A sales team is the life force of a business. No matter how good your offering is, you’ll need boots on the ground to make people to open up their wallet and buy it. It takes more than just good communication skills to become a great salesperson. Perseverance, drive, empathy, optimism, sense of humor – the list of “nice to have” qualities in a salesperson are endless.
Hiring, in general, is a tough nut to crack. Finding people with the right set of skills who will fit your organization’s culture will take time and effort. These efforts are easily doubled if your HR team is planning to build a great sales team. So, how do you plan and coordinate your efforts to build a productive sales force?
Tips to Hire a Stellar Sales Team
Define Sales Team Hiring Goals
As your business grows, the need to scale up the sales efforts is bound to arise. Before jumping the hiring bandwagon, you need to have a clear plan to get the right persons onboard. A clear-cut idea of what kind of salesperson your organization needs is the first step.
Create a profile of the ideal salesperson you want to have in your sales team. It’s just like customer profiling and you’ll have to figure out the demographics, skills and more that you want to see in your employees. Again, just like in the case of building customer personas, look at your current salesforce to paint a vivid picture.
Your best future employees should be in the mold of your current employees. When you are successful in getting this right, you won’t have to try very hard to achieve productive sales team collaboration. Remember, a team that gels well sells well as well!
The second important thing is to define your organization culture if you haven’t figured that out already. Is your business a fun and rewarding place to work at? Are you planning to build a sales-centric or customer-centric company? Answering these questions honestly will help you figure out the kind of people you want to be by your side.
Now that we have the organizational culture and the ideal employee profile figured out, it’s time to start the process of hiring. It’s a given that the salesperson you plan to hire is good at writing business proposals, creating stunning sales presentations, efficient in sales planning and sales forecasting among other things. These are the skills that are required to get the attention of a prospective customer.
In addition to these skills, you might want to look if the candidate has got the interpersonal skills to connect with a customer. Find if the candidate is capable of engaging customers in a pleasant conversation, practices active listening and empathy, helps customers throughout their purchase process and isn’t shy when it comes to speed up the sales cycle to close deals at a faster pace.
On the deal closing side, your new sales ninja should not be averse to cold calling, get his hands dirty building customer profiles, make a case for your offering by getting price sensitivity off the table and helps you finding new channels to increase sales.
It’s a tough ask, but at the end of the day, all of these skills are what make a salesperson great. Also, you don’t want to hire such a person only to see him burnout after a while. Look for someone with a cool head, who takes things in stride without giving in to stress.
Having more number of salespersons on your roster isn’t directly proportional to the sales that you’ll be able to generate. Industry veterans advise against hiring the entire sales team in one go. Hire people in tranches and see who sticks and who doesn’t. Use this insight when hiring the next group!
Training and Handholding
Offering free bus rides isn’t the only way to make your employees happy. Helping them with the transition is an important gesture that many businesses overlook. Instead of throwing into the deep end of the pool right away and expecting them to swim back to the shore, give them time to adapt to the new environment.
Apart from standard induction sessions, a structured training session to give a crash course on how you do things in your company is the best practice. It’s not just freshers, but, even experienced salespersons stand to benefit from such a training.
For instance, if you are using a cutting-edge lead management software, you can’t expect new hires to use it productively right from day one. Sales team collaboration goes for a toss when things like that happen. So, a quick training session will help the new sales team learn the ropes of your business processes.
Define Key Performance Indicators
Setting quarterly or annual targets and making people run towards reaching the goal is a common practice. A better approach would be to make your sales team proactively work with you in fixing targets and the ways to meet those goals. An arbitrary sales target is not going to be the morale booster for both your new and old hires.
Figuring out the key performance indicators to measure is a challenging task. You’ll have to decide if you are going to look at only the sales numbers or go beyond that. Make room for appreciating the creativity of the sales team. Do not look at just the deals that are successfully closed, but the way they manage the entire sales pipeline.
See if a salesperson is having a healthy mix of inbound and outbound leads on his plate. Identify the number of times he follows up with prospects and how often he keeps up his promises. Track the number of new customers he brings in.
Measure how much repeat business he conjures up. KPIs like these will help you build a sales team that is at hard at work building a business that is hedged against the risks in the marketplace.
Salesforce automation is the need of the hour. Getting rid of as much redundant and tedious business processes off your employees’ shoulders is the quickest way to keep them happy.
Work becomes a chore when you force people to do things that aren’t part of their core competencies. For instance, a major gripe among salespersons is the collection of money from the customer after closing a deal. This process requires a lot of follow up calls, emails and face to face meetings. A ton of productive time lost in handling a deal that has already been closed and it ends up frustrating your team.
To ease things, why not get yourselves a sales CRM? A customer relationship management solution automates sales operations and keeps every member of the team in the loop.
Schedule and deliver reminder emails to customers on pending payments and upcoming appointments. Created shared todo lists and set up email alerts to make sure your sales team doesn’t forget their appointments. Store all business and marketing collateral at a centralized location online.
Workforce automation doesn’t stop at using a small business CRM. Find a software that’ll let employees submit expense claims without having to take the stairs to the accounting department.
Deploy an ERP or an inventory management solution that keeps a real-time track of a number of SKUs available for sale. There is an app for everything and putting them to productive use should be your utmost priority.
Track and Benchmark Performance
Now that you have the KPIs and sales targets defined, it’s time to start tracking them. Follow a transparent process and make those results available for the entire team to see. These numbers will play a vital role for both you and your employees to make appropriate course corrections.
When you know who sold what and at what markup, you are better positioned to benchmark your salesforce. These results help you better define the ideal employee profile for future hires.
Benchmarking is about setting a bar and challenging your team to raise it every quarter. Naturally, sales commissions are determined based on these numbers. There is another perk to this activity as well. You’ll be able to spot those who are underperforming and offer personalized training and mentorship.
Sales is a numbers game. There aren’t many opportunities to fudge those numbers. It’s a universal fact that there is always a variable component attached to the salary of a salesperson. As a business owner, rewarding those who have sold a truckload of stuff to your customers is a gesture of your appreciation.
Sales commission are an investment that you make in your business. Money motivates a lot and make sure you stand by your commitments. Delaying or attaching strings to sales commissions aren’t the best ways to retain the bright salespeople in your team.
Incentives and commission will help you see results from the sales team. However, there needs to be a balance to the fixed and variable components.
Don’t yield to the urge of asking your team to agree to a small salary and hefty sales commissions. A financially secure employee will be more focused on his job when compared to the one who is worried if he’ll be able to make ends meet at the end of the month.
As noted earlier, instead of rewarding based on the revenue a salesperson brings in, take the KPIs into account as well. Keep a tiered incentive structure for new businesses and repeat businesses. Offer a hefty commission for finding a new sales channel. Basically, make it a point to let your team know that out of the box thinking is rewarded!
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