Building and retaining a strong sales team is fundamental for revenue growth. Since attraction, retention, and growth are keys to consistently high-performing teams, we developed the easy-to-follow T.E.A.M. (Talent, Engage, Accelerate, Mastery) framework to drive your team’s growth strategy.
Your talent strategy must be rock solid to build a team that consistently achieves its goals. A company’s talent acquisition strategy is the foundation for building a successful team. Resist the desire to over-engineer onboarding programs if your talent acquisition strategy is not consistently delivering top candidates – who are the right candidates for the open role within your organization, not just the best possible candidate available (who everyone else is likely also recruiting).
Building a winning sales team requires identifying the specific competencies your salespeople need to excel. A candidate doesn’t need to possess every competency when hired, since you should have a training program in place to help fill the gap between where the person is today and where he or she needs to be to consistently perform at the desired level.
To become crystal clear on the competencies needed for your sellers:
- Understand the type, quantity, and quality of activity required for salespeople to be successful in your organization.
- Outline the skills required for a new hire to be successful. Understand which of these skills must have already been acquired, and which you are capable of developing.
- When hunting for candidates, identify the ideal type of experience for your specific role (including companies they might have worked at before), and leverage the existing employees, vendors, and your network for referrals or introductions.
- Utilize structured interviews to create an apples-to-apples comparison between candidates, and ensure you eliminate bias and narrow focus on the right person for your role.
- Use rubrics to standardize scoring across candidates. Create a scoring rubric for each role that best reflects your ideal candidate profile.
- Sales skills assessments should be used to vet candidates – disqualifying those who do not meet the required level of competence, and using the output of the assessments to interview more effectively and to coach folks who are hired.
- Conduct hiring retrospectives after new hires have been on the job for a while in order to continuously improve your hiring process.
- Create and convey for new hires a clear internal promotion path that is transparent, attainable, and fair.
- Avoid premature promotions, as they can lead to employee failure, team misses, and demoralization.
Too much is made of onboarding. Teaching initial product introduction, tech stack, and process is easy. Engaging new hires and accelerating them toward mastery is the hard part – and the part that creates consistently high-performing teams.
- The engagement phase begins with an employee receiving their offer letter, and ends when they conduct their first meaningful prospect-facing activity.
- Concepts presented to a new hire but not applied quickly will be poorly applied – or, worse, forgotten; instead, focus on timing and relevance of onboarding concepts.
- Create specific, measurable goals for your engagement phase.
- Ensure that goals are reverse engineered into activity and broken down into things a salesperson can control.
- Create a backlog of engagement activities and ensure that only immediately relevant activities are queued.
- Create cohorts of new hires to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of new hire engagement, while also minimizing new hire-related interruptions on the existing team.
- Ensure that all training content used relates to specific competencies new hires must build, and that training content is continuously improved and updated.
- Simulations and role play allow new hires to get confidence-building repetitions before facing high-value prospects.
- Many organizations have new hires “drink from the firehose” because they lack preparation. Avoid this temptation and make the engagement phase as simple as possible, with clear and measurable outcomes.
- Leverage product training only to the extent that it teaches new hires what specific problems the product solves for prospects.
- If new hires are asked to shadow co-workers, ensure there are clear guidelines for the activity and that there is mutual accountability to report back what was learned and how it will be applied.
The acceleration phase ensures the organization supports the development of the skills necessary for the new hire to achieve long-term success and professional development (retention and promotion opportunities).
- Acceleration must go beyond the basics and address the different scenarios the salesperson will run into when working deals.
- Defining the acceleration phase as the first meaningful activity (such as a discovery call with a prospect in the salesperson’s target market) to a won deal maintains focus and momentum.
- Coaching must happen frequently during the acceleration phase to course-correct on any deficiencies that management observes and set up the salesperson for long-term success.
- Certifications are the single best tool that management can apply to ensure salespeople are successful. The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve dictates that 79% of knowledge is lost after 31 days if it’s not revisited. Furthermore, 67% of knowledge is lost after just one day without a reminder.
- Multiple-choice quizzes, scenarios, case studies, and the observation of real-world activity are key components of a strong certification program.
Mastery is often defined as consistent quota attainment. The goal is to have clarity regarding when execution meets the highest level of expectation.
- Incremental milestones are critical to ensure that a salesperson is on pace to achieve mastery; management must course-correct if not.
- Key milestones on the path to back-to-back quota attainment include full pipeline coverage, full quota coverage, 25% quota attainment, 50% quota attainment, 80% quota attainment, and 100% quota attainment.
- Help struggling employees improve performance; and, if they can’t, manage them out of their role.
The T.E.A.M. framework provides the clarity that companies need to strategically and tactically execute on retention and growth objectives.
Hilmon Sorey is managing director of ClozeLoop, a sales management consulting and training firm. His newest book, 46 Reasons Why Your Cold Calls Fail: …And How To Fix Them FAST.