In many ways, a sales team is the backbone of any startup. A sales associate's voice is the first a person may hear from a company, so it's vital that the team leader build a strong army of salespeople. If your sales team isn't strong, your startup won’t be strong, and the customers, the stakeholders, and the bottom line will suffer. We've compiled a list of the top seven ways to build a strong sales team, and whether you're building a team for the first time as an entrepreneur or as a seasoned professional, these tips can always be found helpful.
1. Clarity, clarity, clarity
While assembling a sales team, it's important to remember that no one is a mind reader. If you have a protocol, outline it. Specificity is key when it comes to creating a successful culture. Ambiguity about expectations is often one of the key factors leading to team weakness. Clear communication of all company standards sets a strong sense of team accountability. Lack of clarity often leads to a breakdown of work ethic. Clear expectations, on the other hand, inspire teams to feel empowered and rise to meet challenges.
2. Shift the perspective
Creating a sales team can be stressful. This stress can cause many entrepreneurs to see the team as a liability to their own position. It is much healthier for all parties involved to approach your team as an investment in the company. A strong startup sales team creates beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders, whether it's clients or board members. Training a strong sales team takes not just an awareness of what's needed in the present, but also how fulfilling present needs will create future growth.
3. Embrace your dark side
Before setting loose your sales team to conquer the world, it's important to provide a reciprocal shadow period. A reciprocal shadow period is two-fold.
First, allow your sales team to shadow seasoned pros. This means following each and every aspect of important tasks, having them take notes, and then debriefing at the end of the shadowing period.
Second, the new team members should be shadowed by the seasoned pros, with the pros taking notes as well. At the end of the shadow period, all notes can be compared with an open-ended, positive conversation about the learning process. It is vitally important that this shadow period is approached as a positive learning experience and not an evaluation of skill so that honest mistakes can be made, corrected, and everyone moves on quickly and painlessly.
4. Empower your team
A powerful sales team isn't trained. Training is for pets. A powerful sales team is taught – taught to think, taught to assess, taught to discern. The training approach is necessary to a point, while team members are learning the ins and outs of the startup company rules and rituals. After a point, however, more thought-provoking approaches need to take place. Foster engaging conversations about effective sales practice. Facilitate thought-provoking question and answer sessions. A powerful sales team is a collective of individuals who know how to think on their feet, respond with aplomb to rapidly changing circumstances, and anticipate what's coming next. Teaching a team to think is one of the most effective ways to ensure success.
5. Role play
If you want to create an engaging lesson for your sales team, try acting out potential scenarios that could arise. Take past experiences and have team members act them out. Not only does this give your team a testing ground for how to approach problematic circumstances, it also provides a humorous way to deal with serious issues. At the end of the day, everyone walks away with gained knowledge.
6. Be who you want the team to be
As a CEO, team leader, or entrepreneur, it’s important to set an example for a new sales team. Teaching best practices is only one part, and can only go so far. It is important to remember that the environment you provide and the attitude you give off is more important than the words spoken. If you're teaching about organization but your notes are all written on napkins, your sales team will pick up on the dissonance and internalize that you don't really mean what you say. This can create a toxic culture of surface level niceties which are never followed up with action. You must be everything you want your team to be, and impart those qualities onto them not just with words but with action and demeanor.
7. Have fun with it
Ensure that your team understands that the learning process, while working toward the goal of being a powerful force, is indeed a process. Create an environment that portrays your startup’s culture and cultivates collaboration and creative thinking. As long as everyone on your startup team is there for the joy of it (and to make some money), your team will be successful.
Training a powerful sales team can be an arduous task, but a sales team is integral to the success of any startup company. Quality training is an investment toward the future that will pay off for years to come.