August 14, 2018

5 Tips to Create a High-Performance Sales Team

By Bryan Summerhays

Do you wish your sales team consistently achieved excellent results? I’ve found high-performing sales professionals work for above-average organizations—it’s a symbiotic relationship. In fact, twice as many salespeople and leaders on high-performing teams rate their organizations as excellent compared to average and underperforming respondents. If you want a whole team of high-performing sales professionals, you must first create a high-performance sales organization.

1. Get the Right People in the Right Roles
Hiring right and defining roles are foundational to building a high-performing sales team. Many companies hire a general sales professional and then rely on him or her to handle everything from prospecting and closing to managing the accounts. This makes it difficult to keep up with demand because they are trying to juggle two or three different jobs at once.

In many cases, you should think through the specialized roles you need, then hire the best match for each role. For example, if you need to bolster activity at the top of your sales funnel, you might post a job for a sales development rep who excels at generating high volumes of leads. Although this rep might excel at prospecting, he or she might not be proficient at closing deals or managing customer accounts. For these tasks, you should consider hiring an inside sales rep and account manager.

During the hiring process, it’s important to give just as much weight to a candidate’s attributes as you would to years of experience. My teams use both cognitive and predictive indices to determine if candidates have personality traits like grit, drive, and critical thinking skills that align specifically to specialized roles and skills needed to succeed in the roles. This allows us to hire and train exceptional salespeople regardless of their professional background or education.

2. Develop and Map a Process
Now it’s time to develop or refine your sales process to support your right people in their right roles. Use and review data to determine what activities the sales team has performed that produced results. How many dials and emails led to decision-maker conversations? How many and what types of those conversations led to deals? Although reps have less control over the number of decision-maker conversations held and deals closed, they can control activities like dials made and emails sent.

Using this methodology, you’ll be able to determine the average number of sales activities that lead to a closed deal. If you have a goal to close 10 deals in one month and your data reveals that one deal takes an average of 200 dials, you know that your reps should make at least 2,000 calls this month. Make sure your process is documented, measurable, and frequently communicated to the entire sales team so they, too, know what defines success and how to modify their approach to be even more successful.

If you need a primer on how this works and how to back into the right activities based on the results you need, Jason Jordan’s Cracking the Sales Management Code is a good place to start.

3. Arm Your Team with Enablement Tools
After you lay the groundwork of hiring the right people and mapping out a process that leads to success in each of the sales roles, you need to assess your team’s ability to keep up with workload and deliver quality work.

You might find that team members are struggling to keep up with the activities required or they’re spending a lot of their time on administrative and manual tasks. A study from InsideSales.com reveals that sales professionals only spend about a third (36.6 percent) of their time selling. Sales enablement tools can help reps automate tasks, such as their communications. With time liberated from administrative or manual tasks, they’ll be able to devote more attention to the human side of the business, building relationships and having quality conversations with decision makers.

4. Give Reps Real-Time Visibility
Just as athletes should always know the score of the game so they can make the right play, every member of the sales team should know their score and the team’s score. I’ve found that if my team members don’t have a vision of where we are going and they don’t know where they stand in relation to their goals, they’re less likely to consistently produce quality results.

On the other hand, when reps are able to quickly get a view of their performance, they’re more motivated to maintain or increase their velocity, even if it requires adjusting their strategy on the fly. Always make sure data is kept in real time and displayed in a way that allows reps to view and determine in five seconds or less exactly where they are and where they need to be.

This real-time visibility enables your reps to track the score and the time left for them to achieve their goals. Think “time and score” and how it comes into play in sports. It’s the same concept in sales. How many times has your team focused the majority of its time on closing deals but neglected the pipeline? If your team members can’t see time and score, they will see it at the end of the month when it’s too late.

5. Employ (and Stick to) a Strong Coaching Methodology
You’ve hired the right folks, given them a process, implemented smart tools, and made sure your salespeople have visibility into their targets. Now, you should be able to put the team on autopilot and watch the revenue roll in, right? Unfortunately, there is no autopilot in leadership, especially sales leadership.

In order for your team to consistently produce results, you need to coach your reps frequently one-on-one. Roughly three-fourths (74 percent) of leading companies say the most important role sales managers play is coaching and mentoring. Make sure that you set expectations with your sales managers on the number of hours they should be observing, coaching, and learning alongside their direct reports. And hold them accountable. Regularly ask your sales team how they’re being trained and coached and ask if they can tie that coaching to an increase in their performance.

If you employ the above strategies, you’ll not only find that your sales team is killing it, but also that the overall vibe and energy of the entire company is significantly positively impacted.

Bryan Summerhays is the VP of Client Services, Direct, for MarketStar.