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Managing a Sales Team

The sales team is often thought of as the backbone of the company, and many hiring managers understand the importance of having skilled and experienced candidates. However, having a strong sales team doesn’t stop with hiring the best people. Ultimately, the success of a sales team relies on the effective training and management of the sales team.

By teaching specific skill sets, rewarding successes and properly addressing failures, you can help your sales team feel more motivated and increase their overall sales. Here are some guidelines:

Training

  • The first step in training is simply telling people that they are capable of success. Good attitudes and optimism can give people the necessary confidence to complete a sale.
  • Make every member of the team aware of the overall business strategy and goals. Help them see the big picture and realize that, at the end of the day, they are all working together towards a common objective.
  • Make sure they all have a thorough knowledge of the product or service they are selling, as well as details about your company, who they can contact if they need help and any other resources they have available to them (such as sales materials or pamphlets).
  • Develop sales best practices with your team, including prospecting, presentation skills, cold-calling approaches, lead-generation techniques and methods to handle objections. Have the trainees practice mock conversations with one another, and consider having them memorize some of the most important responses to common questions. These skills are the building blocks to becoming a great salesperson.
  • Consider having everyone take a sales course, such as this one, that teaches the fundamentals and puts everyone on the same page. Sales courses can be found online, can be outsourced to a corporate training company, or you can design a curriculum yourself with lessons, exercises and a final exam.
  • Now is the time to turn your sales team from good to great. Once they have their elevator pitches down and their cold-calling techniques memorized inside and out, it’s time to train your sales team on problem solving and critical thinking. This skill set goes beyond the basics of knowing the product and a well-rehearsed sales pitch, instead turning the salesperson into a business strategist. You can begin by asking them questions that they haven’t practiced answering and then giving them a chance to think on their feet. Teach them strategies for directing the conversation, persuading customers and answering tough questions. Encourage salespeople to remain professional and knowledgeable while incorporating some of their own personality. Customers appreciate this ability in a salesperson because it offers a good give-and-take in sales meetings and allows them to feel like they’re talking to a human being, not just a salesperson with a memorized routine.

Management

  • Most teams are lead by a sales manager who has experience selling the product themselves. Choose a sales manager who is intelligent, resourceful and good at motivating people; don’t choose someone based only on high numbers or results. There are many qualities of a good leader and coach, and the person with the highest sales numbers may not be good at leading and inspiring other people.
  • Set clear objectives and be consistent. For example, set a very specific number of cold calls that should turn into appointments. You can use Salesforce.com or a CRM system like QuickBooks to track these objectives and the results for each salesperson. This also includes setting a thorough and fair commission structure (based on sales rather than hours worked) that is completely and clearly outlined for everyone.
  • Work as an “assistant,” not a “boss.” While this may seem counterintuitive, remember that your sales team is a group of individual professionals that are helping to fund your company. You want to assist and help them reach their goals instead of demanding a specific way to do so. Document their progress toward objectives, and keep track of areas where your team may need improvement. Sometimes, a person may simply need more training and encouragement rather than more rules. Help them grow; don’t establish strict boundaries.
  • Have your sales team create their own personal plan and guide them through this process. This can be a simple worksheet that you provide in which they fill their specific goals and what they want to get out of the process. How many sales are they required to make versus what their personal goals are? What is motivating them to reach these goals? Do they want to become a sales manager one day? Do they hope to hit a higher commission rate? This helps answer “What’s in it for me?” questions while helping salespeople see the broader picture and overall goals instead of getting overwhelmed with specific numbers or daily stresses.

Distributing Responsibilities

  • Play to people’s strengths, and let them do what they are good at doing. This increases motivation and drive because they have a genuine interest, thus making sales easier and more rewarding for them. Consider creating teams of complementary qualities, such as one member who is good at lead generation, one who is a good proposal writer and one who excels at closing the deal. It will be easy to monitor people’s strengths and determine the roles they are best suited for if you have clear objectives and track them (Salesforce.com can help with this process).

Conclusion

Finally, remember to address failure and success. If an employee is underperforming, check their goals and progress to see if there is an area that needs training or further guidance. Sometimes, problems can be remedied. However, if training doesn’t help, or if the salesperson is losing your company money by underperforming, you may need to let them go. If they are a hard-working employee but just not cut out for sales, consider offering them a different position within the company.

Perhaps more importantly, celebrate successes. Recognition is a great motivator, and by recognizing results and efforts, people will work hard for you. Working in sales is a very high-pressure job, and confidence boosters are needed often to keep morale high. By offering a reward or prize for individual success, like a salesperson of the week award, a bonus or gift certificates, or celebrating team achievements by going out to lunch or throwing a company party, you can keep your sales team happy and hardworking.