How to Manage Your Sales Team

There’s no denying a strong sales team will be core to your business success. Find out how to find, train and mange talented salespeople...

How to Manage Your Sales Team

It’s not easy being a salesperson. They commonly operate in a high-stress environment, where rejection and frustration are par for the course.

Finding people who are suited to this environment is essential, but so is your ability to organise and motivate them effectively.

To do so, you need a proven recruitment process and system of support.

In this guide we cover the essentials for finding and recruiting good salespeople, organising your team and training and motivating your staff for success.

What should I be looking for in my salespeople?

What makes a good salesperson depends on a number of factors. Principally, they need to be able to sell in the manner that you want them to, based on the demands of your business and the market it operates in but there are also a range of more generic characteristics to look out for ideally.

Firstly, look for people with experience. When it comes to selling, experience is the most valuable asset – especially in a small company when your resources will be limited, your salespeople should not be absolute beginners.

The right attitude is also key. A salesperson must be enthusiastic and self-motivated – it can mean the difference between a loyal and a squandered customer at the point of sale.

You’ll also want to look for a team that suit your particular sales strategy. Consider people who have experience in the methods of selling you intend to use – for example, if you intend to cold-call customers, you’ll want to hire people with experience of telesales.

Lastly, try to secure salespeople with existing contacts within your industry. Building a network of contacts is crucial when it comes to selling so a well-connected sales team will be a major plus for your business.

However, while the qualities above are all desirable, do bear in mind that you shouldn’t expect any employee to be perfect from the outset. You may need to invest some time into developing their skills through training.

How can I find potential salespeople?

Recruiting is never easy for any small business – but your sales team will be core to driving revenue so it’s essential you get the right people from the off. Network wherever possible to try to find suitable candidates, liaise with employees, customers and other contacts to see if you can get any recommendations.

There’s also a range of job sites you can advertise listings on, for example, Fish4Jobs and Monster. While most people tend to look online for jobs these days, depending on your industry it could also be worth advertising in national newspapers such as The Telegraph or the Guardian, and any relevant local publications – as well as trade publications. Look up the relevant ones for your industry and see if they have job listing sections.

Another option is to scope out your rivals and headhunt from your competitors. Contact their salespeople directly, and see if you can make them an offer.

How should I recruit salespeople?

Once you’ve gathered a pool of applicants, you need to decide who might be right for you – which ones suit the unique demands of your business and the position. Your recruitment process should be tailored to assess whether applicants fit the role you need them to fill, and can fit in with the rest of your team.

Planning the interview process thoroughly will be crucial. You should aim to get an idea of potential recruits’ character, demeanour and ability through the interview process – and you may want to do this over several rounds.

Try to involve existing salespeople or team members where possible. They will have their own ideas about what makes a good salesperson (and will be working alongside your new employees on a day to day basis!). Use them to gain a more comprehensive perspective.

Once you’ve found a suitable candidate/s, draw up an employment contract. Clearly set out the terms of the contract, and include a code of conduct. It is common to include clauses to prevent salespeople taking away your customers if they leave for another position.

You’ll also need to confirm the pay scale. Set out a suitable balance between basic and incentive pay. The balance should encourage competitive behaviour without fostering an antagonistic atmosphere. How much basic pay you offer depends on how much individual performance affects the sales performance as a whole. If it has a large affect, offer higher incentive pay; if it has a small one, offer higher basic pay.

Don’t forget to include any perks in a potential offer. People like their add-ons and it could help ensure your dream employee doesn’t accept a job elsewhere. Declare any extras you intend to offer – laptops, phones, company cars, and so on.

What resources do I need to provide my salespeople with?

Sales staff will expect a certain amount of basic resources when they begin a position – and you’ll want to ensure they’re adequately set up from the get go so they can get on with the important task – selling!

