How to Build a World Class Sales Team

Three low cost, high-impact strategies to maximize the potential and success of your sales force.

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By Bryce Conlan

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The success of your sales team determines the success of your business. Regardless of how good your product or service may be, how clever your marketing is, or how deep your pockets are, you don't have a business if you don't have buyers.

You might reasonably assume that developing a high-performance sales team ranks among the highest priorities within an organization. Yet somewhat inexplicably, sales training is one of the most overlooked aspects of developing sales organizations, resulting in a constant churn of sales professionals that ultimately cost businesses time and capital.

We've interviewed sales leaders across the country in an attempt to understand this obvious oversight. And we've found that sales leaders are often sales representatives who have been promoted into management positions but didn't receive adequate sales training themselves, and thus don't know how to deliver it to their teams. These sales leaders are pressured by senior leadership to make their numbers and become overwhelmed at the prospect of training their sales teams because they don't know where to begin.

Thankfully, sales training doesn't need to be complicated or expensive and only requires a little effort invested consistently over time to produce outsized results for individual sales professionals and the organization as a whole.

Here are three simple steps to train your sales team and maximize their collective potential.

1. Help them understand who they are

Sales is one of the few fields with very few barriers to entry; there are no formal degrees or certifications required before someone can be hired into a sales role. I've even heard it said that if you're not qualified for anything else, you're qualified for sales.

This means that there's a lot that a savvy sales leader can do to develop the raw talent of their sales staff. One of the easiest steps is to help each individual on your sales team discover the unique skill set they bring to the team. You can go as deep as you'd like with this, but I generally advise providing a mixture of strength and personality assessments.

With the assessments in-hand, sit down and go over the results together. This is a good time to ask your team member if the results lined up with how they see themself, or if the results came as a surprise. You'll be amazed at how much you learn about each other in what amounts to a 30-minute investment in your sales professional.
This exercise is incredibly helpful for the sales leader. Taking inventory of your team's strengths helps you know who to deploy in what situation. It creates a massive value-add for your sales professional, which goes a long way toward cultivating warm feelings of belonging and loyalty.

Related: 3 Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Sales Team

2. Help them find their fit in the organization

Gallup reports that roughly 70% of workers are disengaged from the work they're paid to do. One reason for this is that, besides a paycheck, many employees don't feel personally connected to the business - that is, they don't see how their effort is helping the business or making the world a better place. Connect your sales staff's individual efforts to the bigger picture (the business, the customer, the world) to motivate and inspire your sales team.

Savvy sales leaders will use the insights gleaned about individuals on their sales teams, the personality strengths, motivations, experiences, and aptitudes to encourage collaboration among the sales team, and then deploy individuals into areas where they can naturally excel.

Cold calling, for example, is a difficult job. While few sales leaders find the experience particularly fulfilling, some people find it an energy-draining activity - it literally exhausts them. I know this from my own personal experience since I am one of those people. Calling just 10 people might take me all day as I have to muster the emotional strength to make each call. Put me in a room with 30 strangers to facilitate a live training, workshop, or a product demonstration, however, and I absolutely flourish and come alive. Better still is the sense of personal fulfillment I feel, which leads to an improved close rate.

Every person on your sales team has areas that energize them and areas that deplete them. Having this awareness enables you to position individual team members in situations and circumstances where they will likely thrive, encounter more success, and enjoy their job just a little more.

Related: Build a Stellar Sales Team

3. Provide the tools they need to thrive

When asked, the overwhelming majority of sales leaders said they implement a robust internal training program for their sales professionals. When the sales professionals were asked to rate these training programs, they rated the programs as bordering on irrelevant. Why the mismatch?

Much of what is called "sales training" is focused on inculcating sales professionals with the company history, culture, and product features rather than equipping them with the tools to grow their influence with prospective buyers.

The goal of any sales training should be to equip your sales professionals with a combination of hard and soft skills to help them maximize their individual potential. Topics like body language, objection handling, role-playing, empathetic listening, and influential storytelling are a few of the many possible topics that can benefit your sales team.

Related: 5 Innovative Ways to Train Your Sales Team

Success in developing your sales professionals is often a function of simple follow-up and accountability. A staggering 90% of all sales training is lost simply because sales leaders view the training as a transfer of information, and they fail to reinforce the key principles. Accountability and repetition are important in ensuring the adoption of the desired behaviors.

Developing your sales professionals doesn't have to be complicated or particularly expensive. As a new generation of sales professionals steps into the workforce, companies must reevaluate how they get the most from their sales representatives. Making the mental shift away from the one-size-fits-most sales training systems of the past to a more individualized coaching journey yields dividends in the production and retention of your top sales talent.

Bryce Conlan

Founder & CEO of Narrative Advantage

Bryce Conlan is a speaker, author and podcast host. Conlan is the founder of Narrative Advantage, which helps startups and growing organizations maximize value and make credible, value-aligned decisions to discover the height of their potential and accomplish the impossible.

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