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The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Sales Team: Tips and Strategies for Growth

Every sales team lead shares the same nightmare – a team that’s just going through the motions. Conflicts and lack of collaboration slow down the working process, cause missed KPIs, and generally demotivate your sales team.

Even if you’re not currently living this nightmare, it’s in your best interests to ensure that you don’t have to.

Fortunately, it’s all too possible to build a successful sales team filled with motivated high-performers that are itching to bring you that sweet, sweet ARR (annual recurring revenue. You just have to know how.

What is a successful sales team?

What constitutes a great team varies from company to company, depending on factors such as…

  • The industry your company operates in

  • The goals your company has

  • The product(s)/ service(s) your company offers

  • Your company's business model

However, there are some factors of a successful sales team that are unanimous for nearly every company, regardless of the factors mentioned above. These are…

  • Every team member knows and understands their responsibilities, and is properly equipped and motivated to handle them.

  • There’s a strong team dynamic that fosters collaboration between team members and departments.

  • Successful sales coaching gives your team members the opportunity to grow their skills.

  • The ability to adapt to new market conditions and respond quickly to nuances that arise in the market.

  • Sales processes have been streamlined and improved to garner maximum efficiency.

Remember that a successful sales team needs to have a great leader at the helm. Bad management can ruin a great sales team, but great management can turn average salespeople into high-performing sales geniuses.

What are the roles in a successful sales team?

A sales team, just like a sports team, has different roles that each team member performs to bring their company closer to their goals. Having every team member do everything related to sales rather than play a specific role also leads to you having a team of “Jacks-of-all-trades-but-masters-of-none”. That isn’t a successful sales team at all now, is it?

The roles that go into a successful sales team all have something to do with the different stages of the customer journey. Every role is perfectly streamlined, taking the prospect through the part of the journey that they’re responsible for, and handing them off to the next team member when their work is complete. The roles that a successful sales team has are as follows…

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs)

As an SDR, you’re typically the first point of contact in the sales process. This role is responsible for initial outreach, prospecting, and qualifying leads. They’re largely the ones that suffer through cold calling.

Team members in this role take care of prospecting, lead qualification and the initial stages of the sale. Once a lead is qualified, SDRs pass them on to the account executives.

Sales Assistants

Within a large company, a sales assistant provides crucial support to the sales team, ensuring the sales processes run smoothly.

This includes administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings and maintaining customer databases. They also take part in creating sales materials (sales enablement), conducting market research, and tracking sales data.

By handling these tasks, sales assistants enable the rest of the sales team to focus on selling and building relationships with customers.

Account Executives (AEs)

As we just mentioned above, Account Excecutives take over once the SDRs have qualified a lead. They are responsible for core sales activities: product demos, handling objections, negotiating, and finally - closing the deal.

The full range of duties that AEs are responsible for is…

  • Negotiating and closing deals to maximise profits

  • Developing trust-based relationships with customers, stakeholders, and executive sponsors

  • Ensuring timely and successful delivery of products and services

  • Communicating the progress of monthly/ quarterly initiatives to upper management

  • Arranging new and expanded deals with existing clients

  • Forecasting key account metrics

  • Preparing sales reports

Customer Success Managers (CSMs)

Unlike traditional customer service which is often reactive, responding to issues after they occur, customer success is proactive.

As a CSM, your job is to ensure that whatever your customers purchased your product or service for – they achieve. Customer success managers maintain strong relationships with customers, provide product training, gather feedback, and work to pre-empt and prevent issues before they even have a chance to occur.

Their ultimate goal is to improve customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty.

Team leader

This could very well be your duty, considering you’re reading this article. In case it isn’t, here’s the rundown of what the sales team leader does.

Team leaders oversee the entire sales team. They set the goals, develop sales strategy, set team member KPIs, and monitor the team's progress towards these goals.

They are also responsible for training and coaching sales team members, resolving any issues or conflicts, and ensuring the team has the resources they need to succeed.

The importance of role diversity in a successful sales team

Of course it’s tempting to have a full team of salespeople trained to do everything sales-related, but that’s not a good idea in the long term.

The first, and most obvious, reason for why this is a bad decision can be found through the classic saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. If every sales team member is responsible for handling each and every task all at once, it's likely that they won’t be able to excel, due to the sheer volume of the workloads that they take care of.

If, however, a sales team member has a certain area of responsibility in the sales process, they can focus on developing their skills in that area.  Apply this to the entire team and you have a highly effective sales process where your sales team members excel at their specific tasks.

How to build a successful sales team: The definitive guide

Let’s get started with the basics of building a successful sales team!

Determine the type of sales team you need

Building a sales team is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are plenty of different ways to build a sales team depending on factors such as…

  • Industry

  • Geographical location

  • Your target market

  • The nature of your products or services

  • Size of your company

For example, in some countries clients prefer when the salesperson comes to meet them in person to give the demo. This calls for a more field-based approach to building a sales team. Another example is the fact that some companies simply need more salespeople than others.

