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Key techniques: How to manage a sales team effectively

Chapter 1: Setting up processes and forming (good) habits
Chapter 2: Building all-star teams and empowering individuals
Chapter 3: Setting goals and finding focus
Chapter 4: Motivation and morale
Chapter 5: Keeping star salespeople and hiring new ones
Trust yourself

This exhaustive playbook will help you learn how to understand and arrange each part of the puzzle of managing a sales organization. In this guide, we’ll give you the foundation for scaling up sales teams across multiple regions, while keeping them aligned, consistent and profitable.

You worked hard to get where you are and to ensure your organization’s success by meeting your team’s targets. Now you’re not managing one sales team, you’re being handed multiple sales teams in different locations and those teams are growing. Fast.

You’ve leveled up!

But here’s the thing about leveling up: with higher levels come greater challenges. The risks are more significant. You have more people’s careers in your hands. It’s harder to meet your sales goals because there are so many moving pieces (and rapidly exceeding expectations).

What’s so much harder about managing more than one sales team?

  • You need to know what all your sales reps are doing

  • You need to make sure they’re doing the right activities at the right times to close the right deals

  • You need to be confident enough in everyone’s progress that you can create accurate revenue forecasts

  • You need to know who is being hired and how quickly they’re being onboarded

  • If one team isn’t making their numbers, you need to know why.

  • If one rep is struggling, you need to know instantly, even if they’re on the other side of an ocean or in a different time zone.

But you know what? You’ve already managed one sales team successfully. Now you just need a clearly defined sales teams management process and the right tools, and you’ll be able to keep driving sustainable growth for your teams.

Chapter 1: Setting up processes and forming (good) habits

To lay a strong foundation, you need to start with your team’s structure.

Setting up your sales teams’ structure

When you’ve got more than one sales team in more than one region, an efficient team structure is key. You want to create a team dynamic that encourages efficiency and consistency across your organization.

There’s no one way to figure out how to manage a sales team, as there are various ways to structure a sales team. Here are the three most common team structures:

  • The Island. A traditional structure in which every sales representative is on their own.

  • The Assembly Line. A modern structure in which each rep focuses on a pipeline stage, creating specialized groups.

  • The Pod. A structure that breaks salespeople into small, laser-focused assembly line: self-contained, self-managing teams.

sales team structure

The team structure you choose will depend on the size and format of your teams, as well as the specific roles of the reps you need.

If you’re trying to drive fast, effective growth, the Assembly Line model is often the best option because (like Henry Ford’s assembly line) it scales fast and well.

Unlike the Island model, which requires reps to handle every step in a sales pipeline on their own, and to be responsible for their own goals and activities, the Assembly Line is very much a team effort.

Sales professionals work best when they are trained and coached like elite athletes. Each one needs a clearly defined role in the gameplan to practice, refine and perfect over time. As you grow, all-rounders and generalists start to handicap your efficiency.

Under the Assembly Line model, the sales team is best broken down into different groups. Each of your teams can own a different stage of the sales process.

Assembly Line Sales Teams Management Example

  • Lead generation: This team’s members find leads and gather information. These reps are your outbound hunters, the masters of chasing down opportunities to feed into your pipeline.
  • Sales development team: In this team, members qualify the leads that the lead generation team gathered. They do the initial sales calls and emails to prospects to learn about needs and find out who the decision-maker is. They start the conversation.
  • Account executive team: The closers. They develop the prospect with calls, meetings and demos. They overcome objections and hopefully close the deal.
  • Customer success team: Once the sale has closed, customers are passed to the members of this team. They connect with customers regularly to make sure they’re happy, check for any problems, and see if they are interested in products and services related to their purchase. You can’t afford to rely on just closing deals. Upselling, retention and churn reduction will turn growth into profits.

These specific roles depend on the size and nature of your organization and product. Many startups and small businesses do not have enough of a sales force to cover all the stages of a sales pipeline. In this case, the most effective sales management methodology is the Island model.

Setting up your sales process

Would you rather have your reps focus on their monthly quotas?

Or are you better served focusing reps on the specific things they should be doing right now to achieve those goals?

The second option, right?

(If you said targets, go read this article on improving sales processes.)

You have to focus your team on what’s in their control.

Process delivers results.

Completed actions achieve the goals.

Most salespeople do best when they’re focused on the activities they have to do that day, such as making a follow-up call, scheduling a demonstration or going to a meeting. That’s why a repeatable sales process is vital for any scaling business.

