In sales, you only go as far as your team will take you. This makes sales hiring one of the most critical pieces of building a high-performing revenue machine.
So, how do you think about what kind of sales team you want to build?
Build Teams Like a Pro Sports Recruiter
Professional sports organizations think about building their teams in a very specific way. They have a set number of positions to fill. They look for the people who are incredible athletes — experts in their craft — and sign them. They look for people who are talented and coachable, and who will always continue learning. They build a culture of excellence. And when you combine talent and culture with great coaching, focus and leadership, you win championships.
I think about building sales teams in very much the same way.
Traits of great salespeople:
- They are insanely talented.
- They have a will to win.
- They have a drive that is insatiable.
- They have a passion for improvement.
When hiring, you must take a “hell yes or no” approach. If you aren’t proud to introduce each new hire to the rest of the team, you can’t hire them. If you can’t introduce them to your mom and be proud they are a colleague, you can’t hire them.
Expert Execution Over Specific Experience
Expertise in a particular industry is irrelevant. Expertise in execution is an absolute must. From there, it is the company’s responsibility to remove roadblocks and make new salespeople an expert on how to sell your product.
I look at my own path as an example of this. I’ve worked in a variety of industries: SEO and marketing technology (Conductor, Percolate), Real estate technology (Compass) and now IT automation (Electric). While they are diverse industries, I’ve applied the same sales leadership fundamentals at each company. The industry was irrelevant.
The expertise and approach is what matters:
- Implement a sales process that is clear for the team to follow
- Use data and metrics to guide decision-making
- Create an environment of clarity and positive reinforcement
- Lead from the front by helping every person achieve their goals
By applying these basics, I have built high-growth, high-performing sales teams that have fun and consistently overachieve every time.
Do’s and Don’ts for Building Strong Sales Teams
- Do not hire just to check the box. We all have a hiring process. We all have associated quota. But the cost of hiring the wrong person is immense. It’s better to be behind on hiring and have a killer team that overachieves. Be patient and hire the best people, not just anyone.
- Do not skimp on Sales Enablement. This is an area that is chronically under-invested in. Think about the true value and revenue potential of training salespeople and making them great. When you take the time to build out your sales enablement program, you ramp new hires faster. Also, you help your team learn from their wins and losses. Make it fun. But train like crazy.
- Do not create a culture of fear. There must be accountability from every person on the team. But that is different than fear. If people fear for their job, fear they are doing things wrong, fear that leadership doesn’t believe in them, energy levels will suffer and they will fail. And your team will fail. And you will fail. You can have a culture of excellence and achievement without fear.
- Provide clarity because clarity leads to focus. The single greatest thing you can do for a sales organization is to provide clarity. Clarity on territories. Clarity on comp plans. Clarity on rules of engagement, career paths, and on company objectives. The more clarity you can provide, the more roadblocks you eliminate, the more focused your team can be.
- Hire a diverse group and promote communication. Hiring smart, driven, talented people is a must. But having people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives is also important.You want people who think differently. You want people who will challenge each other constructively as a way to learn and get better. Look around your team and think about how you hire not only the best people, but also people who bring different perspectives.
- Stretch your team. Give your team a chance to do more than just their core responsibilities. Not everyone will want this. But the likelihood is that with smart, driven teams, your salespeople will want to help beyond just selling. Ask them what they are interested in. Find ways to challenge them with projects and initiatives that help them develop and grow. They have to be focused on delivering their core objectives, but they’ll appreciate the opportunity to contribute on a broader scale. And while it’s about the numbers, it’s not just about the numbers.
- Celebrate success. Celebrate the big wins. Celebrate the little wins. Closing a deal is incredible. But there are so many steps that go into closing a deal. Think about things that your team is doing throughout the sales cycle and call those out. Use them as teaching opportunities for others. Celebrate the wins, but also celebrate great execution. It’s the little things that will go a long way in building a confident, positive, successful team.
The recipe is simple. Never sacrifice on the quality of your people. As a sales leader, think about finding general athletes who are experts in their craft and who are adaptable to different sports. Give them all the tools they need to succeed in your org. Put those pieces together and victory is inevitable.