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How to Build an Effective Sales Team

Effective sales teams shift their internal culture to match changes in consumer culture.

For decades sales has been known as a marketing function, the last stage of a marketing funnel designed to communicate with customers via branding, advertising and websites.

The 21st-century consumer is changing, however, and to keep pace, the role of the salesperson is changing too. These days, consumers don’t necessarily need to be pitched or swayed by products or services. They’re using the internet to educate themselves before making big purchases and salespeople are evolving away from matching features to benefits, drifting closer to relationship management.

When a company assembles a sales team (or a sales support team) that embodies this shift in consumer ideology, they experience an exponential difference in ROI. Sales teams that perform well regardless of industry can create ROIs more than twice as large as teams that don’t perform as well.

What’s the difference between a top-performing team and an underperforming team?

It starts with the system. More than 50% of effective sales teams said they used a distinct sales process, which was closely officiated and firmly enforced. Only 28% of low performing teams professed to using any sort of standardized or tested system for sales.

But it’s not enough to have a system if people don’t use it. Almost one third of top-performing teams said they consistently held salespeople accountable for their results. Only 13% of low performing teams followed suit.

One of the biggest differentiators is performance management. Eighteen percent of top-performing sales teams indicate that, if necessary, they would terminate a low performer after one quarter. Only 7% of underperforming teams demonstrated this behavior.

How do you build an effective sales team?

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so evaluation is one of the first steps. What, specifically, is the sales team supposed to do? Are they doing it? If the answer is no, then why not? If the answer is yes, then what can they do to improve? Make a record of all relevant metrics and key performance indicators to figure out why they’re trending in one direction or another.

Even if the team is hitting all its numbers and all the salespeople are engaged in their work, you’re going to have to hire for succession at some point. This process is critical. Hiring the right salesperson can improve revenue, open up new opportunities for the business and extend an organization’s lifespan. Hiring the wrong salesperson, however, can destroy partnerships and cost organizations lots of money.

There are two major keys to hiring the right salesperson — provide a clear job description, and make sure pay structure and incentives are properly understood during the hiring process.

Finally, when new salespeople get in the door, make sure they know how the business defines success. It’s not always as simple as revenue totals. Establish clear, measurable directives for things like relationship management, prospecting, volume and profitability. In doing so, you’ll set every member of the team up for long, fruitful and meaningful careers.

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