If you want to maintain consistency, your sales process must be easy to follow. New hires should be able to jump into their new job and know what activities they need to complete right now to hit revenue targets. It also needs to be consistent, because you’re measuring progress across multiple sales teams and tracking everyone’s performance, which presents a good opportunity to identify your high-performing teams.

So what goes into a sales process?

We’ve built some comprehensive guides on the subject (more on that below), but briefly, your sales process should outline:

  • The key stages of your sales pipeline
  • The activities reps should be doing at each stage
  • Structured lead qualification criteria matched to your pipeline stages
  • Goals for your teams and for the individual reps

Advanced guides to developing a scaling sales process:

Two steps to building a scalable foundation

The best sales process in the world isn’t going to do you any good if reps aren’t entering their activity in the CRM. It’s also made more difficult if you, as the sales manager, are in a different time zone than your team.

Even if your reps are completing all their activities and meeting all their goals, you won’t know if they aren’t using the CRM consistently, and you won’t be able to forecast accurately without that information.

Establish good habits across all your teams. Onboard your new reps in a way that ensures they use your CRM and any other software correctly and efficiently from the beginning. Just make sure it’s a part of their daily life, like getting a cup of coffee on their way to their desk or checking their email at the start of the day. This is easy to do if the CRM is user friendly, which is why the second step is so important.

Find a CRM the reps will love using everyday. You should choose a CRM that’s as simple to use as possible; the easier the CRM, the more time your team will be able to spend selling and the more accurate the data that you’ll get. Complicated CRMs often need dedicated consultants to set up and expensive and time-consuming training for each new rep. This can slow you down significantly as you try to onboard new reps quickly.

Pipedrive is the top-reviewed sales CRM specifically designed to grow with scaling teams. The platform is intuitive and visual and helps to focus reps’ attention on today’s activities, while giving sales leaders a real-time, birds-eye view of their team’s work.

Chapter 2: Building all-star teams and empowering individuals

With a foundation in place, it’s time to focus on relationship building, strong communication and collaboration.

Building strong relationships… with a huge team

You may not be in the same room with all your reps, and you may not even have met them in person, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share a trusting relationship.

When you’re trying to manage multiple sales teams, getting everyone to pull in the same direction can be tricky. To build successful sales teams, clear and regular communication is critical. Your job is to establish easy-to-understand, rigid expectations for everyone and to both govern and maintain those expectations.

You also want your employees to feel heard, so let your teams know you’re paying attention to them. By maintaining regular communication, you can help everyone share knowledge, stay aligned and develop solid trusting relationships.

And it’s best to do it in person or on a video call, if you can, so everyone can use and interpret verbal and non-verbal cues.

Make time to hold sales meetings with each team, and make those calls mandatory. That way, you can see the faces behind the names in the CRM, and they can see you.

You should also try to have regular one-on-ones with every team member, if possible. This gives people a chance to talk to the boss, and an opportunity to discuss issues or grievances before they fester and impact the morale of the entire team.

Maintaining control by fostering autonomy

Just because you need to keep control of multiple sales teams, doesn’t mean you should be tightening your grip. In fact, the more you attempt to micromanage your sales team’s activities the more control you’ll lose and the worse off your team will be.

How to manage a sales team advice 101: Over-management stunts employees’ growth and confidence at work, as well as their ability to learn. Not to mention, micromanagement doesn’t scale. Sales team management is a fine balance.

Feel comfortable enough to give your team members the opportunity to manage their own workload. Research suggests that employees become more independent and competent when they’re allowed to face challenges by themselves, while ‘helicopter management,’ when a team leader hovers over their team member, can affect a team member’s confidence. That includes your sales teams’ managers, who should be allowed to lead their individual teams on a daily basis while you focus on the overall sales strategy.

Helicopter sales management

You can keep an eye on the performance of all your teams using a feature like Pipedrive’s teams and team goals features.

Chapter 3: Setting goals and finding focus

Setting goals for one team isn’t easy. Set the bar too high and you risk failure, damaging your reps’ morale and losing the trust of your bosses. Set the bar too low and you’re stifling the company’s growth and failing to motivate your team. Your job is to find the middle ground.

The art of goal-setting

Setting goals for multiple teams is exponentially more difficult than setting goes for one. There are more moving parts, more reps to understand and revenue goals are more complex.

