This guest post comes from Kayleigh Alexandra at Micro Startups.
Every smart seller understands that a great sales team is more than the sum of its parts: it also showcases a well-honed sales culture that enhances productivity and wellbeing, making it possible for those people to outperform their comparably-competent competitors.
What’s more, the process of building and maintaining such a team is vastly easier when you have such a culture in place. When you’re going through a recruitment phase, or trying to keep star sales employees exactly where they are, the prospect of joining (or remaining part of) that culture is enormously significant.
That said, “culture” is a term that gets thrown around quite readily in the business world, often without a lot of thought put into the meaning. When you’re trying to give your sales team the edge, what elements should you be thinking about? What are the differentiating factors that can attract the best and turn a rag-tag group of individuals into a tight-knit squad?
Anyone who wants to get their sales department moving in the right direction (or simply happens to be interested in business culture) should think about these 5 differentiators:
Even in the event that a sale is fully handled by one employee (taking in the lead, talking the buyer through the various steps, making the payment, and dealing with the after-sales support), it isn’t truly a one-person operation. There are so many structural elements that contribute: for instance, their knowledge of the product being sold may have been expanded (or outright provided) by someone else in the company, giving them the necessary details to make the sale.
Particularly notable is the relationship between sales and marketing, because neither can achieve much without the other — when those two departments forget their pride and decide to work closely together, they can greatly increase the chances of conversion. It’s actually quite comical how much interdepartmental antipathy can damage a business.
Overall, communication is a mission-critical component of running a sales team. When team members don’t communicate, it engenders bad blood, leads to misinformation, slows everything down, and makes the business look amateurish. Any sales business with a communication breakdown must take strong action to address the situation.
When I speak of feedback here, I’m talking about your sales team receiving and giving it. The distribution of feedback must be a core part of your sales culture because it’s the path to business improvement. When someone makes a mistake, they should have the reasoning confirmed to them — conversely, if they do everything correctly but there’s a problem with the system they’re using, that information needs to go to the top brass.
One recurring issue with sales teams is an attachment to outdated methods — for instance, reaching back to the days of organic one-on-one interactions driven by creative patter. These days, sales is a digital department like any other, and subject to the same level of data-driven scrutiny. This is particularly true of the ecommerce world, where the most dominant brands invest heavily in gathering and processing rich analytics data to identify room for improvement.
Of course, it isn’t always so easy to tell where things are going awry with sales staff, because not all of their activities are so easily tracked — that’s where call intelligence software enters the equation, helping you establish visibility and seamlessly integrate vital legacy technology with current-day digital systems.
Consistent Training & Coaching
The best salespeople keep getting better as long as they’re working in the field. They’re always adding new strings to their bows, learning new ways to present value propositions, overcome objections, and defuse the skepticism of the reluctant prospect. And when every other aspect of your sales culture is set up to keep employees around, you need to be maximizing their value (and helping their careers) by ensuring that they get consistent (and useful) coaching and training.
Think carefully about what skills might be useful for people and use tools like ExecVision to see where they excelling and struggling. Pay close attention to the feedback they provide about how they like their positions and what they hope to achieve. How can you support them in a way that will benefit both them and the business? Remember that you’ll have to bring in new hires sooner or later, because even the most loyal employees can’t stick around forever — when that happens, you’ll need capable coaches to train and develop them.
Something that can cause extensive issues in a sales team is the feeling of being too closely monitored and controlled. The former is difficult to do much about because everything has to be closely monitored to identify issues — but the latter can be addressed easily enough. In fact, it should only be a problem if you haven’t hired reliable employees.
What you need to do is delegate responsibilities to your sales team. Give them control over certain things, and the freedom to go in creative directions when they see fit. This will help people feel engaged with their jobs, motivated to learn new things to try (and to make use of their training), and eager to perform — excelling could mark someone for promotion.
I’m certainly not saying that you should take a totally hands-off approach, of course. It’s simply about giving people opportunities to show what they can (or can’t) deal with independently. Some mistakes will be made (mostly minor, but perhaps some major), but that’s a price that you need to be willing to pay for the positive effect it will have on team morale.
No matter how much someone likes their colleagues, boss, and working environment, they won’t stay (unless they have no alternatives) if they aren’t fairly compensated for their time and effort. In the sales world, which so often involves commissions and bonuses, this means that your culture must encompass the practice of providing proportionate personal rewards.
Try to make your employee reward scheme as simple and clear as possible, because an opaque reward scheme inevitably comes across as an effort to trick people into settling for less. From the moment you interview someone, let them know that their career would always be theirs to steer if they worked for you: if they wanted to reach management, or go even higher, they would simply need to perform at a suitable level and wait for it to pay off.
What have we learned, then? That a top-shelf sales team is masterful at internal and external communication, supported through in-depth feedback and training, and given enough responsibility and incentives to make all the effort worthwhile.