Monday, February 07, 2011


Five critical steps to building a sales team from scratch

The opportunity to build a sales team from scratch happens more often than you might think.  Yes, it’s a critical step for any new organization where sales has never formally existed before.  But mature organizations create new sales teams all the time – to sell new products, to launch into new markets or industries, to add inside support to an existing field sales team, etc.

Whether you’re truly starting from scratch or creating a new team inside an existing sales org, here are five critical steps you should work through before any outbound activity begins.

Clarity of Success Metrics.  How will the organization overall define success for this sales team?  What do those metrics look like 30 days from now, three months from now, 6-12 months from now?  Make sure you know explicitly how your leadership team is going to evaluate success.  At a more direct level, know how you’re going to measure success of the sales team itself as it ramps up.  How will you know it’s on a path for success after the first week?  What measures will you use to ensure the right momentum on a daily and weekly basis with each rep?  Define these up front, and let them guide how you build and execute the rest of your plan.

Customer Insight.  Successful sales teams don’t develop their best practices in a bubble.  Partner with your marketing team to develop a clear understanding of your customer’s needs, pain points and desired outcomes.  The sales process you develop for the new sales team should directly map to the way your customer wants to buy – including messaging, materials, channels, offers, etc.  The more you understand the customer, their behavior and purchase tendencies, the more likely the sales process will write itself for you.   

The Right Channel(s).  What kind of sales team are you hiring, anyway?  Do you need a field team or inside team?  Or both?  Too often, sales managers jump into hiring before understanding the right approach.  Your customer insight, as well as observation of how the rest of your industry or market sells, should give you clues to the right approach as well.

Defined Process.  Before the first call is made, the first email sent, the first leads generated, map the entire sales process.  Start with how your customer buyers, and map that down to a series of lead development and opportunity management stages.  Know exactly what it means for a prospect be at each stage, and define specific roles for both sales & marketing at each stage to help get the prospect to the next step closer to the closed deal.  Then, codify this process in a way that the entire sales team can easily follow, replicate and document their progress in your CRM system.  I guarantee you’ll make adjustments to this process as you get rolling, but having it all mapped out up front will help you not only measure and act on what’s happening in the marketplace, but will also make your sales team far more efficient from the get-go.

Training & Onboarding.  Don’t skimp on this.  It’s tempting to hire world-class salespeople and let them loose as quickly as possible.  But unless they understand your customer intimately, unless they know exactly how you want them to sell, unless they know how you will define their success and how you want them to document their activity, they’ll be spinning their wheels from day one. 

Successful selling requires that you apply a consistent, proven process to a buyer who wants and needs to be treated as a unique opportunity.  The best sales teams in the world do both, and it starts with the above steps from day one.




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