each day quickly and easily. Role-playing is also a great way to get your team to explore strategies in real-life situations.
E-learning is also a great way for your reps to sharpen their sales skills with entertaining and engaging resources on their phone or computer. What’s e-learning? It’s training apps, podcasts, webinars, and online courses. These resources can be easily accessed, and are great for micro-learning on-the-go.
A combination of regularly scheduled in-person and group training sessions, a steady program of reinforcement exercises, and a variety of interactive e-learning resources are the best way for your reps to retain what they’ve learned.
Boosting your sales team performance goes hand in hand with optimizing your sales process. In the following section, you’ll discover many tools that will help you step up your team’s productivity and your own management strategy.
As a sales manager, it’s important to get the best resources for your reps so they can do their job easily and efficiently. By optimizing their sales process, your sales team will have more time and energy to focus on their goals and the customer.
Utilizing the right technological resources and analyzing your team’s performance to gain actionable insights has never been easier. The right technology will help you detect problem areas within your team’s activities, as well as help your reps streamline their performances across the board.
On average, high-performing sales teams use 3 times the amount of sales technology as underperforming teams. These teams end up saving substantial time by delegating administrative tasks to the relevant software.
Digital calendars and appointment setting tools are a great start. These are essential to keeping reps’ days and weeks organized, as well as coordinating with other people’s schedules. It’s also great for managers to oversee their team’s calendars. Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar are industry favorites. Calendly integration allows prospects to schedule meetings with reps based on when they have the time.
In the world of prospecting tools, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is king. It’s great for finding ideal potential customers and is reliably up-to-date. It also allows reps the opportunity to prepare for their meetings and calls in advance, by uncovering relevant information about their prospects that would be difficult to find otherwise.
Communication is key to leading a successful team. Slack is a fantastic application for staying up-to-date with team members, enabling them to stay connected, ask questions, share files, and receive feedback at a moment’s notice. Of course, there are many similar tools, like Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.
Having a CRM like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics is a must for sales teams to keep their data organized. There are over 100 CRMs on the market, so choose the one that best fits your industry, company size, go-to-market strategies, and unique team requirements.
If you lead a field sales team, you need a field sales management app like Badger Maps, which gives managers the power to track and analyze their team’s field activity with weekly automated reports. Plus, Badger has a team pilot program that allows you to try it with your entire team at no cost.
It also allows salespeople to focus on the best opportunities in an area and optimize their routes. Plus, companies can have all the info from the field sync back to their CRM automatically.
Sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. They both lead to revenue generation and are both focused primarily on the customer.
Research shows teams that successfully align sales and marketing generate 32% more revenue, retain 36% more of their customers, and achieve 38% higher close rates.
But sometimes these two departments can seem at odds — the sales team feels frustrated because they think marketing doesn’t bring them enough qualified leads, while marketing complains that the sales team lacks strategy. It’s important to have both departments on good terms, on the same page, and working toward shared goals.
One of the first things a sales manager must do is align goals and strategies with the marketing leadership, ensuring the two departments are working together toward the primary goals of the company. The only way to pursue shared goals is if interdepartmental communication is on-point.
Have new hires from either department meet with people from the other department, and learn what they’re doing and what goals they’re aiming toward. Have new salespeople sit with marketing people — and have new marketing people do “ride-alongs” with the sales team.
Allow members of the marketing team to listen in on sales calls as a customer goes through the funnel. This will give them an idea of how the sales process works, as well as a first-hand understanding of prospects and how they are developed. At the same time, let your sales teams give input and ideas for marketing projects. After all, who knows the customer better than the sales team?
Another thing that contributes to open communication is to bring both teams together for regular meetings so that they can align their goals and strategies regularly. You’ve heard the expression “divide and conquer” — think of this as “unite and conquer”. The closer these teams are, the more powerful each becomes.
Team-building activities are also a great way to create chemistry and alignment. Whether it’s happy hour in the office or attending an industry conference, create opportunities for your marketing and sales teams to spend time together in a casual setting. This gives both teams the stress-free opportunity to lower their guards and speak their minds candidly — which can lead to big breakthroughs.
When sales and marketing are aligned, you can better drive your KPIs. For example, you can increase the lifetime value of customers if, when the sales team acquires a new customer, your marketing team shifts their messaging toward retention and loyalty in their communication with that customer. This improves the chances that the customer tries new products or upgrades.
In order to successfully manage a sales team, it’s necessary to conduct regular health-checks to make sure they are motivated and performing at their best. In the last section of this guide, we’ll cover ways to ensure your sales team is in good shape, as well as tips to de-escalate and resolve common cases of conflict between sales reps.
A healthy sales team functions at its highest level, instilling its members with the confidence and drive to do the job well.
Ensuring the “health” of your team means ensuring that your reps are happy, motivated, and not overwhelmed by stress or frustration.
Sales is already stressful enough of an industry — make sure that your team is dealing with it in the best way possible.
You’ve got a sales team that you trust, but somehow the numbers aren’t adding up. What can you do to ensure that your team is performing at the best of their abilities at all times?
It’s important to perform “health checks” on your team, assessing their performance and well-being, as well as determining areas for improvement. Regular diagnosis will help you identify and tackle any problems before they severely affect performance.
You can ask pertinent questions to your reps through anonymous surveys. A few questions to ask your team to help diagnose problems are:
Anyone can become unmotivated by a lack of new ideas and fresh challenges. Don’t assume that your top reps will continue being stars without feedback and encouragement. Consider assigning them a new role or responsibility that will challenge and engage them.
