A number of businesses that I’ve been dealing with have identified clearly the value of having really excellent people in their sales team. They’ve seen quite significant differences in the performance of their most successful people as opposed to their weaker people. They’ve also noticed that these performances tend to get repeated, pretty much year after year. So what can you do to build a rock star sales team that will help you exceed your sales goals, year after year?
Know your team – scientifically!
Yes, I know it sounds very obvious but how well do you really know your sales team and do you judge them fairly? Or are your “best” sales people seen as such by reputation only, or as a result of long held beliefs that you’ve had in relation to their talent? Yes, reputations and your own gut feeling count for a lot, but on their own they are not enough.
If you are going to trust your brand to your sales team, you’ve got to make sure that they have the competencies and attributes to carry this out, every bit as well as you would do it yourself. So spend time working out what are these attributes (drive, professionalism, integrity, resilience etc.) and competencies (relationship building skills, advice approach, technical knowledge, writing / presentation skills etc.) that you value.
Once you have these identified, score all your sales team against these factors. In addition, you cannot ignore both their previous results and also the quality of their clientbase / territory – these should be brought into your analysis too.
Finally and most importantly, seek out the views of others. Get colleagues who also know the team well to score them too. Also, if possible, talk to some of your key customers. It’s quite probable that both of these other insights will throw up some surprises for you. Maybe they’ll uncover a “blind spot” you’ve had, which has resulted in you consistently under-rating / over-rating some individuals and maybe, just maybe it’s you who has to change!
Once you’ve done this exercise, you can be pretty confident that you’ve a solid view of your team and can recognise its strong and weak points.
Increase the number of winners
Winners need to be rewarded and with more than just money. Yes, money is very important but is usually not enough on it’s own. Winners like recognition; they like to be celebrated, both inside and outside your company. They also like to be listened to – properly. They’re successful for a reason so their views and insights should be heeded and where appropriate, acted upon. Winners also like to see where their success is going to take them over the longer term. So think about their career paths and future opportunities – before they take this decision out of your hands….
There will be quite a large group of people “in the middle” who are doing a competent job but probably not consistently shooting the lights out. These are the people that you need to challenge to move into the top tier. A mixture of setting appropriate goals for them, creating personal development plans that will increase their skills and driving the team harder in some cases will achieve this! Also let your stars demonstrate to these people how they are getting their great results. Your stars may help you raise the performance of some of these middle tier players.
Unfortunately you’ve got to be equally assertive in dealing with the serial under-performers who are also lacking in the attributes and competencies that you require. Remember when it comes to sales, “bad breath is worse than no breath” as these people run the risk of irreparably damaging relationships with some of your clients. So find new roles for these people or move them on. Get them out of your sales team. You’ll also gain more respect from the wider sales team for your willingness to act in relation to underperformance.
What happens when a rock star leaves the band?
That dreaded moment. Your best sales person comes to you saying, “Can I just have a minute” and you know what’s coming… So what do you do?
Do you try and stop them leaving? Yes unless the price is too high, you’re going to be a hostage to them in the future, their head is already gone out the door or by clinging on to them, you will completely unsettle the rest of the team to try a similar move!
You then need to consider how replaceable they actually are – internally or externally. If you have a strong “bench” of support people waiting for a sales opportunity, then maybe you just wish your star performer well. Also if you have a clear external recruitment plan for this very scenario ready to go, well then maybe it’s time to implement this now.
And of course, don’t forget your clients in all of this. Make sure you reassure them completely that your organisation will continue to meet and exceed their needs going forwards, even without this important sales person.
So, get really clear on the strengths and weaknesses of your team, have different approaches for your different players and remember, when the star leaves, it’s not necessarily the end of the world!
Have you any more thoughts on how to build an excellent sales team… or even what’s your favourite ACDC song! All comments welcome below.