March 16

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How to build a high-performing sales team

By Ralph Varcoe

March 16, 2021


Sales is an integral part of any business. In fact, many businesses live or die by the performance of their sales team. But building a high-performance sales team won’t happen overnight. Even if your team consists of talented individuals, they will need guidance and oversight to achieve your objectives reliably. Below is a five-step plan to maximising your sales team’s performance.

Evaluate your existing team carefully

The first step towards building a high performing sales team is to take stock of your existing team. One thing I have learned over the years is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving the quality of an entire team. There are templates you can follow, and the process I outline in this blog post is a versatile one, but the exact strategy you use should be tailored to your team.

There are 21 core competencies that I consider when evaluating my sales team. You may have your own KPIs that you prefer to use. If you’re cultivating a sales team to take on a special assignment, there may be specific metrics you wish to evaluate for this particular assignment that differ from those you use to evaluate your sales staff more generally. The most important thing is that you are evaluating your team members evenly and objectively. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify areas for improvement, not to single out individual sales staff as ‘weak points.’

Modify your hiring strategy and assess new hires thoroughly

Armed with a set of core competencies that you want your sales staff to possess and knowing which of these are currently lacking amongst your existing sales staff, you can tweak your hiring processes to ensure any new hires you take on will bring with them the skills and competencies you need the most. I find it helpful to draw up a list of the core competencies I’m most interested in and place them in order of priority. It may be that a potential new hire is lacking in one of your core competencies but makes up for it by excelling in another area.

It’s easier to address deficiencies in some core competencies than others. When choosing between prospective new hires, I always ask myself, “Which of these candidates is going to be the easiest to train? Who has the greatest chance of improving and raising themselves to the standard I need?” It can be hard turning down clearly talented applicants. But if their talents don’t align with your business’s current needs, they won’t get the chance to show them off anyway.

Focus your training on core competencies

Once you have the right personnel in place and a concrete overview of where your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses lie, you can devise a training strategy that addresses any deficiencies in your team’s collective skillset. I find that the most effective training protocols are the ones that present training as a collaborative process amongst your sales team. The more confident your sales staff feel talking to one another, sharing advice amongst themselves, and working together to achieve their goals, the faster and more reliably they will improve.

Depending on your sales team’s size and the hierarchy you have established amongst them, there may be key individuals within it that you want to take responsibility for training the rest of the group. It’s worth sitting down with senior and higher-ranking staff and discussing how they can play their part in helping the rest of your team bring their performance up to a higher standard. Make it clear to your team that your goal is to get them working together as a cohesive unit, not to single out the weaker members. If you’ve evaluated your team properly and adjusted your hiring processes accordingly, every member of your sales team should bring something valuable to the table.

Train individuals on the areas where they can make the most significant improvements

Where individual members of your sales team need additional support and guidance to achieve their full potential, you should tailor your approach to their individual situations. I have had many talented sales personnel who I know are capable of achieving more than they have been. I used to make the same mistake that many managers make; I would only look at what the team as a whole was achieving and base my training on that. I now know that it’s considerably more effective to provide guidance to individuals and help them improve in the areas where they need the most training.

There is a balance to be struck between encouraging your sales staff to focus on their own work and skills and operating as a team. You don’t want your sales team to consist of highly talented and motivated individuals working separately on the same projects. You want them to function as a single unit; a team united in a common purpose. Your training and guidance should emphasise the importance of individual performances and contributions to the team while also making it clear that effective teamwork is essential for meeting your sales targets.

Establish a culture of high expectations

Expectations count for a lot. If your sales team know that you are expecting a great deal from them, they will be more motivated to achieve their goals. We all have experience of this from our school days; the teachers that demand the most from us tend to be the ones who achieve the best results. If you have a good relationship with your sales team, they will see your high expectations as a watermark that they hope to hit. This is known as the Pygmalion effect and is an established psychological phenomenon. Of course, if you set unrealistic expectations, it could have the opposite effect; make sure the targets you set are achievable.

If you want to improve your sales team’s performance, contact me today to discuss your team and what you hope to achieve with them. By following the process outlined above, I can help you turbocharge your team’s performance and send your sales figures skyrocketing. Email me today to find out more.

Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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