Keep in mind, in the high-pressure world of sales, some reps can experience self-esteem issues. If a rep feels that their current skill set is not enough for the job, you’ll see that reflected in their sales. Again, this can be solved through continuous training, as well as by cloning your best reps’ skills across your team.
Hold regular team meetings where team members are free to share individual wins and losses. Spend time on each, to discuss how they dealt with difficult customers, overcame objections and obstacles, and successfully navigated complex sales situations.
Providing your team with opportunities to learn from the mistakes and successes of their teammates will broaden their horizons and give them actionable strategies.
Being able to keep your team’s spirits high is one of the things that make the difference between a good manager and a great manager.
The foundation for sales team motivation first lies in having a clear and achievable career development plan in place.
Take a look at your sales team and ask yourself:
Communicate regularly with your salespeople about what they seek to get out of their job and sales career. Depending on the career path they envision for themselves, you can work together to ensure that they are on track to achieve these goals.
But sometimes, even reps that seem to have every reason to be happy end up feeling unmotivated. Perhaps they are discontent with their team dynamics or feel under-trained, under-valued, or under-recognized.
One great way to motivate your team is to celebrate when a rep wins a key deal or does something exceptional. By inviting the whole team to a celebration lunch or dinner, you develop a team-oriented mindset, in which everyone is rooting for each other. Additionally, this recognition makes reps feel seen, valued, and encouraged.
Sales conferences are a great way for reps to break out of their usual routine and to learn about the latest developments in the industry, providing a much-needed professional boost. Networking at these events improves performance while re-energizing drive and adding a dash of excitement to the mix.
The set-up of your workplace also has a great impact on team positivity. No one does their best work when they feel cramped and confined. To create a comfortable atmosphere, your office should be well-lit and quiet, with comfortable furniture.
The less cluttered and claustrophobic your office is, the better. An open layout has the benefit of promoting conversation and collaboration, while a door and cubicle layout has better soundproofing. If your office has an open layout, make sure there are quiet rooms your reps can head to for important conversation, privacy, and focus.
Nothing cheers people up like food. It’s important to always provide fresh and healthy food like nuts and fruit in the office for your team. Coffee and tea are a must.
Every once in a while reward your team with a quick getaway from the office. This doesn’t require going far or spending a lot of money — it can be a simple meal out, or ordering some take-out food. The point is to clear your team’s minds and strengthen their relationships with each other.
People are motivated to work where they feel like real friendship happens. Consider inviting your employees’ families to join some activities such as potlucks. It’s a great way for your team to get to know each other’s lives outside of the office.
Employees that feel a strong connection with their team have a 21% higher productivity rate. Strengthening your team’s social bonds is a proven way to improve their overall performance.
Other benefits of having a strong bond among your team members are:
So what can you do to help ensure your reps are engaged with their teammates?
There are many team-building activities that teams of all sizes can try to improve cohesion and sales team motivation. Some great ideas are:
Giving back to the community is another nice way to bring your team together. Try having team members take part in a friendly competition to raise money for a good cause, or participate in a volunteer activity together.
It’s always a good idea to involve reps in brainstorming and planning team-building outings. Not only does this take the responsibility off of your plate, but it also allows people to team up on something besides work.
In the highly competitive sales industry, personality clashes are inevitable.
A little conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tension can sometimes lead to real breakthroughs, so allow your reps the independence they need to work out their own problems.
It’s only when the conflict becomes unhealthy for the team that it’s an issue. Emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, annoyance, or favoritism can distract your team and create a toxic environment. Left unchecked, these problems can take a toll on everyone in the office, as well as the team’s performance.
The good news is that most of these conflicts can be resolved — and possibly avoided — with strong communication.
Most problems arise when two people aren’t given the chance to truly get to know each other, or when they accidentally step on each other’s toes. By maintaining a healthy flow of communication, keeping things friendly and making your reps’ individual jobs clear, you can avoid conflict before it even begins.
If you notice two employees who seem increasingly at odds with each other, assign them to work closely together on a project with a shared goal. When reps are put into a position to depend on and invest in each other, it can create a bond that wasn’t there before.
It’s also important that managers keep open lines of communication with their team. Promote and follow an open door policy. Should anyone come to you to voice any concerns, use active listening to understand what issues are causing stress or turmoil. Never end a conversation on a negative note.
One way of dealing with conflict, especially those that affect the whole team, is acknowledging the issue at hand and allowing a healthy conversation about it. Opinions should be encouraged and heard — but stress that respect, teamwork, and a positive attitude are always expected from all team members.
Stress can also lead to reps acting out of character. Make sure goals are reasonable and don’t create panic or a sense of overwhelming. If you notice your entire team is getting anxious or stretched thin, explore the possibility of adjusting their quotas.
For more extreme conflicts, involve Human Resources early in the process. Document any incidents you might need to reference later.
Work with your HR team to establish guidelines for a polite and respectful office culture, so that everyone understands what behavior is expected of them.
Now it’s time to take the lessons from this comprehensive sales management guide and apply them to your own sales team.
The performance of your team depends largely on the decisions management makes, from the very first hire to the team’s latest performance stats. Treat every decision with responsibility, and understand how each choice can impact the organization for days, months, or even years.
Nothing teaches better than experience, but this guide should serve as a foundation for your hiring and management strategies going forward.
Always remember that being a leader means taking charge, taking responsibility, and accepting accountability. Never forget your humanity, and that a successful mindset is necessary for a successful lifestyle.
Now go out there and make your sales team the best version of themselves!
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