Another important factor is your company's growth structure. If your company is planning to grow and scale rapidly, it’s best to over hire sales staff to scale smoothly, rather than having to hire additional staff when the current roster burns out.

The market your company targets also matters If you’re selling your product or service internationally you need a team that is able to communicate with clients from all over the world, both on a linguistic and business-cultural level.

Additionally, if you provide a B2C product or service, customer success managers are probably not a necessary hire for you, as most B2C sales are transactional and fleeting.

Depending on the abovementioned factors, you might also find that you don’t really need every sales role on your team. If your entire sales team is composed of three or four people, there might be no need for a separate and dedicated team leader role. Those duties could instead be performed by the head of sales or CCO.

Hire the right people

When hiring your sales team, it’s important to remember that different people fill different shoes best. Here’s what type of people you need to look for in different roles…

Sales development representatives

SDRs are tasked with cold calling, which every salesperson knows is a rather difficult undertaking that not everybody can handle.

Outgoing and tenacious people are best suited for this type of role as they have the skills necessary to contact someone out of nowhere and convince them to carry on with the sales process.

Sales assistants

While this role is becoming less common with the rise of CRMs, a good sales assistant can be a valuable asset in managing customer databases, scheduling, and other administrative tasks.

The team members in this role don’t necessarily need to be the most outgoing or persuasive types, as most of the processes they handle aren’t quite as conversation-oriented as the other roles on this list. However, sales assistants do need to be more organised and detail-oriented than your average run-of-the-mill SDR.

When one of your main tasks is data entry and management, details simply can’t be missed.

Account executives

Being one of the two main relationship-building roles on any sales team, account executives need to be persuasive, confident, and excellent at building relationships. Since this is usually the team member that closes the deal, your AEs need to be excellent negotiators, able to agree on a price that benefits both parties involved.

Customer success managers

CSM is another relationship-building role on your sales team.

The ideal candidates for this role are proactive, customer-focused, and excellent at building relationships. Your customer success representatives also need to have perfect knowledge of your product, as well as a deep ability to empathise with your customers’ needs and challenges.

Team leaders

Team leaders need to be strong leaders, excellent communicators, and good at setting goals and developing strategies. They should be able to coach and train team members, resolve conflicts, and ensure the team has the resources they need to succeed.

Due to the specifics of this role, it’s best to hire internally here, as the best team leaders are the ones that know a company inside out. Hiring internally means your team leaders are able to align their team with your company's values and goals.

Onboard your sales team

Hiring the right people is only the beginning.

Now, you have to teach these new hires how to be the salespeople that your team needs. A poor onboarding process can have your team running around confused as to what they’re meant to be doing, without the knowledge that they need to provide your customers with the service they deserve.

A great onboarding process brings the following benefits…

  • Better employee engagement

  • Reduces staff turnover

  • Quicker bedding in time for sales hires

Design your sales processes

When building a successful sales team, it’s important to develop and design the processes that your sales team will be undertaking on a consistent basis. This ensures that every team member understands their role in the sales journey.

Moreover, a well-designed sales process can help you identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies, allowing you to refine your approach and improve sales results.

It also provides a large part of the framework that you’ll be using to onboard new team members, ensuring they quickly understand their responsibilities and can effectively contribute to the team's success.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to design your sales processes…

  1. Start by mapping out your customer's journey from the first point of contact to the final sale and beyond. This helps you understand the steps your customers take and where your sales team can engage effectively.

  2. Break down your sales process into clear stages, such as lead generation, qualification, proposal, negotiation, and close. It’s important for every stage to have clear goals with pre-defined end results.

  3. Develop a sales playbook that outlines the strategies and tactics your team should use at each stage of the sales process. This can include scripts for sales calls, templates for emails, and guidelines for handling objections.

  4. Once you've designed your sales process, train your team on it. Make sure they understand each stage, their role in it, and know how to use the tools and resources you've provided.

Set clear expectations and goals

Would you start cooking a complex meal for a dinner party without a recipe? Likely not.

The same principle applies to your sales team's operations. Just like a recipe provides step-by-step instructions to create a delicious dish, clear goals guide your sales team towards successful outcomes and tell them what these outcomes should be in the first place.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when setting up goals for your team to strive towards…

  • Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework ensures goals are clear, realistic, and tied to a specific timeframe, keeping your team focused.

  • Involving your team in the goal-setting process can increase their commitment and motivation. It enables their input and ensures goals are realistic and achievable. After all, team members have a good feel for what they can and cannot do.

  • Make sure the goals you set for your team align with the broader objectives of your business. This helps your team understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the company.

  • Regular feedback helps your team understand how they are progressing towards their goals. It allows for timely adjustments, if necessary, and provides an opportunity for recognition and motivation when goals are met.

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