Putting time and effort into building a great sales team benefits your entire business.
It’ll help you as a sales leader meet your objectives, your reps fulfill their potential and your company grow.
Building a sales team isn’t all about hiring, though.
Once you’ve found the right people, you’ll need to train them for success and scale up to support your organization’s growth.
In this article, you’ll learn how to build a high-performing sales team from the ground up: where to find perfect candidates, what you can do to help them win and how to repeat the process for sustainable success.
A sales team is only as effective as its members. The people you recruit, whether they’re your first hire or your fiftieth, should be hardworking, skilled and ready to learn.
Here are some tips on finding the right people at the right times.
When building a sales team from scratch, you’ll likely start with the classic structure of one sales manager and multiple reps.
If you’re a small business owner and don’t anticipate leading sales activities yourself, you should start by hiring a sales professional with plenty of leadership experience.
Someone who’s managed successful teams before will bring valuable insights to your operation. They’ll have wisdom from past successes and mistakes and can lead hiring efforts as the team grows. They may even bring valuable contacts, including talent and leads.
If you’re a sales manager tasked with developing a new team, prioritizing experience is still helpful. An established rep can be a deputy, helping you write your sales playbook before the team expands.
Once your basic sales processes run smoothly, you can employ less experienced reps. That way, they’ll have a more consistent on-the-job learning environment. Consider roleplaying and shadowing to familiarize new starters with your team’s approach.
Diversify your recruitment tactics. If you focus on a single channel, you risk overlooking great candidates.
For example, you could put all your hiring hopes on one online job board. That would only connect you with people who are actively seeking new roles. It’s a worthwhile target audience but not the only valuable one.
Conversations can be just as effective. Reach out on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter especially) and industry communities (like Sales Assembly), make it known you’re hiring and talk openly about:
The role or roles available
The qualities you’re looking for
Your business (and the value it offers employees)
Keep your inbox open and an email address visible. You never know who’s viewing or sharing your content. At any time, you could grab the attention of someone who’s ready for a change but isn’t actively job searching yet.
While it’s natural to head online first, offline networking can be just as important. Ask existing contacts for recommendations and let them know you’re looking. If a contact values your relationship, they’ll endorse people they know are a good fit.
Use past hires as templates for new ones. Start by asking yourself and some of your closest colleagues a few questions.
First, which team members, past and present, best embody the characteristics and soft skills you’re hoping to find?
Then, if that question hasn’t covered it already:
Who has regularly met their quotas and driven the most revenue?
Who has positively influenced the rest of their group?
Who has been the easiest to work with?
Consider how these recruitment success stories came about. Where did you find this talent? How did the hiring process go? What do these employees value most about their work and employer?
Use all your answers to build an “ideal hire” profile for scoring candidates. You might not hit every criterion every time, but it’ll help you envision what you’re looking for beyond a job title.
If you’re building a team from scratch in your first-ever leadership role, the best advice is to go slowly. Rely on the facts (candidates’ experience and qualifications), trust your intuition, learn from every new hire and seek advice from more experienced sales managers.
Building a high-achieving sales team is an ongoing process, not one that stops when you’ve recruited your ideal talent.
The next step after onboarding is sales development. Here are eight ways to train your sales team for success.
Build a culture that supports empathy, curiosity and growth. It’ll allow team members to apply and hone their skills without worrying about feeling inadequate or making minor mistakes.
More specifically, it’s your responsibility to ensure all team members are comfortable:
Helping each other
Challenging existing sales processes
Achieve that openness by encouraging employee feedback during the hiring process, appraisals and sales meetings. Freedom of communication ensures everyone can confidently pull toward team and company goals.
Promoting empathy will also help with salesforce diversification by making people feel accepted, which is proven to boost team performance.
Team members will have more purpose and confidence in their work if they know what’s expected of them.
The best way to do that is:
Make company objectives clear. Explain what the business aims to achieve in the short and long term and the sales organization’s role in that. One objective could be to build a more diverse, evenly-balanced customer base.
Translate company objectives into sales goals. Which sales achievements will move your company closer to its objectives? Reducing time spent on lead qualification could shorten the sales cycle, allowing reps to close more deals with first-time customers (diversifying the customer base).
Use sales goals to inspire specific activities. Individual achievements, like sending 10 cold emails per day or completing a relationship selling course, contribute to the sales team’s goals, which in turn aid company performance.
When this process is transparent, team members will know what they should be doing daily and why it matters: because it contributes to the company’s big-picture goals.
KPIs are metrics by which you can measure an individual’s or team’s success. Win rate, deals closed and revenue generated are good examples.
Choose your KPIs based on what you, your team and your company want to achieve. Tracking them will create accountability and help you keep your group tracking toward growth.
If you have an annual revenue target, you might track average deal value to ensure reps are working on the right types of leads. If you aim to reduce your customer acquisition costs (CAC), you could use average time to close (also known as average sales cycle length) as a KPI.
You’ll find many helpful sales metrics in Pipedrive’s performance dashboards and reports.
Whatever your KPIs tell you, it’s important to give feedback to your team members.
Regular feedback is vital for reps to know what they’re doing right and wrong (beyond closing deals or losing them). This awareness will help your team repeat successful patterns and address problems. Ultimately, feedback is an investment in their professional development.