When setting goals for multiple teams, you need to understand:

  • Your overall revenue target

  • The number each team needs to achieve that target

  • Which part of that target each team member needs to hit

  • The activities each rep needs to complete to meet their specific goal

Your CRM should be your go-to tool, enabling you to track sales performance at individual, team and business-wide levels. This way, you can keep an eye on progress towards your revenue goals, while at the same time helping you understand performance so you can more accurately design the next set of goals.

Managers should set and track team goals against the following key sales metrics:

  • Value of Deals won

  • Number of Deals won

  • Value of Deals progressed

  • Number of Deals progressed

Pipedrive’s Teams feature makes it easy to see and analyze the performance of individual reps within a team or compare the performance of multiple teams. The Team Goals feature allows you to set and track progress toward goals at an individual, team or organizational level. You’ll have clear visibility of sales results at every level, making it easier to control the focus of your teams.

Here are some tips that will help you set and manage goals for your team:

Giving your team a clear focus

It’s important to focus your teams on what they were hired to do: sell.

The more time they spend building relationships with prospects, the better their chances of repeatable success. So, how do you sharpen their focus?

To manage team goals effectively you need three things:

  • The solid sales process we mentioned earlier

  • A CRM that takes some of the work off the team’s shoulders

  • Consistent lead qualification

Pipedrive Enterprise's Team Goals helps your reps handle their administrative work. With it, managers and reps can better prioritize their workload so they can focus on the activities they need to complete.

Lead qualification will also narrow your team’s focus. Regularly clearing your pipeline of poor leads will keep them from burning themselves out chasing leads that will never buy. Additionally, lead qualification can shorten the sales cycle as your leads better fit your customer profiles. This translates to better sales and greater profitability for your organization.

Building a lead qualification system may sound intimidating, but no worries: we’ve got a comprehensive guide to lead qualification and lead generation.

Find More of the Best Leads Fast With Your Lead Qualification Ebook

Learn how to find more of the right leads faster. This 22 page ebook will help you build a scalable lead qualification process for your team.

This is also something that your CRM can help with, because some steps of the lead scoring process can be automated, such as research. Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature, for example, searches the web for information about your lead, saving your reps from having to do that work manually. You can also use a feature like Custom Fields to add a ranking system to the deals in your CRM.

You can also keep things simple for your reps by just showing them what they need to see to do their jobs. Using a Permissions or Visibility feature will keep them laser-focused on their own activities, prevent them from seeing potentially classified information and keep them from being distracted by a cluttered CRM.

Advanced guides to help your team prioritize:

Tracking and reporting teams’ performance

Data-driven sales team management means making decisions based on the insights you get from your CRM’s data.

The catch here is the “garbage in, garbage out” rule. For managers to make good insights they must have good data; even the best managers can’t make good decisions unless their reps are actually putting information into the CRM.

This is where Pipedrive shines. The user interface was designed by reps, so it’s both easy and useful to use. It keeps them focused on the activities they need to be doing, and that means that you are getting better, more accurate data to track.

This is especially important for the manager of multiple sales teams, who can’t meet with every rep regularly to check in. Pipedrive’s Multiple Dashboard feature allows managers to keep an eye on all important information for each team by customizing their dashboards. Being able to see the most important KPIs for each team, and knowing those teams are regularly updating their info, makes all the difference when you’re making decisions for the whole sales organization.

Thanks to Pipedrive’s Sales Insights app, which is available to Professional and Enterprise users, managers can also access vital metrics on the move. Sales Insights and Reports has customizable goal-setting, dashboard views and access controls that enable sales managers to better track deals and make necessary adjustments.

Advanced guides to reporting and tracking:

Chapter 4: Motivation and morale

Sales is exciting, but it can be a very stressful job and burnout is a very real danger.

According to our State of Sales 2020-2021 report, 63% of reps said they work over 40 hours in a week, 23% said they work weekends regularly and 16% report usually working on the weekends.

You don’t want to add to your employees’ stress level, but you do need to spur them on so they achieve their goals each month. So how do you motivate your teams without damaging morale and mental well-being?

First, set the right goals for your reps; goals that are challenging but not impossible.

You also want to rely on your sales process. It should be strong enough that your entire team will trust the process and confidently rely on it, with the knowledge that their outcomes will be optimized if they complete the right activities at the right time.

You can use Pipedrive’s team goals feature as back up here. Team Goals can help your team develop a real esprit de corps, because rather than reps competing against one another (we’ll get to that problem in the next section), Team Goals gets your reps working together, sharing knowledge and celebrating success.

And of course, no matter how things are, you want to keep an eye out for morale dips in the sales team, which damages progress. Here are some tips that will help you motivate the sales team if morale does drop.

