Building a sales team isn’t easy.
You can’t just hire a group of fast talkers and hope they’ll convince prospects to buy your product or service. You might close a few deals, but the results won’t be consistent.
If you want a sales team that can regularly deliver above and beyond their sales target, you need to use the proper hiring, sales training, and sales team management methods.
In this article, I’ll cover what sales teams are and two surprisingly overlooked reasons why you need them.
I’ll then highlight the key roles you need to hire for and how to hire them. I’ll also give you seven no-nonsense tips to help you build and manage a successful sales team in 2021.
This Article Contains:
(Click on any link below to go to a section of your choice.)
- What is a Sales Team?
- 2 Surprisingly Overlooked Functions of a Sales Team
- When You Need a Dedicated Sales Team
- 5 Essential Sales Roles for Which You Need to Hire
- How to Hire Your Sales Team (Step-by-Step)
- 7 Simple Tips to Build and Manage an Excellent Sales Team
Let’s dive in.
What is a Sales Team?
A sales team is a group of individuals who sell a company’s offering to leads and customers. They’re responsible for meeting the company’s business’s growth goals by selling products, services, or subscriptions.
Now, no two sales teams are alike.
The size, goals, and culture of any team depend on their organization’s unique needs. However, most sales team share common roles like:
- Sales Development Rep
- Sales Specialist
- Account Executive
- Customer Success Representative
- Sales Manager
But why do businesses really need sales teams?
Let’s find out.
Why You Need a Sales Team
Sales teams don’t just sell a company’s offers and increase revenue. Here are two overlooked functions.
Good sales teams also help businesses gain insights into their customers’ needs, such as their goals and challenges.
Your sales employees will have the skills to understand buyer personas and target markets more than anyone else in your company. They engage with prospects and customers via sales calls, emails, and other channels, collecting detailed information about your ideal buyers.
Salespeople also have better access to quality leads than your marketing team, making their knowledge valuable for sales and marketing alignment.
This, in turn, is vital for product development and innovation. This is especially important in fast-evolving industries like SaaS.
Because they communicate with buyers regularly, salespeople can determine whether customers are satisfied or unhappy with their experience even before customer support teams do.
Sure, sales teams are essential to maintain relationships with customers and bring in revenue. But when do you need a dedicated sales team?
When You Need a Dedicated Sales Team
If you’re in your business planning phase and not engaging in sales activity, it might be too early to hire a sales team. But when your business is operational, you’ll definitely need a sales team to contact prospects at the right time and convert them.
Another essential point is to hire based on your growth plans.
Forecast the next year and decide whether you have enough sales capacity to deal with the expected traffic or whether you need to hire more.
For example, if you have a small SaaS business, you could employ a sales rep to manage the process. And as the business grows, you can bring in more reps and hire other roles like a sales manager and customer success rep.
Hiring people for a new product launch and targeting new audiences or sales territories is also a great idea. It helps keep your current reps focused on the existing offers until you settle into the new product line/audience.
To sum up, hiring a dedicated sales team depends on your business’ growth, customers, and sales strategy.
Now let’s look at which roles you should have in your sales organization.
5 Essential Sales Roles for Which You Need to Hire
The sales professionals you hire depend entirely on your business’ needs.
That said, most companies follow a similar sales team structure.
Here are some roles that exist on most sales teams, along with their typical pay mixes:
1. Sales Development Rep (SDR)
A sales development rep (SDR) is the first point of contact for any lead.
They obtain leads from various sources before passing them off to account executives for qualification. SDRs are rarely involved in closing deals.
An SDR is considered an entry-level salesperson and usually has a pay mix of around 65/35 (65% base salary and 35% incentive pay).
2. Sales Specialist
A sales specialist’s primary responsibility is supporting the sales process through proposal development and customer demos.
If your business regularly engages in complex transactions, you should consider hiring a sales specialist to help with industry-specific challenges.
They don’t close deals but play an essential role in the sales process by conducting market research, forecasting sales, and applying their product knowledge to practical situations.
Sales specialists usually get a pay mix of 70/30, with incentives varying based on how challenging sales are.
3. Account Executive
An account executive is your sales representative.
They work directly with prospects who’ve expressed interest in your offerings and try to convert them into customers. Naturally, account executives have the most significant impact on the outcome of deals.
