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Five tips to manage a successful sales team

A stellar salesperson is very hard to find and even more difficult to keep, so here are 5 tips to get the most out of your sales team.

Jo White · March 13, 2019
Five tips to manage a successful sales team

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Sales teams are notoriously challenging to manage for many good reason. By the very nature of sales, you have to be a certain personality type to think on your feet and deal with knockbacks. And it’s usually the traits that make them so good at selling that makes them so hard to manage:

  • Remarkably confident
  • Incredibly eager
  • Highly competitive
  • Immensely optimistic
  • Amazingly charming

But don't worry, here are five tried and tested tips that'll get you off to a flying start.

1. Trust the team

Either you inherit a sales team, recruit one or have a bit of both. The first thing you need to do is build trust and it goes both ways. A new team leader has to earn trust quickly, especially if you’re new in industry or newly promoted.

Take the time to get know individuals, their lifestyle, motivations and interests out of work. Get a well rounded picture of them and share a bit of you with them too. When you’re authentic and show genuine interest in people it starts to build trust.

You’ll know early on the people that will flourish with complete freedom and those who need a bit more support. Then give them what they need. Don’t have a formula for everyone, be led by their needs and adapt. Set clear boundaries and expectations then trust them to do the job the way they know best.

And don’t worry, salespeople will always be treated differently from the rest of the business and that’s ok. Sometimes, as a leader, you'll have to justify this to the rest of the business but as long as the targets are being hit, it shouldn’t be a problem.

It can be a long and lonely road in sales, so there has to be a lot of flexibility. Unlike say, customer support, they should work whatever hours it takes to get the job done. Some days will be short, most will be very long, but if the sales keep coming in what does it matter?

2. Keep focused

To sell well, people need to know what they’re selling and the positive impact it has on the customer - the higher purpose. So it’s very important to have a clear proposition and a solid business strategy. Salespeople need to know where the business is headed and their contribution so they can sell the dream.

Another way to focus the sales team is to take away all their time wasting admin and introduce useful tools.

We’ve tried a few and these are our favorites:

  • A simple CRM is clearly top of the list - we obviously recommend Capsule
  • An easy way to submit expenses such as recieptbank
  • An accessible central knowledge bank like GURU
  • A good communication tool like Slack

But as a business grows or hits hurdles there can be a tendency to start shaking things up and lose focus. The senior team may want to relook at the brand, proposition, product range, prices and soon things can turn a bit chaotic for a salesperson.

As a team leader, it’s important to shield the field of unnecessary distractions. Tell them what they need to know to do their job to the best of their ability. Once a salesperson is confused about the brand or what they’re selling their motivation dips. How can they confidently and optimistically sell something when they’re unsure about it themselves? Some will embrace the uncertainty and sell their interpretation, but that causes problems elsewhere in the business as people frantically try to meet unrealistic expectations.

3. Communicate often

On one hand, you need to protect the sales team from unnecessary distraction but on the other, you need to keep them informed. As we’ve already said, it can be quite isolating on the road so it’s important to have regular catchups to update on business news and hear what’s happening in the field. Doing this face to face is always preferred as it’s quicker, more effective and helps build your relationship.

Putting time aside each month or quarter to have a focused 121 helps motivate salespeople. You get to look at the figures together, discuss ideas as well as any issues at a dedicated time and place.

If the meeting’s in the office you can make the most of having other people around to contribute to ideas and share news. And it’s always nice to have a team lunch or some after work drinks to help build relationships.

For day to day communications, we find Slack such a great tool to communicate with remote teams. It’s not just the instant messaging element either, it’s the fact you can integrate your software into specific channels so new information is shared automatically with those that need it. It can be a real game changer for remote workers.

4. Have short and energetic meetings

Inevitability when you have a big sales team, you have to get everyone together to plan the year ahead, review the quarter or even do some training.

Time is money for salespeople, many are impatient and naturally just want to get on and sell. So if you have to have long meetings, keep them focused, dynamic, with plenty of breaks.

If you don’t you’ll end up looking around the table at a team of people distracted by their phone.

So how do you make a meeting dynamic?

  • Change the room set up, use a different part of the office or go outside
  • Stand up for the first half of the meeting - everyone speeds up when they stand
  • Get people to switch seats after a break so nobody gets too comfortable
  • Keep sessions to 10 minutes slots so people get to the point quickly
  • Stay focused on positive solutions instead of navel gazing
  • Keep it informal so everyone can be honest and say when they’re starting to switch off so you can move on

5. Recognize and celebrate success

A thank you goes a long way. Yes, salespeople get rewarded with a commission and a high OTE but just like everyone else they like to feel valued. It’s a great motivator. So publicly thank a person for their contribution to the business or share their success with others - it will feel great for both of you. Especially when it encourages other people to thank them too.

It’s important not to overdo the thanks or show favoritism, it has to be authentic if it’s going to have a positive impact.

And it’s more than putting a reminder note in your diary each month to, ‘remember to say thanks.’ If this kind of thing doesn’t come naturally just have a go, the first couple of times might be a bit awkward but acknowledge the awkwardness, it will mean a lot to them that you tried.

Back in the day, salespeople used to compete against each other for a holiday to somewhere like the Caribbean. Of course, this kind of healthy competition inspires action but today you can be a bit more personalized with your rewards so people feel extra special.

When you’ve built a relationship with your sales team, you’ll get to know what motivates them and you can reward them accordingly. So if one of the team values time, reward them with a day off, a trip to the spa or tickets to the rugby, cricket or tennis. If they simply love cheese, send them a lovely cheesy hamper. The more personalized, the more effective and usually more affordable it is unless of course, they’re only into Bentleys.

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to manage sales teams and get the most out of them, but the truth is, as long as you have clear expectations, treat people like adults and have fun along the way you can’t go far wrong.

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