Encouraging (healthy) competition

It’s no secret that salespeople are competitive. This is both a good thing and a bad thing: healthy competition means better team performance, but sometimes that competitive streak can turn toxic when reps on the same team compete against one another for leads.

Here’s the good news. This is one area where managers of multiple teams actually have it easier than managers of one sales team.

If you manage more than one team, you can use the team goals feature to gamify selling, with each team working together to outperform the others. If you have questions about gamifying your selling, we have a detailed guide about gamifying your pipeline.

Encourage sales team competition

Done well, this is healthy competition at its best: teammates work together, morale is boosted, and goals are met. And, if you want to create dashboards to motivate your team members, hook up Plecto to Pipedrive to make setting up contests and competitions easier.

Just one thing, though. If you’re actively encouraging your reps to indulge their competitive nature, you have to commit to being a fair referee. Make sure you are fully invested in the game, recognize and reward all those who deserve it. If someone feels they’ve been ignored, they’re not going to want to play anymore.

Prevent Failure With Your Guide To Handling Tricky Sales Situations

Learn how to prevent and overcome failure for your sales team. This 18 page ebook will help you develop plans for hiring, firing, and managing a crisis.

Celebrate success!

You’re asking a lot of your reps, so celebrate when they deliver!

As you already know, being a leader isn’t all whip-cracking and accountability. It’s also about recognizing your teams’ achievement and celebrating the hard work your reps do. Showing your appreciation, and saying thank you to the reps who meet or exceed your expectations is good for morale, no matter how big your sales organization is.

How do you, a manager in another time zone, know when your reps have done a good job? The same way you know when they haven’t: your CRM.

The Team Goals and dashboards features aren’t just for keeping tabs on who is doing their activities and who is meeting goals. The same dashboards that let you monitor your teams’ progress will also allow you to spotlight successes when your reps do well.

By rewarding and recognizing top performers, you’re doing two things: showing that you’re more than a disciplinarian and motivating your reps to do more.

Need another positive? If you’re celebrating success that means productivity has probably improved—and better productivity often leads to a better work-life balance for all involved, as there’s less micro-management needed from you and reps are better able to hit targets and take responsibility for how they spend their time.

Stay humble

As a manager, you need to be able to acknowledge your own mistakes and own up to your failures.

This is important for so many reasons. For one thing, it shows good leadership: when your team members make mistakes, you demand accountability. If you’re going to lead effectively, you need to be accountable as well. No one wants to follow a leader who isn’t willing to do the things they’re asking of their employees.

Being transparent about your own failures allows your team to be more comfortable taking risks. Your team needs risk-takers to drive innovation and growth in your organization, but risk-takers often fail. You don’t want your team to shy away from risks just because they’re afraid of failing. When they see that you take risks and fail, they’ll feel free to do the same. Just make sure, when you’re modeling this behavior, that you share the things you learn from your failures with your team.

When you are addressing your employees’ mistakes, make sure you do it humanely. You might celebrate their wins in front of the teams, but never spotlight their failings publicly.

When the teams fail collectively, however, take the bullet. You’re the leader, so their failure is your failure. When they succeed, be humble and share the praise. Remember: your job is to motivate your employees, and help them do their jobs, not to take credit for their work.

Chapter 5: Keeping star salespeople and hiring new ones

Successful teams thrive by creating a culture of continuous improvement, but this relies on effective management.

The importance of knowledge-sharing

Team members should always be learning, whether they’re learning on their own, or are part of a more structured program. They should also be sharing that learning with their co-workers so that everyone can improve together.

There are several ways, both formal and informal, that this learning can be achieved:

  • Meetings. Learning can be maximized through meetings, not just through lectures by leaders, but by asking individual team members to share what they’ve learned with the rest of the team or teams.
  • Mentoring. Mentoring programs can be both formal and informal. Either way, such programs allow experienced team members to take new team members under their wing to pass down institutional knowledge.
  • Reviews. Rather than thinking of reviews as a time to look back on a team member’s performance, think of it as an opportunity to coach them, providing your employees with the knowledge and resources that individual needs to improve their performance.
  • Company culture. Foster a culture of continuous learning in your team, in which employees are constantly finding and engaging in their own learning (within parameters set by you, of course.)
  • Sales Training. There are a variety of forms such training can take: in-person training sessions, webinars, online modules, microlearning, courses they can take on their phones. Choose what works best for your reps and their schedules, and make sure that the program is consistent across all your teams.

