How to build and train an ace sales team

Written by on May 10, 2018

You have just shipped out a great product, and now you need to get those leads and deals flowing into your Sales CRM software. While you’ve seen most organizations relying on a marketing and sales team to bring home the revenue, the success of these functions depends on how you train them.

Building a successful sales team requires attention to certain key details. And here are some factors I believe are critical in building and training a great sales team to expect the desired results.

Understand your market and define your sales goals

Like most early-stage startups, you want to scale up your sales presence to compete with your competitors. And based on the complexity of the solution your business offers, you need to decide the sales technique that best works for you. Do you want to build an inside sales team or a field sales team? Do you want to target mid-market with velocity sales or focus on the larger accounts?

If your solution is cloud-based primarily focusing on SaaS and B2B companies, an inside sales team is a great way to start off. Inside sales representatives give presentations, conduct demos and perform most of the functions that are traditionally handled by field sales reps, but remotely. Most customers today prefer connecting online, and with decision-makers receptive to doing business remotely, inside sales are very cost-effective. With the help of latest communication technology, sales reps respond faster to customers leading to improved engagement.

Another key point to note is that even for large enterprise deals, the prospecting and relationship building phase can begin with the inside sales team before the field sales reps get involved. So while hiring, make sure your inside sales reps are highly skilled and knowledgeable.

Once you’ve finalized a sales management approach that works best for your business, look out for a sales leader who believes in your vision.

Hire a leader, not a manager

One of the most memorable sales speech is the famous “pep talk” scene by Alec Baldwin from the 90s movie, Glengarry Glen Ross. The scene shows Baldwin unleashing a torrent of verbal abuse on the salesmen in the name of ‘motivation.’

Clearly, Alec Baldwin’s character doesn’t symbolize leadership. Leadership is earned. It definitely cannot be achieved by instilling fear in people.

Hiring a leader is hard, but it’s very critical to the success of your sales team and business. Teams need leaders who can influence and inspire them to do their jobs. Leadership is all about giving the right guidance and motivation, and not many people are good at it.

Here’s what Chad Burmeister, Senior Director, WW Sales Development at RingCentral and author of Sales Hack said in an interview with Heinz Marketing when asked the advice he would give to new sales managers,

“Are you a manager or a leader? You know you’ve made a move to a leader when you can answer “yes” to this simple question. “Would each of my reps walk through fire for me?” From experience, reps don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. Whether your reps will literally “walk through fire for you” or figuratively, just remember, it is YOUR PEOPLE, not YOU, who get the job done every day!”

As Chad Burmeister rightly put it, sales teams do not need managers. Sales teams need real leaders from whom they can learn and share ideas. As for sales leaders, they need to create an environment for open discussions where suggestions are heard and fairly debated.

When you have the right leadership for sales, a successful sales team is a natural result.

Build a world class team

When hiring people for sales, we often find ourselves looking out for individuals passionate about selling. The most common question asked is — “Sell this object to me.” Now that’s not a bad exercise, but it’s important that you look out for the right signals to find the best candidate. Most commonly candidates take the following two approaches –

  1. Offer a great deal or propose ways to save cost
  2. Get directly to a sales pitch without asking the right questions

Cost savings are great. But think about it, your product is designed to solve a critical business problem and achieve better results. Your sales reps should ask the right questions to check if the problem even exists! Inside sales are all about great discovery and prospecting by asking the right set of questions. So look out for candidates who ask pertinent questions and can build a great conversation to narrow down on pain points before making that awesome pitch.

You may also consider candidates who do not always take this approach but demonstrate similar skills and who you believe can be trained quickly.

Training them to a T! – Understanding the value of your product 

Before you go ahead and train your reps on the sales techniques, it’s really important that they understand the value your product offers and what difference it can make to the customer. Understanding the value helps them communicate effectively and build trust and loyalty with the customer, which is really essential for teams that sell remotely.

I’m a huge fan of Simon O.Sinek, and in one of his TED Talks, he answers the ‘value of a product’ with this simple idea, he calls the ‘golden circle.’

Simon takes Apple as an example and explains how differently they position their value from the other organizations.

Here’s the strip of transcript from his TED Talk.

“Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they’re easy to understand and everybody gets it.

If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?”

“Meh.”That’s how most of us communicate. That’s how most marketing and sales are done, that’s how we communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we’re different or better and we expect some sort of a behavior, a purchase, a vote, something like that. Here’s our new law firm: We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we always perform for our clients. Here’s our new car: It gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats. Buy our car. But it’s uninspiring.

Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

Introduce your new sales reps to real problems

One of the most effective training methods is solving real business problems of customers with your product offering. Solving customer case studies help sales reps think on their feet and provide relevant solutions rather than relying on a script. They also get to know the various business problems and resolving each one of it can be quite exciting for a sales rep.

Buddying always helps

If you already have a running sales team in place, one of the best ways to onboard recruits after they have sufficient product knowledge is to have them shadow a seasoned sales rep. Let the new rep listen in on a few discovery calls, observe how meaningful conversations are built and ride along on appointments, so they have a fair understanding of how it works.

Once your new salesperson is familiar with the product lines and how good conversations can be structured, engage them in mock calling sessions. Share useful feedback and help them focus on areas that need more working.

Create an environment for knowledge sharing and continuous learning

Although your sales reps follow a certain structure or flow of calls, it’s not really scripted, and this allows them to develop a unique style over a period. And with this, they run into customers who absolutely love them. These interesting stories need to be shared among teams to ensure they’re always learning from each other. A good way to do this is through bi-weekly team huddles.

Initially, there will be a bit of resistance from sales reps because they don’t want to be judged by their peers. This is when the sales leader needs to step in and assure the team that it’s just a learning exercise and nothing more. Pick one or two calls that your team can listen to and let everyone share their comments, ensuring there is full participation. Nobody likes long meetings, and if it’s just one or two calls, it’s just a half hour huddle where you have everyone’s attention.

I can tell you from my experience that my team now waits for these sessions not only because it’s fun listening to some whimsical conversations but also because these sessions allow them to learn from others. Successful and regular huddles result in smarter sales teams that know how to work together and win together.

In the meantime, let’s have a conversation.

Comment below with your ideas and plan on training your sales team. Go ahead and tag your friends and colleagues into this discussion.

Originally published in stories.freshsales.io 

Cover illustration by Udhaya Chandran

Thanks to Radhika Bhangolai, my co-author on this blog. 

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