In April 2019, I stepped into a new job as Vice President of Enterprise and Commercial Sales.
I was excited to join a company with a strong reputation for sales excellence. Not only does the sales team have strong performers, but the entire company’s mission is focused on changing the industry’s approach to sales by giving sellers the information they need to close more deals.
This new challenge was thrilling, but nerve-wracking, too. Needless to say, I wanted to make an impact fast, as the company’s objective hit so close to home.
The challenge was how. How do you improve a sales team’s performance when they’re already operating at world-class levels?
I developed a three-pronged approach to secure some quick sales wins, maximize the strengths of my sellers, and build my team so that it would be scalable for success.
Here’s a quick look at what I’ve done and how it’s worked.
Prong #1: Securing Quick Wins
Key to a quick start for any sales leader is creating some quick wins, so you can show your value immediately.
What can you quickly achieve to demonstrate your skills and start leading by example? To find the answer, spend time with your team to uncover what these quick wins might look like.
You need to figure out what they immediately need help with, and where are they currently facing challenges. If you can offer a fresh perspective and help the team address these hurdles, it will help you win their trust while also demonstrating your abilities as a leader.
One way to do this is to latch onto a handful of deals quickly.
When I started at Seismic, there was a sales representative who had already built a great pipeline, so I spent a significant amount of time conducting strategy sessions with him to figure out how I could help close these deals and immediately add value.
I also made sure I aligned myself with the executives from his prospect organizations, and we would work hand-in-hand to determine how to move stalled deals forward.
We arranged on-site meetings at their offices, sent creative packages, and employed a myriad of other tactics to move deals across the finish line.
I took this same approach with every rep. If they needed help negotiating with a prospect or building up their pipeline, I made sure that’s where I was spending the bulk of my time.
Not only is it important to spend time with the team and figure out how you can help them, but you should review any and all data that’s available to you.
How has the team performed historically? Have they been hitting their goals? If yes, how do you keep that up? If not, how do you improve the win rate?
This information will help you lay out an informed plan of attack so you can start steering the sales organization toward sustainable success.
Prong #2: Getting the Maximum Value From a New Team
After spending some quality time with the team, learning who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time to start working with each individual to maximize their potential value.
Be mindful that not everyone is the same. It’s critical to understand individual career development needs, while also setting high standards of excellence.
According to a recent report issued by Gartner, 24 percent of inside sellers are actively looking for a new job right now. So, it’s important to uncover what makes each person tick to support and motivate them effectively.
Our co-founder and president, Ed Calnan, is a great leader in this regard and is always pushing the organization’s sales leaders to lead by example and appeal to individual needs.
As a leader, I’m one to really push people to achieve things they didn’t know they were capable of. If you can’t handle it, you probably don’t have thick enough skin to be out in the field, facing challenging personalities and scenarios while selling.
To prepare for those difficult situations, everyone should continually strive to do better and develop closer relationships with clients and prospects.
That said, not everyone is always going to hit their goals. There will be some moderate performers and some high performers.
In many organizations, sales leaders will leave their high performers alone and focus on getting lower performers to step up their game. Not me.
While I do try to make sure everyone is hitting their numbers, I tend to invest more time in pushing those A+ players to do even more. They’re already excelling, so continuing to raise the bar for them is essential in making sure they don’t get too comfortable.
This mantra applies to the senior sales staff as well.
While junior staff certainly needs to be trained, senior staff can become bored if you’re not helping them continuously develop their skills and further their careers. Sales is all about adaptability, so instilling that eagerness to learn new sales strategies, no matter an employee’s level of experience, is absolutely critical to fostering a culture of excellence.
Prong #3: Building a Team to Scale
Once you’ve come to understand your team, the individuals who are a part of it, and what motivates them, you need to start thinking about how you’re going to scale without losing core values and standards.
When I’m scaling my team, I want to ensure there’s a theme of consistent values and capabilities. There are a few key skills and traits that I look for when hiring new sellers:
Grit and tenacity: At a foundational level, I want my team members to have grit and tenacity. They need to be hustlers who always go above and beyond to service their current account, while also winning new ones.
Interpersonal skills: Sellers need to stay top of mind, so when an organization is seeking a solution like ours, we’re the first company that pops into their head. The ability to build relationships and interact well with others with ease is critical.
Strategic prospecting and proactivity: It’s becoming increasingly important for sellers to do strategic prospecting, meaning they’re going out and uncovering new leads instead of waiting to be fed them by either the marketing or demand generation teams. I constantly seek out employees who will take initiative instead of sitting and being told what to do.
Active listing and problem solving: Active listening is also becoming a vital skill for sellers to have, as it’s necessary to truly uncover what prospects’ needs are. Customers have more access to information than ever before and expect sellers to complement research they’ve done on their own.
According to a preview of an upcoming Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Seismic, 85 percent agree that buyers will dismiss a seller in the first interaction if they don’t receive tailored information. So, sellers who can add valuable information and act as consultants throughout a prospect’s buyer journey are not just a nice to have, they’re a must-have.
Ensuring that sellers have similar core capabilities is key in making sure your team is built for long-term success. So, when building and scaling your team, identify the values and skills that are most important to you and your organization so you can shape your winning culture.
When you’re confident all the individuals on your team have these capabilities, you can trust that they are going to get the job done.
High-Performing Sales Team (or Bust)
While it’s difficult to make a strong impression as a new sales leader, you can quickly build a high-performing team by doing the right legwork in the beginning.
- Come in, understand your team, learn about their challenges, and work to fix them.
- Understand who they are as individuals, and use their strengths and weaknesses to develop and motivate them.
- Focus on growth; determine the skills you want your sellers to have, and then use those standards as an evaluation tool when bringing new employees on board.
If you do all these things, you’ll be able to produce a team that raises the bar every day.