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Sales Success Starts With a Team Approach Training can make the difference between missing your goal by a bit and crushing it by a lot.

By Jeffrey Fotta Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. | Getty Images

It's true every sales team has that one rep who crushes every monthly goal, while others struggle and have a tendency to underperform. The 80/20 rule is never truer than in sales. But a strong manager is one who understands what attributes make the all-star successful, and how to communicate and apply those attributes across the team to maximize every team member's potential to succeed themselves. With a clear understanding of sales activity, a commitment to consistent training and coaching as well as some good old fashioned team building, you'll have a sales force that is capable of shattering the 80/20 rule.

Sales training and onboarding are critical in building a sales force of A-performers. However, training itself does not always translate into success. Every salesperson has at least one story of a dry, mind-numbing sales training course that they were required to complete for one job or another. But when done properly with clear measurable objectives, accurate stats and real-world examples, training can make the difference between missing your goal by a bit and crushing it by a lot.

Related: 5 Strategies for Entrepreneurs to Improve Sales

And crushing quota is definitely top of the menu for most organization. CSO Insights reports the number of reps achieving quota fell for the fourth year in a row from 63 percent in 2012 to 55 percent in 2015, a drop of 14.5 percent in four years.

Though investments in training are essential, it is now just as important to invest in training that will establish the repeatable processes that make selling more effective -- in a nutshell, invest in smarter training that moves the needle. To be truly effective, sales training and onboarding need to be a constant, evolving process that revolves around activities, strategies and processes that drive results and can be applied to the entire team.

Here are a few ways to get your team firing on all cylinders.

1. Find what works.

The ability to introduce new employees into a proven, standards-based training program reduces ramp up time and increases the probability of rep success. The sooner a new hire has an accurate, quantified example of what is expected of him/her, the more they can prepare, adjust their approach and steady their disposition to succeed. Whether it's making eight calls to a lead in an attempt to reach a prospect, or calling strictly between 2 to 3 p.m., use the behaviors of your most successful reps to set the standard to which new hires will be held to from orientation on.

To identify these behaviors, sales leaders need to be able to track a rep's activity with accuracy. These metrics include volume of calls, appointments set, the length of conversations, the outcome of the conversation and key words the rep during the interaction. By taking a look at these components, leaders are able to uncover best practices as well quickly identify underperformance. With this data available in real-time, managers are then better able to gauge performance across the group, target feedback to the individual for coaching, and track progress over time.

Related: 7 Psychological Strategies for Mastering Sales Negotiations

2. Set the expectations.

Once you establish the most efficient standards of behavior within your organization, make sure your team understands exactly what is expected of them. With some role-based exception, the definition of success must be consistent and understood by all team members. Effectively communicating this is key. "Hitting quotas is easily taught, but I make it apparent that the job includes this task," says Jayna Cooke, CEO of EVENTup and former VP of Business Development at Groupon.

Use real-life examples of the most essential performance metrics you've identified to demonstrate why the expectations are what they are. For example, you learn that the top 10 percent of your reps make at least 30 calls a day, talk to 10 people and set two appointments. Therefore, require your team makes a minimum of 30 calls per day and measure the results over time.

Related: 4 Sales Strategies to Increase Your Average B2B Deal Sizes

Even early in a new hire process, outbound activities should be communicated and measured to increase the likelihood of a successful hire and onboarding effort. With tools such as call recording and activity tracking, and speech analytics available, it is far easier to manage a sales team based on accurate, real-time data rather than on hunches. These tools also make it possible to deliver targeted training to struggling agents with expectations of a standard of behavior. At the onset of a new sales employee/manager relationship, two-way accountability is the key.

3. Put the team first.

Team building activities are another crucial component of developing an all-star sales team. Team building helps new reps -- or even some longer-tenured reps who may need a little refresher -- get into the right habits out of the gate, adding a healthy dose of competition to the mix. It also allows managers to see which reps are either not performing at the standard level of expectation or simply not fitting into the company culture. The latter cannot be taught.

"I look for three key aspects when interviewing potential sales staff: resourcefulness, kindness, and their ability to mesh with my current team," adds Cooke. While each organization is different, assembling a sales team that aligns with your vision and values is essential to the long-term success of your company. It only takes one bad egg to spoil the bunch.

To make the most of your team building exercises, focus on these strategic purposes. Internally at Gryphon, the goals of our team building exercises are to inspire our sales team to deliver tangible results and to develop strengths and address weaknesses. To achieve this, we establish two sets of goals, one at the team level and the other at the individual level. Once goals have been communicated and internalized -- with the team and the individual -- we set up a timeframe of 30 days. During that time period, reps are accountable for setting up the most number of qualified appointments, while adhering to known best practices, as well as observing and emulating the behavior of the most successful reps. If the team goal is met, the entire team gets a prize along the lines of Boston Bruins tickets or a trip to Florida in the heart of winter. The individual prize is typically a cash bonus. This approach empowers the individual to not only achieve personal success but to drive toward the greater, company-wide goal.

There is no business area that is more primed to take advantage of the data revolution than the sales function. For too long, sales data was little more than manually entered, impossibly brief and highly subjective free form notes made by reps into a CRM system because their boss told them to. With the advances of the internet, mobility and analytics, managers now have access to always-on 100 percent accurate sales performance data that is automatically captured from any device.

This transformation now enables a true revolution in developing sales training that is based on practical application of proven processes that drive performance across the whole team. When it's done right, it will turn that 80/20 rule upside down and make every rep a potential all-star.

Jeffrey Fotta

President of Gryphon Networks

Jeffrey Fotta is president of Boston-based Gryphon Networks, a provider of sales intelligence and marketing-compliance solutions to enterprises. Originally the firm’s CFO, he has served in several leadership roles at the company.

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