Building a successful sales team can be challenging.
Not putting time and effort into building a successful sales team will affect all areas of your business, especially when it comes to meeting your business’ overall goals.
In this post, discover expert insight from sales leaders on how to build a high-performing sales team from scratch.
How to Build a Sales Team
- Build a culture of engagement among your teams.
- Identify the skills that matter most and hire for them.
- Set clear expectations.
- Give your teams everything they need to succeed.
- Monitor critical sales metrics.
- Give consistent feedback.
- Share customer success stories.
- Encourage reps to set personal goals.
- Use data to identify engagement issues.
- Always solve for the customer.
1. Build a culture of engagement.
A sales culture of engagement is so much more than ping-pong tables, nerf guns, or an endless number of SPIFs. Employee engagement is how employees think and feel about the team they’re on, and how they act (i.e., work) based on those thoughts and feelings.
Don’t mistake satisfaction for engagement, though, as they’re not the same thing. Here’s the difference between a satisfied and engaged employee:
- Safety: I can show my true self at work without fear of negative consequences.
- Meaning: I have a personal ‘why’ behind my job.
- Capacity: I feel capable of accomplishing what is assigned to me.
As sales leaders, the most important job is engaging your teams. Aim to do your best to maximize each team member’s performance and motivate them every day. The goal is to have teams lean forward and think like owners, so they can drive business. How do you get them there?
2. Identify the skills that matter most, and hire for them.
Which of your existing reps embody the elements of the team you’re hoping to build? Think about the reps who consistently meet quotes and drive significant revenue. Think about the traits they exhibit. Are they coachable? Ambitious? Collaborative? Challenging? Hungry?
Those are your points of reference. Every leader will prioritize different traits, but make sure your hiring process is focused on asking questions that help you uncover candidates that possess those skills and will help your team go above and beyond.
3. Set clear expectations.
Knowing what is expected of them is a key motivator in employee engagement, so ensuring your reps know their priorities is critically important to developing a sales team. Take the time to set expectations for your team based on your overall sales goals so they know exactly what they are working towards.
One way to do this, according to Alex Olley, co-Founder and CRO of Reachdesk, is to “Help them understand what quality work looks like.” You can give reps examples of what it looks like to succeed, so they have a frame of reference. For example, maybe you periodically review extremely successful sales calls so reps can learn from them and model their behavior off of those winning calls.
4. Give your teams everything they need to succeed.
If you have a sales rep that is focused on outbound calls but you haven’t given them any calls training, provided scripts, or done role-play, you’re not setting that rep up for success because they are underprepared.
Your sales teams need to have everything they need to succeed. Olley says, “Invest in them [sales reps]. Give them the right tools to succeed across multiple channels (email, phone, social, gifting, chat, video, data, etc.). Coach and develop them.”
Championing this tip involves everything from thorough onboarding to on-the-job training to simply ensuring every rep has a place to work that is comfortable, motivating, and allows them to meet their goals on a day-to-day basis.
5. Monitor critical sales metrics.
Jim Blackie, Chief Revenue Officer at ON24, says, “You must be clear on what winning looks like by having a set of vital metrics that you manage and hold everyone accountable to. It is essential to keep these metrics simple, measurable, and visible so that everyone can stay aligned.”
So, for example, say you have a yearly revenue goal. A leader building a winning sales team with this goal in mind may consistently monitor the average length of their sales cycle to ensure that everyone stays on track and doesn’t get stuck on unqualified prospects that clog up the pipeline and increase cycle length.
6. Give consistent feedback.
Few leaders give it the time it deserves but, if you want your team to get better, you have to give them feedback.
Because, without it, reps won’t know what they’re doing wrong, or what they’re doing right. Granted, if they aren’t closing any deals, they’ll know something is wrong, but they won’t know exactly what is wrong.
Periodically taking the time to review sales rep performance and have conversations with them about their performance can dramatically improve sales performance. Reps will know what behaviors to continue doing, know what needs improvement, and, also, feel as though you genuinely value them and their position on the team because you take the time to ensure they can succeed at their jobs.
7. Share customer success stories
Behind every cold call is a prospect with a challenge that can be solved — and it’s important to remember that on days when sales feel like a thankless grind.
Consider sharing customer success stories about how your product or service helps your customers and allows them to meet their needs. It can motivate your employees to push through challenges and reminds them, even on the most difficult days, that what they do matters.
8. Encourage reps to set personal goals.
Communicating sales expectations is important, but it’s also critical for reps to understand their path forward. Nikita Zhitkevich, Director of Channel Partnerships and Alliances at PartnerStack, says “It’s critical to ensure your team has clearly defined goals and expectations for mapping out growth.”
Encourage reps to think about where they want to be and how their current day-to-day will help them get there. Setting individual development goals can help them stay motivated to remain on track to level up in the future. Olley says allowing salespeople to set their path forward is extremely important — “Let each individual find the right path to progression — don’t dictate where they will go. Not every BDR wants to be an AE.”
9.Use data to identify engagement issues.
Too often, sales leaders use gut feel to make important decisions about the entire team’s performance. No one should do that — not even on small teams.
Instead, sales leaders should pay attention when people at multiple levels of performance flag the same issue. For example, if your top, average, and low-performing reps all mention fairness when they’re asked for feedback around engagement, you know you’ve got a meaningful issue to tackle.
To identify your team’s issues, you need solid engagement data. Otherwise, you’re just stabbing in the dark. Knowing what causes disengagement lets you prioritize initiatives that unlock performance.
10. Always solve for the customer.
While the goal of sales is to drive growth for your business, it's also to ensure that you find customers that will succeed with the help of your business once you close a sale. Blackie says, “To build a winning culture, you need every person on the team leaning in and feeling they can deliver amazing results to the customer.”
Engage Your People Now
Sales leaders want to work with people who love their jobs and welcome inspiration and growth. You can find those people, and you can move your whole team upward by surrounding them with the safety, meaning, and capacity they need to excel at their jobs.