Providing a career path to star reps

Your superstars have ambition, intelligence and strategic thinking. Everything they touch improves. You’d love to keep them around forever.

But that’s the thing, though; they can’t stay on your team forever. The very qualities that make them successful salespeople are the reasons your rockstars are going to leave, one way or another, and go on to bigger and better things.

It’s your job as a manager to recognize these special salespeople, nurture their talents, and show them that, if they want it, there is a clear and rewarding career path in your organization for them, one that will challenge them and help them reach their full potential.

How you approach this kind of coaching will depend on the rep themselves, but you may want to consider one (or a combination) of the following:

  • Mentoring
  • Leadership training
  • Professional Development Courses
  • Making introductions to heads of other departments
  • Promotion to management
Rock star sales reps

Your stars love sales, they’re good at it, but at some point they’re going to want more, and leadership training is a great place to start.

If you can provide a path to development and leadership, you’ll motivate your stars, show you value them and hopefully keep their talent in your company.

Managing compensation

Figuring out a compensation structure is always tricky, particularly if you’re managing multiple teams based in different parts of the world. For one thing, you need to make sure your compensation structure is fair to everyone; for another, when you’re working in different regions, you’re dealing with different qualities of life, currencies, taxes, et cetera.

Fortunately, you don’t (and shouldn’t have to) make this decision by yourself. Sales Operations Managers and the VP of Sales will need to work together on this one, to align the company’s strategic needs with a payment structure that will both motivate and reward your most effective team members.

What are the basics of a good compensation structure?

  1. First of all, it needs to be fair and shouldn’t spark your reps’ competitive streak
  2. Secondly, it should reward individuals for outstanding work
  3. Thirdly, it should encourage the team to work together

How do you do all that? Pipedrive’s definitive guide to sales compensation could help, but let’s take a moment to talk about a few structures that encourage teamwork and reward individual reps.

A layered compensation structure. Layered compensation varies based on your teams and the needs of your company, but they might look like this: 50 percent of a salesperson's commission is tied to an individual target, while the other 50 percent is tied to the team's target.

Team bonuses. If you keep the traditional individual commission structure, you might try offering bonuses to reps when the team goal is met.

Activity-based sales incentives. You put a lot of stock in sales activities, why not incentivize them? This can be done in concert with gamification, or by itself.

Hiring, onboarding and managing new reps

Scaling up means a huge increase in your team members. You’re hiring many more new reps, and you also have to manage and train them.

A good human resources process (or a good human resources team, if you have access to one) equals success. Your ability to find, motivate, keep (and, in some instances, terminate) the right people at the right time will be the most significant determinant of your success.

Find the best new hires with this Sales Interview Checklist

Download this checklist complete with all of the best questions to ask during an interview with a sales candidate.

Once you have those people, however, how do you make sure you ramp them up quickly, so they’re performing as well as they can as soon as possible.

Remember your sales process? There’s a reason it needs to be simple, structured and repeatable. New hires should be able to jump into their new role and know exactly what activities they need to complete to add value and hit revenue targets straight away.

Your CRM should back that process up. It should be intuitive enough for your reps to pick it up right away, no outside training required. They should be able to jump into their new job quickly and easily without wasting any time.

You should also be using the tracking and reporting features in your CRM to manage new hires, even if you’re not physically in the same building with them.

By setting clear expectations for remote teams, and by using the Goals and Team Goals to monitor their performance, you should be able to see when it’s time to hire more reps for a team that’s struggling, train a rep who is having problems, or fire a rep who has consistently failed to meet goals.

Here are some more helpful resources to help you manage your sales team:

Trust yourself

We’ve covered a lot about how to make multiple sales teams successful in this guide, and we’ve talked about a lot of the things that will help you effectively manage those teams.

But there’s one more thing a sales organization with multiple teams needs to succeed: a good manager and great sales team management.

You can have the best CRM and the most relevant data in the world, but you need the insight of a skilled, experienced sales manager to analyze that raw data.

A manager with the right training and processes will be able to make a connection with employees, inspire the teams to hit their goals and take advantage of your sales CRM technology to generate the best possible results.

You’ve managed one team successfully, and now you’re ready to take it to the next level. When you think about how to manage a sales team at scale, remember to trust yourself, trust your teams, and choose the right tools to support you. The rest will come.

For more on managing a sales team, read the articles in this series on:

Or check out the ebook linked below.

Download Your Guide to Managing Teams and Scaling Sales

The blueprint you need to find a team of superstars and build a strong foundation for lasting sales success

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