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How to manage a sales team effectively: A complete guide

Manage Sales Teams
Topics
Setting up processes and forming (good) habits
Building a sales team and empowering individuals
Setting goals and finding focus
Motivation and morale
Keeping and hiring top salespeople
Trust yourself

You worked hard to get where you are and to ensure your organization’s success by meeting your team’s targets. Now you’re managing a growing sales team or you’re being handed multiple sales teams in different locations.

Leveling up is the goal, but with higher levels come greater challenges. Risks are more significant. You have more people’s careers in your hands. It’s harder to meet your sales goals due to higher expectations and more moving pieces.

Managing your growing sales department doesn’t have to be difficult though. A clearly defined sales team management process and the right tools will help you keep driving sustainable growth for your teams.


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 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 specific pipeline stage, creating specialized groups.

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

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

Sales professionals work best when they are trained and coached like elite athletes. Each one needs a clearly defined role to practice, refine and perfect over time.


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 team management example

Let’s take a look at a team working under the Assembly Line model and the sales roles at key stages of the sales pipeline.

  • Lead generation: This team’s members find leads and gather information. They are outbound hunters 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 maintain customer relationships by connecting with buyers regularly. Their focus on going beyond closing deals to upselling, retention and churn reduction will turn growth into profits.

The specific roles you give your teams depend on the size and nature of your organization and product. Many startups and small businesses don’t 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

Rather than having your reps focus on their monthly quotas, focus them on the specific things they should be doing right now to achieve those goals.

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

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 job knowing what activities they need to complete right now to hit revenue targets.

Your process should be consistent because you’re measuring progress across multiple sales teams and tracking everyone’s performance.

What goes into a sales process? 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

Two steps to building a scalable foundation

Once you’ve got your sales team structure in place, you need to take two steps to create a sales process foundation you can build on:

Step 1: Choose the right management tools

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform is the best way to keep your teams organized and coordinated. It will help you track activities as you move prospects through the sales funnel.

It will also cut down on confusion or bottlenecks by putting data and real-time updates in one centralized database that’s accessible to everyone on the team.

Step 2: Establish the right habits

To get the full benefit of a sales management tool, you also need to help your teams develop good habits around entering their activity in the CRM.

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, starting with the hiring process. Teach new sales reps how to use your CRM and any other software correctly and efficiently during onboarding.

This is easy to do if the CRM is user friendly.

Complicated CRMs often need dedicated consultants to set up an expensive and time-consuming training program for each new rep. Look for something intuitive and uncluttered to get your whole team up and running quickly.

Pipedrive is thetop-reviewed sales CRM specifically designed to grow with scaling teams. The platform is 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.


Building a sales team 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

When you’re trying to manage multiple sales teams, getting everyone to pull in the same direction can be tricky. Clear and regular communication is critical to building successful sales teams. Your job is to establish easy-to-understand expectations 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. Here are a few tips:

  • Communicate 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, so everyone can see the faces behind the names in the CRM.

  • Try to have regular one-on-ones with every team member so they have an opportunity to discuss issues or grievances before they fester and impact the morale of the entire team.

By maintaining regular communication, you can help everyone share knowledge, stay aligned and develop solid trusting relationships.

Maintaining control by fostering autonomy

Healthy Sales team management requires a fine balance of structure and delegation. Over-management stunts employees’ growth and confidence at work, as well as their ability to learn. Not to mention, micromanagement doesn’t scale.

Where possible, give your team members the opportunity to manage their own workload. For instance, you may set their goals, but let them prioritize tasks in a given day.

Micromanagement can hurt 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.

Empower your sales team by allowing them autonomy, keeping an eye on performance reports and insights so you can make corrections as needed.


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 and 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 hit to achieve that target

  • Which part of that target each team member is responsible for

  • 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.

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.

Having clear visibility of sales results at every level makes it easier to determine reasonable 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’s enterprise software helps your reps organize and automate their administrative work. It allows managers and reps to 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 keeps reps 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.

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Using your CRM to automate and organize lead generation and scoring will speed up the process. For example, Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature 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.

Tracking and reporting teams’ performance

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

Good data requires good insights, so even the best managers can’t make good decisions unless their reps are actually putting information into the CRM.

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.


Motivation and morale

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

According to our State of Sales 2020-2021 report, 63% of sales professionals 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, so how do you build a sales team’s motivation without damaging morale and mental well-being?

First, set goals that are challenging but not impossible.

Team Goals can also help your team develop a real esprit de corps by getting your reps working together, sharing knowledge and celebrating success.

Your sales process should also be strong enough that your entire team will trust the process with the knowledge that their outcomes will be optimized if they complete the right activities at the right time

Finally, keep an eye out for morale dips and know how to boost morale and motivate your sales team.

Encouraging (healthy) competition

It’s no secret that salespeople are competitive. 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.

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.

One thing to note when using competition: 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.

Celebrate success

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

Being a leader isn’t all accountability. It’s also about recognizing your teams’ achievement and celebrating the hard work they do.

Showing your appreciation and saying thank you to the salespeople who meet or exceed your expectations is good for morale, no matter the size of your sales organization.

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How do you know when your reps have done a good job? The same way you know when they haven’t: your CRM.

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.

Stay humble

Acknowledging your own mistakes and owning up to your failures 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.

When your team sees 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.


Keeping and hiring top salespeople

High-performance sales teams thrive by creating a culture of continuous improvement, which requires effective management. Here are four areas to focus on as you seek to attract and retain top talent.

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 coworkers so that everyone can improve together.

There are several ways, both formal and informal, to ensure important learning gets shared:

  • 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, formal or informal, allow experienced team members to pass down institutional knowledge

  • Reviews. Think of reviews not only as a time to look back on a team member’s performance, but an opportunity to coach them with knowledge and resources 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

  • Sales Training. There are a variety of forms sales training can take: in-person 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.

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Providing a career path

Your top performers have ambition, intelligence and strategic thinking. It’s your job as a manager to recognize these special salespeople, nurture their talents, and show them that there is a clear and rewarding career path in your organization.

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

If you can provide a path to development and leadership, you’ll motivate your best players, show you value them and 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 etc.

Sales Operations Managers and the VP of Sales will have to work together to align the company’s strategic needs with a payment structure that will motivate and reward your most effective team members.

What are the basics of a good compensation structure? It should:

  1. Be fair

  2. Reward individuals for outstanding work

  3. Encourage the team to work together and learn from one another

Here are a few structures that encourage teamwork and reward individual reps.

A layered compensation structure.

Layered compensation bases a rep’s compensation on multiple sales goals. Specifics will vary 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, so why not incentivize them? This can be done in concert with gamification or by itself.

Hiring, onboarding and managing new reps

Scaling up means hiring many more new reps. 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.

You should also be using the tracking and reporting features in your CRM to manage new hires.

By setting clear expectations and using your software to monitor performance, you should be able to see when it’s time to hire more reps for a team that’s struggling or train a rep who is having problems.


Trust yourself

We’ve covered a lot about how to make multiple sales teams successful in this guide, but there’s one more thing a growing sales organization needs to succeed: 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.

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.

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