Sales is the lifeblood of any organization.
Without a strong sales team, it doesn’t matter how great your company’s product or service is. Sales teams are consistently some of the strongest drivers of revenue growth, customer retention, business growth, and even brand reputation.
Building a sales team isn’t a task you can—or should—approach lightly.
You need to build an incredible sales team, and I’m here to help. Follow these six tips, and you’ll have all the advice you need to build a killer team from scratch.
The Key to Building a Sales Team
If you need to build a sales team from the ground up, you need to understand the process does not begin with hiring your star players. Before building your team, you must first focus on building yourself as a sales leader.
Why? Because the leader sets the tone for the entire team. An effective sales team rests on the foundation of a positive team culture. As the leader, building this positive culture will be your responsibility.
You’ll also serve as a lodestone and an example for the rest of your team. Your sense of work ethic, accountability, and personal standards will set the pace for the whole team.
To build a successful sales team, you’ll need several crucial leadership qualities and skills:
- Experience: You need sales experience and firsthand knowledge of cold calling, creating value in sales conversations, and more to successfully lead and coach your team.
- People-Orientation: If you want your team to flourish, you need to care about them as people and as sales reps.
- Communication Skills: Effective communication might be the single most important leadership skill. You need strong communication skills to resolve conflicts, teach new skills, set objectives, and more.
- Values: Strong sales leaders work from a solid set of values. Your values will dictate your team’s values, so choose them wisely.
- Generosity: If you’re generous with praise and recognition, you’ll find yourself with a happier, more loyal sales team.
- Forward-Thinking: Great sales leaders focus on building future leaders for their organization, not just acquiring mindless followers.
These aren’t the only leadership skills you should focus on honing, but they are some of the most vital skills for building your team.
When you build your team the right way, you’ll create a productive and positive culture of sales reps capable of crushing your most ambitious targets. When you build them the wrong way, you’ll struggle with turnover at best and toxic work culture at worst.
1. Develop a Competency Model
Step one in your process for building a sales team is to develop a competency model. What is a competency model? A set of skills and successes that clearly define what strong performance is on your sales team.
A competency model is vital for building your team because your reps need to know how to succeed. Without a clear understanding of the expectations and standards to which they’ll be held, they will be uncertain about what they need to do to crush their goals—and yours.
Look at your organization’s goals, industry, and personal objectives for your team. Develop a competency model based on the skills and traits any sales rep would need to be successful.
I use a three-step process to map out my competency model. The first step is to identify the sales skills the sales force needs to succeed. The second step is to identify character traits, (such as discipline and accountability) necessary for success. The third step is to use the model with your existing team or past teams to ensure you have all you need, but not more than is necessary.
2. Hire the Right Team
Once you’ve defined the skills and traits a sales rep needs to succeed on your team, you’re ready to start finding the right players for that team.
Include the traits and competencies that are most important to your competency model in your job description. This way, reps who will be a great fit for your team self-select.
You’ll want to hire salespeople who have the personality traits you want on your team and the skills to do the job you need doing. You’ll also want to outline the experience you expect applicants to have—but be open-minded!
Related Read: Five Reasons to Hire Top Sales Talent
Consider hiring a sales rep with the right attitude, hunger for wins, and mindset, but might be lacking in experience. You might just be able to coach them into your strongest player.
You’ll need to ask the right questions when interviewing candidates to find the best salespeople for your team. Some great questions are:
- Describe your selling style.
- Tell me about a time when you had to adjust your sales tactics. How did you change your approach?
- What qualities make a great salesperson?
- Pitch our company to me.
- Sell me on why I should hire you.
- What is your biggest challenge in sales, and what steps are you taking to overcome it?
3. Use the Right Sales Approach
The best salespeople in the world will struggle to succeed if they aren’t using an effective, modern approach. Therefore, step three of building a sales team is to ensure you’re using the right sales approach.
Legacy sales approaches won’t be successful no matter how strong your team is. Modern prospects have more resources, more decision-makers, and less time than ever before. Instead of hammering away at tactics that drive buyers away, identify an approach that will create enormous value for your customers and prospects.
If you’re looking for help with a modern sales approach, check out my free Modern Sales Insights Pack for more details and tips!
4. Conduct Regular Sales Training
Everyone knows you need to train newly hired sales reps. But, for many sales managers, that’s where the training stops.
That’s a critical mistake.
The sales and business world is constantly changing and buyers’ expectations are always shifting. If your team isn’t constantly learning and growing their skills, they aren’t just staying stagnant—they’re actually becoming less effective.
You’ll need to engage your team in regular sales training to counter this. The trick here is to find a sales training program designed to work in a modern environment. Traditional sales training seminars are flawed in that they cram all the information into a day-long session, then fail to implement a follow-up plan that helps the knowledge stick.
This approach is the sales equivalent to going to the gym and doing the hardest workout possible… one day a year.
Instead, you need regular training sessions with follow-up resources for consistent reinforcement and continued learning. If you need help, I've created a program called the Sales Accelerator, specifically designed to teach B2B competencies and reinforce those competencies with regular follow-up.
5. Coach Reps Individually
Beyond sales training, you should also consider individual sales coaching sessions for your reps. Coaching carries many benefits, including improved rep performance, increased confidence, and the creation of powerful mentor-mentee relationships within your team.
You think you don’t have time to coach? I’d counter that with another statement: You don’t have time not to coach.
You need to provide individualized feedback for each rep, helping them grow in the traits and skills they most need to improve. This is the missing component in most online sales training courses. They provide opportunities for consistent practice, but they don't provide individual feedback. Without this, you’ll constantly be on your heels, reactively solving challenges rather than proactively building necessary skills.
6. Identify and Communicate Goals
Last, to build an incredible sales team, you’ll need to communicate goals and objectives clearly.
Create a set of team goals around creating opportunities and generating wins. Take steps to communicate those goals clearly to your team, so each rep knows exactly what they need to do to succeed as an individual and help the team succeed as a whole.
You should also set up processes to reevaluate your goals regularly. As situations and markets shift, this step will allow you to remain nimble and help your team course-correct as needed.
Building a Sales Team Capable of Crushing Targets
Armed with these six tips, you should have everything you need to build your own sales “dream team.”
Preparing your systems and recruiting the right people is critical in building your sales team. Still, that shouldn’t be the beginning and end of your plan to build a strong sales team.
Without regular training and coaching, a team that is strong today will not be strong a year from today. If your reps aren’t learning and growing, they’re actually becoming less effective over time.
For more information on leadership in sales, check out my free eBook, How to Lead.