Phones and laptops are a must in this day and age, no salesperson should be without one – they don’t need to be super high spec but they’ll be a staple for preparing presentations and sales materials. They’ll also want access to a comprehensive database. Whatever system your business uses, make sure you train your salespeople to use it and that it is easily accessible and (relatively) simple to use. If you have a large number of high-value customers, you may need to invest in advanced custom management software.

Ensure any customary documentation – call sheets, proposal forms, standard contracts and media packs – are up-to-date and provided by you. You may want to use a file sharing service like Dropbox to ensure it’s easy for your entire team to share materials.

How do I train my salespeople?

Every sales environment is different, and demands different skills and expertise. You will need to train and instruct your salespeople to handle their unique set of responsibilities.

While the level of training you want to offer will vary from business to business, make sure you at least offer a basic induction. Educate new starters about your business, products, and the market they will be selling in. Make sure they understand your sales strategy and policy, as well as any details about expenses and expected conduct.

Over time you may also want to develop tailored training courses. These should focus on specific skills you wish to develop – listing skills, negotiation skills, etc. Regular role play and rehearsal sessions can also help with staff development, use these to refine expertise and to monitor performance.

If necessary, you many need to offer individual coaching sessions. This gives you the opportunity to closely monitor an individual’s performance, assess their strengths/weaknesses, and help shape their development.

As sales is a target driven position, it’s also sensible to hold quarterly performance appraisals. Be positive and invite discussion/debate. Focus on areas where there may be no direct monetary incentive to perform well in – i.e. keeping sales records. Discuss whether any problems are the fault of the salespeople, or that of your strategy and provision of resources.

How do I set objective and targets for my team?

As mentioned targets are important when managing sales people but make sure you negotiate with team members when setting any sales targets or objectives. Involving them in the decision making process will ensure their support of your strategy, and help to strengthen it.

To keep targets on track you’ll want to agree monthly objectives, based on your sales forecasts and negotiations with team members. You’ll also need to define your sales conversion rate. Agree what number of sales should result from the number of visits, calls, or contacts your salespeople make/have.

You’ll also want to have a range of targets:

  • Targets for individual salespeople. Base these on their performance appraisals, and adjust them accordingly as time goes on.
  • Targets for different accounts. Set ambitious but not-unrealistic objectives.
  • Targets for different teams. Encourage friendly competition, and achievable objectives for teams working under different circumstances.

The key element to keep targets on track is to constantly monitor performance. Host weekly meetings with individual team members. Keep a constant eye on repeat business and customer retention levels and investigate any low performing figures.

Assess sales activities by profitability, and not volume. Take into account the challenges of different accounts/area, and set your targets accordingly.

How do I organise my team?

By balancing the needs of individual team members with those demanded by your sales strategy, you can command an effective and cohesive sales unit. Set responsibilities on a case-by-case basis to ensure workload is evenly and fairly spread.

As a small business, you’ll also want to minimise the number of salespeople responsible for each account, both from a resource perspective but also because customers prefer single, personal contacts – they like to know exactly who they’re dealing with. If more than one person is assigned to a single account, decide how they will communicate.

Communication will be key between sales people but also between you and your team. Set out any individual freedoms to ensure you don’t become a bottleneck. Define what contacts can be carried out independently, and what freedom salespeople have to negotiate discounts. You also need to lay out the policy on expenses – what amount team members can spend on travel and entertaining.

Regular team meetings will also help keep communication flowing, encourage team members to report back any grievances or problems, and assess the lie of the land. Meetings are a good opportunity for the team to share sales activities reports too. This will ensure both you and they have an idea of their performance.

Finally, keep your team happy – a happy sales team will undoubtedly be a more productive one. Make sure your team feels properly supported by helping them with customer service and sales support staff. Maximise their productivity by assigning as many additional tasks to supporting staff so they are free to sell and keep them motivated. Praise their achievements, and do your best to minimise stress levels. Don’t foster a cut-throat or oppressive sales environment. Plan entertainment and social events as rewards, and to keep the team cohesive.

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