A large portion of their pay comes from incentives since their primary responsibility lies in closing deals and bringing in revenue. Account executives usually have a pay mix of 50/50 or 60/40.
4. Customer Success Representative
When account executives close deals, your prospects turn into your customers.
At this point, customer success reps take over to handle customer satisfaction and retention.
They follow up with customers to maintain relationships and find avenues to upsell or cross-sell your product or service.
Customer success reps usually have a pay mix of 75/25 — with incentives based on up-selling and proactive outreach activities.
5. Sales Manager
Sales managers set goals, track key sales metrics, and motivate and support their team members to ensure the smooth running of the sales process.
The primary responsibility of the sales leader is to ensure the success of the sales organization, which means their incentive pay is based on team performance. They are usually allocated a pay mix of 70/30.
Sales teams need clearly defined roles to function correctly, but that doesn’t mean you can hire any way you like.
How to Hire Your Sales Team (Step-by-Step)
Here are a couple of steps you can follow when hiring for your team:
1. Define Your Sales Process
The first step in hiring a sales team is to define your sales process.
The sales process is a collection of repeatable steps like prospecting, presentation, and closing, all of which a salesperson takes to turn prospects into customers.
The sales process is essential for hiring because how you approach the sales process can impact what type of candidates will perform well at your business.
Every organization has a different sales process, which means you have to think about your target audience and what steps you need to convert them into customers.
Additionally, you can prepare a sales playbook — a single source of truth — to support your sales process.
2. Look for Internal Candidates
The most successful sales hires can sometimes be internal.
When you hire people internally, you get people who’re already familiar with your organization’s culture, policies, brand, growth targets, and offers.
This way, it’s a shorter learning curve — which provides faster results. Additionally, internal hires can even save you the cost you might endure with bad hires because you already know them, and you’ve seen them work successfully.
3. Build a Standardized Hiring System
Creating a hiring system helps you standardize interviews and compare candidates more objectively — helping you choose the best for your business.
To create a hiring system, start with interview questions that will help you arrive at an informed decision.
Create role-specific questions you can ask every candidate interviewing for the same position. You can also opt for candidates to sit a skills test or personality test.
Here are some sample questions you can ask candidates:
- What motivates you?
- How consistently do you meet sales goals?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- Can you describe a situation where you lost a sale?
- How did you land your most valuable sale?
You can even define the different stages involved in the hiring process, through which each candidate must pass. It’s also important to determine certain passing criteria so that decision-making is easier.
You can opt to hire a recruiter to do all this for you, but if you want more control over who joins your team, consider keeping things in-house.
4. Create Job Profiles and Hire Perfect Matches
Building a job profile can help you identify whether candidates fit your organization.
Job profiles are different from job descriptions — job profiles outline the job’s duties from the employee’s perspective. In contrast, job descriptions detail responsibilities from the firm’s perspective.
A job profile will typically contain details like:
- The length of the sales cycle
- Pricing of the product or service
- The buyer personas relevant to your offering
Once the job profile is complete, you can filter through candidates that fit it best — they’re most likely to succeed at the job.
Ideally, you should see if their skills, experience, past results, attitude, and habits match your profile. You can use frameworks like David Mattson’s SEARCH to see how candidates match your job profile.
5. Hire for the Long Term
Did you know that a new hire takes 4.5 months to go from no sales to a level of high competency and performance?
Remember, a bad sales hire is going to cost you more than a few months’ salaries. You’ll waste five months of investment if your new sales team member isn’t meeting expectations.
Always look for the best candidates and hire them with a long-term plan for their growth. Investing in them will make them top performers and reduce turnover, giving you a loyal, high-performing team.
7 Simple Tips to Build and Manage an Excellent Sales Team
Here are seven tips you can use to build a great sales team:
1. Hire Resilient and Coachable People
You can train new sales personnel all you want, but it won’t make a difference if they’re not resilient and passionate.
Every sales role is a demanding one.
Your sales staff will face a hundred “No’s” before they hear a “Yes.”
This is why you need passionate people who won’t turn away after a few rejections.
If you find resilient and passionate people, you can find ways to connect that to your business and drive up your sales.
Additionally, ensure your hires are coachable.
Passion alone will mean little if they can’t use feedback and sales coaching to improve themselves.
