Building a High Performing Sales Team: Where to Start

shoes are lined up against a red line entitled "Start Here"

In some ways it is easier to build a high performing sales team from the start than to inherit one with all its ingrown quirks and idiosyncrasies. That way you don’t have to adjust to anyone else’s idea of what it takes to succeed. You get the chance to make your own success (and make your own mistakes).

At whatever point you have joined the process—creating a high performance team out of the ether or fine-tuning an existing one—here are some tips on how to fashion the high performing team of your dreams.

1. Get smart.
Use your network of contacts and any other resources at your disposal. This means asking for help from people you trust who have the experience you need. Listen and learn. You can save yourself a whole boatload of trouble by avoiding the mistakes they have made and by taking advantage of what they learned as a result. And do your homework by researching the experts on how to build a high performing team and what you need for success.

2. Get the right talent.
To hire well is hard. Even the best interviewers struggle to consistently identify and hire “A” players. The key is to follow a fair and proven process for uncovering the truth behind the resume and the candidate’s attempts to impress. A behavior-based interviewing training program would be well worth the investment. You will learn how to create a job profile against which you will measure a candidate’s core competencies, and you will learn how to probe for attitude and cultural fit, not just skills and experience. You want someone who is coachable, who shares your values, who is committed to your organization’s mission and goals, and who has an entrepreneurial spirit.

And even as you work to bring aboard top talent, don’t shy away from saying good-bye to someone who does not measure up. As soon as you realize you have made a mistake in hiring—because the new hire is not a cultural fit or because they don’t share your work ethic or because they simply can’t perform to the established standards—let them go.

3. Get set to succeed.
Make sure you give your team the tools they need to succeed. This will involve technology that will make their job easier and save valuable customer-facing time. It may also require some solution selling training to see that you are all using the same sales process and the same language. Use a variety of instructional design techniques such as pre-work, scenarios, simulations, practice, roleplaying, videotaping, coaching and job-aids to help you all pull in the same direction.

4. Get clear leading and lagging success metrics in place.
Set clear and specific expectations for performance. This could include achievable revenue targets that allow for a ramp-up period, number of calls per week, number of customer meetings per month, etc. Then hold each team member accountable for hitting those numbers.

5. Get communicating.
Talk with your team individually and as a group. Learn what makes them tick and what they need to stay motivated. Listen for concerns and deal with them right away. Establish an environment where questions are welcome and ideas for improvement are openly discussed. A sales team that is willing to learn can continuously improve.

 Benchmark your sales practices now.

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