Holding 1-2-1 meetings is a great starting point. As well as allowing you to deliver feedback in a private setting, it gives team members the opportunity to:
Offload their concerns
Report on day-to-day achievements
Pitch new ideas
However you’re communicating, remember to:
Offer both positive and constructive feedback. A good balance of praise and guidance will stop morale from dropping while helping employees improve.
Be realistic. Your team members have limits. Asking them to take too much on can hinder motivation.
Give team members what they need to succeed. Sales reps need information and tools to perform. It’s on you to make sure they have both. For example, if you expect a rep to hit quarterly sales targets, ensure they know the exact figures before the quarter begins.
Encourage staff to give you feedback too. Make them feel comfortable enough and they’ll tell you how different aspects of your team management style work or don’t work for them.
Regularly prompting employees to share their thoughts should also help catch issues before they significantly impact individuals’ well-being, team morale or client sentiment.
Sales enablement involves creating and organizing the content and tools your sales team needs to do their job effectively. This includes guides, sales coaching materials, digital tools and presentation decks.
In the State of Sales Enablement Report 2022, 92% of marketing and sales professionals said having an enablement team improved sales performance.
If a dedicated enablement function isn’t feasible, your marketing team can help. Much of the content they already create, like blog posts and case studies, is ideal for moving prospects closer to purchase.
For example, a Pipedrive sales rep could use this Accentuate case study to reassure and wow leads in the web design and marketing industries.
Its results-based messaging and attention-grabbing figures show potential customers what they could achieve with Pipedrive’s customer relationship management (CRM) software.
When creating case study content like this, ensure it’s real, relatable and easy to digest. It helps to stick to a consistent format (e.g., background, challenge, solution, results) and build a library of customer stories targeting different products and industries.
As a leader, it’s up to you to motivate your sales team. You’ll do that in various ways, including through the openness, empathy and goal-setting discussed already.
Focusing on key sales activities instead of results alone also helps, as salespeople have more control over these.
For example, a skilled salesperson could do everything right and still lose a deal. The buyer’s final decision is out of the rep’s control – by focusing on it, you’ll frustrate them and damage their motivation.
Instead, you could praise that rep for everything they did well. That could include identifying the opportunity, sending a prompt follow-up and providing value. The same positive activities could lead to better results next time.
You may not control your reps’ salaries, but you can incentivize them in other ways.
Consider giving top performers bonuses, reduced pricing and time off for their effort. Use a broad definition of “top performer”, too. Beyond meeting quotas, you could also reward:
By incentivizing growth and results, you’ll help your team become more effective over time.
Making rewards public can kick underperformers and coasters into gear and inspire early-career employees to keep learning. Don’t assume that all reps have the same motivations – use interviews and development meetings to understand what will work best for each individual.
Moving from deal to deal without reflecting can make sales feel like a thankless grind. Break that monotony and motivate your salespeople by sharing the results of their hard work.
For example, if a new client writes a glowing testimonial, ensure it gets back to anyone who worked on the deal. Get reps involved in case study creation, too, so they can learn what happens after they close deals.
Seeing the impact of your company’s products will remind salespeople that their work matters.
When you start building momentum and feel ready to expand your team, do it carefully. Growing too fast can cause your team to become disjointed, confused and inefficient.
Here are three tips for growing your sales operation sustainably:
When you’re developing any kind of sales workflow or process, consider how it would work with more team members or buyers (inputs) involved.
For example, you might have two salespeople storing all their contact data in separate spreadsheets. That’ll work fine with a small team, but for every new team member and spreadsheet you add, you’ll make your data pool:
Harder to access and audit
A CRM tool, like Pipedrive, is much more scalable. It acts as a centralized database of lead and customer information that can be used by two reps or 200. When staff can quickly access the insights they need, they’ll have more time to spend delivering better customer experiences and closing deals.
Sales technology will help you work faster, make better decisions and satisfy your customers.
When building a tech stack to support your team, make sure:
It has all the right sales tools. A great starter kit includes a CRM for storing contact data, email marketing software for generating leads and a project management tool for organizing tasks.
Everything works together. Integrations ensure data stays consistent across all your platforms. It means users have a single source of truth for better-informed decisions and interactions. For example, Pipedrive connects with the project management app Asana to share task and communication data.
Every success and disappointment you experience as a sales manager is a learning opportunity.
When a hire doesn’t work out, reflect on why so you can find a more suitable replacement.
Say you hire a well-established salesperson to work remotely but they fail to bond with their colleagues and move on. You might then spend more on local talent for the sake of a stronger, more cohesive group.
Pay close attention to the wins too. For example, sales representatives with hospitality backgrounds may fit your company culture well. Build that into your process with a sales training program for people from that sector.
Building a high-performing sales team takes time, patience and careful attention. Some hires won’t work out and you may occasionally miss out on great talent.
However, if you keep learning and refining, you’ll end up with a skilled group that works hard for you (and your business).
To get there, encourage feedback from all staff, happy or otherwise. It’ll help you maintain the aspects they value and improve or rethink the ones they don’t.
As a result, you’ll have a much more satisfied, motivated group of people eager to close as many deals as possible.
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