Great Sales Teams Aren’t Born, They’re Made
In sales, charisma and an extroverted personality can be advantageous. In fact, many people attribute success to inborn traits rather than to skills that can be coached or taught. Despite that, corporate America alone spends more than $20 billion annually to train salespeople on products, services, sales skills and behaviors, and territory management, all which demonstrates the widespread belief that you can “make” great salespeople.
Most staffing sales leaders would agree that salespeople who possess a certain “DNA” or specific personality traits, such as drive, empathy, and curiosity, are more likely to be successful. But there’s a HUGE difference between individual success in sales and success across an entire sales force. Regardless of whether or not great salespeople are born or made, great sales forces are made. And the mission for any staffing leader should be to achieve predictable, scalable revenue growth, right? Here is your guide to building a high performing sales force, one that can achieve predictable, scalable and sustainable revenue.
Scalable Sales Organization, Predictable Revenue
You can’t grow a company if you can’t scale your sales organization. When you look at the staffing industry there are literally thousands of companies in the $10-$50M revenue range. The majority of these companies are living off the ‘superstar’ model which means they’re getting 80%-90% or more of their revenue from just one or two of their top producers. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t scale and inevitably these companies stop growing because they don’t have a systematic process and “playbook” for ALL salespeople to achieve the same “rock star” success. Having a scalable sales organization means:
- -Consistently hiring the same successful salespeople (to do this you need to rely on assessments and data, not gut instinct)
- A training program that allows you quickly and seamlessly train all salespeople on the same processes and methodologies and track and measure comprehension
- Providing each salesperson with the same quality and quantity of sales leads
- Holding each salesperson accountable for working each sales lead through the same sales process
- Having front line sales managers who consistently execute the process with each salesperson.
Aaron Ross transformed the sales team at Salesforce.com and scaled the business into a $100 million cash cow. Fundamentally, predictable revenue refers to following a systematic framework to achieve consistent, year-over-year revenue growth based on a formulaic process – not last-minute negotiations and guessing. Having a systematic process to follow is what makes revenue growth “predictable.” Ross goes on to explain in his book that to achieve predictable revenue, one must understand their sales funnel, determine their average deal size in order to avoid chasing bad deals and understand the length of their average sales cycle. He also points out that everything you do must become a system. Without it, you have no predictability.
6 Keys to Building a Successful Sales Team
So, now that we have a basic understanding and framework for what it means to have a scalable sales organization that produces predictable revenue, let’s turn our attention to how we build this salesforce.
The first ingredient to building a high performing sales force is defining your sales strategy, which specifies who your salespeople should sell to, what products and services they should offer, and what sales process and sales methodology they should use (i.e. what sales activities should they complete to ensure they stay in alignment with their customer throughout the buying process including the use of verifiable outcomes). Without a company-defined sales strategy, sales process and sales methodology, your salespeople will revert to the “path of least resistance” and do whatever is easiest and what they are most comfortable with. In short, they won’t do what is most effective. Even the best salespeople need a strategy around target market, buyer personas, products and services, and a defined role, along with a sales process and sales methodology to align selling efforts with the buyer’s journey and their goals and objectives.
Sourcing, screening and consistently onboarding the same type of salespeople is the next step to building a scalable sales organization, but talent alone is not enough. Most staffing companies tend to hire off of “gut feeling,” but the problem is there’s no way of replicating it on a larger scale or quantifying it. Instead, staffing firms should develop their own hiring criteria. Specifically, they can create a job model that defines the behaviors required to be successful in a given role. For example, you can create a job model for each of the different roles in your company such as recruiter, account manager and business development representative. Each job model will have its own unique set of behaviors that are key to success. Once the behaviors are defined, you can assign a weighted value to each.
The point of all of this is to apply quantitative data analysis to your hiring process to improve your hiring success and avoid making bad hires. Once you have a large enough data set, you can run a regression analysis to correlate the interview assessments with sales success. This will allow you to fine-tune your weighted values associated with each behavior to make the right hires more frequently and consistently. By consistently relying on the data and focusing on hiring for behavioral traits, you can begin to consistently and effectively hire great salespeople at scale and en masse. You’ll never scale your sales organization if only 2 out of 10 new hires achieve “success.”
