Have you ever baked a cake?
A few people who are expert bakers can throw together a few ingredients and come up with something sweet and fluffy in a matter of minutes.
Most of us, though, need to follow a recipe. That recipe tells us what the component parts are and in what order to put them together. It’s a sound method for people who like process.
Wouldn’t it be great if building a high-performing sales team worked the same way? Pull together the right ingredients, follow the recommended steps and ta-dah!
Light, fluffy and a joy to behold.
But it’s not. Building a high-performing sales team isn’t like that at all. For sure, quality ingredients are a must. If you have an unreadable recipe, an underpowered whisk and out-of-date eggs it won’t turn out well.
Effective team leadership doesn’t come by following steps, it’s a mix of ingredients, intuition and experience.
So these five steps won’t guarantee you a Paul Hollywood masterpiece, but they will give you food for thought when building your own sales team.
Ownership and aligned goals
One of the most important things for a sales team is that they know what they are doing. That sounds simple, but it’s harder in reality.
Strategically the sales plan needs to line up with the company goals. Nothing kills the enthusiasm of salespeople faster than explaining to customers you’re out of stock. Or making excuses for poor delivery standards and inadequate customer service.
If you can’t deliver it, you’re wasting time and money encouraging the sales team to sell it.
These roadblocks are often a result of people not being clear internally about what’s expected of them.
What is your sales process and who’s responsible for what? What does “good” service look like and how are shortcomings fixed?
Alongside these internal challenges the sales team need to know what their decision-making guidelines are.
You can’t have each salesperson making up their own price list and deciding how much discount customers are given.
But neither can you control them so tightly that they are unable to make decisions and customers tire of hearing “I’ll have to ask the head office about that”.
The right tools
Sales tools can be IT systems and equipment, or they might be marketing and comms materials. Whatever you’re looking at, remember your salesperson is the face of your business and the image you project to customers.
Providing a salesperson with a laptop and broadband that connect quickly and seamlessly to company systems is important.
And there are some great software solutions that can help your sales team be more effective in who they target and how they reach them.
Marketing materials are critical to sales people. Whether it’s product samples, copies of the latest ad or posts they can share on LinkedIn.
Nothing demoralises salespeople faster than kit that doesn’t work and marketing materials that they have to fight for.
Fix anything that causes friction for the sales team or your customers.
Feedback and coaching
Salespeople need to know when they are doing a good job. It might be uncomfortable, but they also need to know when they’re not.
The numbers don’t lie, but in most industries, there’s more to being good at sales than just hitting a target.
Keeping customers happy, delivering predictable results and collaborating with internal teams are other attributes you might want.
This is where sales leadership comes in. If it’s clear that you chase the deal at any cost then your team will do the same.
On the other hand, if you show that values like customer first, team wellbeing and respect for your business community matter then your team will follow suit.
Be clear with your team about what you value, how you’ll measure it and be consistent in how you demonstrate it. Your team will love you for it.
The most obvious part of sales communication is often the sales team meeting.
It really doesn’t matter whether this is you and your one salesperson, or whether it’s 100s of people from around the country. The same principles apply.
Some of the things people want from a buzzing sales meeting are insight into company performance, new tools and services that will excite customers, clear goals and objectives. And yes, a bit of fun!
It needs to create a sense of shared momentum. We’re all in this together, we know where we are going and we have a plan to get there.
The right skills
This is deliberately the last of the five steps. It’s last on the list because if the other four steps aren’t working then you’ll probably waste your money.
Recruit a new salesperson and of course, you have to give them product knowledge. Help them understand what they’re selling and how it’s better than the competition.
But broader sales skills like influencing, negotiating, closing or conversion? All important skills, but they will only be demonstrated to the full when salespeople are well-directed and well-motivated.
Invest in your sales team and give them the right skills. But do it with a sound business strategy and a positive culture and you’ll amplify results.
It’s back to the cake mixture again. Find the best ingredients you can afford, use the best tools and use your experience to improve the recipe each time.