2. Incentivize the Team’s Compensation
Compensating your sales team is different from the rest of your organization.
You should ideally tie a portion of sales compensation to revenue.
This helps motivate your field sales reps to push harder out in the market — and better performance means higher earnings.
To do this, determine how to split the sales team’s pay.
You can use the values I mentioned above or your own pay mix.
Additionally, you can consider non-financial rewards — taking your team for a night out when they produce excellent results can help keep them happy.
3. Train Continuously
Regular training of your reps can work wonders for your sales team.
However, remember to account for the various learning styles each salesperson might need to learn well.
You can use visual, auditory, and interactive sessions to train your team.
Consider using role-play to portray practical situations accurately.
And in your training, you should ideally cover fundamentals like product knowledge, opportunity management, professional communication, and competitor information.
4. Set Achievable, Clearly Defined Goals
Setting demanding yet achievable goals can motivate your employees to perform better.
However, each sales goal you set has to be clear — you need to be transparent and provide your team with the data they need to achieve their goals.
To avoid demotivating your employees, set goals that are reachable by at least 70% of your salespeople.
5. Create a Buyer-centric Sales Culture
To create a buyer-centric culture, you first need to understand your customers’ needs and the reasons for those needs.
To do this, you’ll need salespeople who are genuinely customer-centric.
Use the interview to gauge how customer-oriented they are. Give them hypothetical sales situations and ask how they would handle them. This can give you a good sense of how empathetic they are towards customers.
Talk to customers directly about their experience with your sales process and get feedback on what needs improvement. Ask them about pain points that may block the progress of deals, and remember to tie sales team compensation to performance and customer satisfaction.
Finally, share customer insights openly with your team.
This way, salespeople will have a good idea of the organization’s customers and better understand how to provide value.
6. Use Data and Provide Regular Feedback
Analyzing metrics is essential to run data-driven sales operations.
They don’t just show you who’s a good salesperson and who’s not.
They can also show you:
- Which communication channels get the most responses.
- Which of your offers sell best.
- Which strategies bring the highest results.
Use these metrics and provide feedback to each salesperson. Make feedback a part of your sales enablement strategy, and be consistent so that employees always know what to improve.
7. Leverage Sales Management Tools to Boost Sales Productivity
A surefire way to make things easy for your team and boost sales performance is to maximize the use of technology. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a remote sales team.
Using tools to automate repetitive tasks can save your sales team a lot of time to work on more important things, like reaching out and building relationships.
Here are three types of tools that help your sales team boost their sales productivity:
A. Email Marketing Tools
Email tools help sales teams efficiently handle bulk email processes.
With an email marketing tool, you can:
- Schedule and send email campaigns
- Automatically personalize outgoing emails
- Use metrics to track email performance
- Automate follow-up emails to recipients
- Improve the deliverability of your emails with custom tracking domains
GMass is a free email marketing tool with all the features I mentioned above. If you’re looking to automate your email marketing process right from your Gmail inbox, all you need to do is download the GMass Chrome extension.
B. CRM Software
Customer Relationship Management software helps your sales teams manage their lead and customer data. You can use a CRM to:
- Store customer and prospect data
- Track interactions with each contact
- Share information within your organization
If you’re looking for good CRM software, Salesforce and Zoho CRM are some of the best tools out there.
C. Project Management Tools
Every department needs to organize its projects and assignments — and your sales team is no different. With a project management tool, a virtual sales team can easily stay in touch and collaborate over leads and goals.
With a project management tool, your sales team can:
- Plan sales activities around projects
- Keep track of sales budgets for each project
- Collaborate with other teams
If you’re looking for a robust project management tool, consider options like ClickUp and Asana for your business.
Looking for more tools to simplify your sales process?
Check out my guide on the seven best sales management tools for businesses.
Building and managing a sales team can be challenging, especially if it’s a remote team — but it’s not impossible!
You can use the tips I’ve mentioned in this article to build a customer-centric, high-performing sales team, but don’t forget to leverage technology to make your sales operation smoother.
Using tools like GMass to automate simple tasks can give your team more time to do what really matters — build and nurture relationships to take your sales game to the next level!
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Thanks, Ajay, for sharing an informative article on “Sales Team Guide: Roles + How to Hire & Manage.” I will share your writing with students taking Sales Training Courses