Another key to building a high performing sales force is defining clear roles and responsibilities for each sales function, such as inside vs. outside sales or Business Development Representative vs. Account Manager. Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities, team members become vulnerable to making assumptions and confusion ensues. Different tasks and responsibilities are going to be more suited for one role vs. another and need to be defined and communicated.
Poor organizational structure and deployment of the sales force may also result in underserved territories or accounts and missed or lost opportunities. On the other hand, having the right go-to-market strategy including the right size sales force for your total addressable market is key. Too small of a sales force leads to insufficient territory and account penetration. As I wrote in my blog, developing your go-to-market strategy as you design your organizational structure you will want to make sure you carefully account for the proper balance between scale and bandwidth with growth rate goals.
Consistent Sales Onboarding, Training
When I ask salespeople how they were trained in their current or previous job, most respond by saying they shadowed a top performer. When I ask salespeople from within the same company how they were trained I often hear different answers. Both of these responses are concerning; Even top performers have weaknesses, so for those who prescribe shadow training, how do new hires learn how to execute the part of the sales process that is the top performer’s weakness? No one single salesperson can train salespeople on the entire sales process. And for those who are trained differently and/or by different people from within the same organization, how do you scale that process? How do you ensure Dan, who was trained by Bob, learns what John learned who was trained by Sarah? How does this scale?’
This may sound cold or heartless, but a good indicator of a company’s ability to grow indefinitely is how independent it is of any one individual. To build a great sales force in which the sales organization scales means to train all salespeople the exact same way. To follow the same steps of the sales process and follow a consistent sales methodology. Then, your front line managers coach the sales team to the process and methodology.
Consistent Sales Execution
You can have the best sales strategy, organizational structure, training program, and talent acquisition plan, but if you fail to consistently execute then it’s all for nothing. To tie all of this together, sales leaders need to lead by consistently modeling the desired behaviors and provide consistent sales coaching. Specifically, sales leaders need to coach salespeople to follow the sales process and execute the sales methodology. Rather than relying solely on the individuality of the salesperson including their personality and how they’re comfortable selling, top sales leaders know that to scale the business they must coach to the process. The reason for this is simple: Superstars are very hard to find. While there is an art to selling, selling at a mass scale is a science.
Sales Enablement Support
Today’s sales manager is expected to be part sales superstar who still carries a bag including their own persona quota, part trainer, part CRM/ATS expert, and most likely parts of a half-dozen other roles. Suffice it to say, the role of today’s sales manager is diverse and complex.
For sustained success, great sales forces are made by possessing a capable sales enablement team that provides the sales organization with the tools, technology, processes, methodologies, and training that help salespeople sell more effectively. Today’s sales manager simply does not have the time to do all of these things. The role of sales enablement is to provide salespeople with what they need in order to consistently engage customers and candidates in productive conversations at each stage of the sales process.
While other departments such as manufacturing and finance have been overhauled and optimized with standards and methodologies like Total Quality Management (TQM) or Six Sigma, sales have somehow evaded the management rigor, standards and disciplines that it’s peer groups have adopted. Is it reasonable to expect a chemical manufacturer to scale their business without TQM? Why should we expect to scale the sales organization without sales enablement? Without a good sales enablement system, organizations are prone to suffer from a lack of discipline in sales operations, which leads missed revenue targets and high turnover.
Executing in each of these areas is no easy task. The best sales forces are made by having systematic processes for prioritizing the areas needing upgrades and making continuous improvements, and by transforming themselves if needed to align with new strategies or market shifts.
About the author: Dan Fisher is the founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a sales enablement solutions company dedicated to helping IT staffing and service firms improve sales win rates, accelerate their sales cycles, and increase overall quota attainment. Dan is a 20-year sales veteran and thought-leader in the IT staffing and consulting industry and has authored the only proprietary sales methodology designed exclusively for selling IT staffing services.
Want more tips to help you build a winning sales force for your staffing firm? Read the ebook 7 Steps for Turning New Hires Into Sales Powerhouses, from Bullhorn and Menemsha Group.