How to Build a Winning Sales Team (Part 1)

How to Build a Winning Sales Team (Part 1)

On the battlefield, engagement with the enemy happens on the front lines. When wars are fought, they are won or lost on the front lines. Certainly, there is a team of others who support the effort on the front lines, but the real action happens there and you must have a team that is prepared to win. In business, you are the leader of the sales battlefield and you must select a team, train them and support them to win new opportunities. The life of your business depends on this sales team, does it not?

Staffing for Sales Success

I’ve personally hired many sales people and have also consulted with many organizations to do the same over the past twenty years. There are really two key elements for success in sales hiring. The first element of that success comes from the ability of the people you hire. The second comes from the workplace conditions into which they are placed. In this post (part 1), we will discuss the process for discovering those sales people with the qualifications your position requires. In part 2, we’ll discuss the necessary workplace conditions to help ensure the success of your sales team.

The Four Steps to Hire Great B2B Salespeople

1. Define the position requirements: These questions will help you get started on clearly defining what the sales position requires:

  • What type of sales role is required? Inside sales, outside sales, channel sales, or key account sales are some common sales roles. The abilities required for each position are vastly different, so be sure you clearly understand them.
  • To whom will your sales person be selling? Define the types of businesses and level of buyer within the business.
  • What is being sold? Describe your product or service in detail and its benefits. The tangible or intangible nature of your offering can be key, as many sales people are trained in one or the other. Many times we find product sales people can struggle selling intangible services and vice versa.
  • What is your sales cycle complexity? Are your sales processes fairly straightforward and transactional in nature? Or, are they longer sales requiring a custom solution and face-to-face relationships?

Check out this creative position description (part of our “Hiring for Sales Resource Pack”). It’s not the usual boring job description, because you don’t want boring candidates.

2. Sourcing candidates: I’m a huge fan of human resources expert and best-selling author, Lou Adler. While this is not an article on developing a candidate sourcing process, let me summarize Adler’s process, which he calls the 40/40/20 sourcing plan. The premise behind this plan originates with the thought that sourcing all your candidates from just online job postings will not generate the best applicants. Certainly, this sourcing plan can apply to other key positions as well.

  • 20% of your sourcing efforts need come from posting compelling, career-oriented positions so that the best active candidates (those actively looking for a job right now) will find it easily when searching on Google or a job board aggregator. A big key to the posting is that it also needs to highlight the “ideal” candidate’s intrinsic motivations, so the best talent is attracted.
  • 40% of your sourcing needs to be focused on preparing short, personalized career stories that are emailed to prospective candidates. These prospects can be identified using the advanced search filters built into LinkedIn Recruiter.
  • 40% of your efforts need to be networking-based with the objective of spending more time getting pre-qualified warm referrals rather than making cold calls to candidates. Most of the initial names can be generated by using LinkedIn Recruiter to search on your co-workers’ connections. This is much more proactive than waiting for a co-worker to recommend someone. In key positions, like sales production, management, and others, we suggest you always be recruiting for future growth positions well in advance. Using these methods, you can target and build relationships with very high quality candidates even before you need to hire.

3. A structured process: When the interview process starts, we recommend you follow a structured process. Feel free to use our interview guide (download our “Hiring for Sales Resource Pack”) to develop your interview questions and grade candidates. In addition, we strongly recommend multiple managers interview each candidate. They should follow the interview guide and carefully grade each candidate during the interview. There should be group consensus on the candidate, or they should not be hired. For finalist candidates, consider having them run through a mock sales situation. For example, they could meet with one of your executives and hold a sales meeting to present the offering of their current company. You can be creative here, but we suggest you put them through some type of mock exercise. Finally, we suggest you have a couple of your sales team members take the finalists to a low-key lunch or dinner. This will provide insights you just won’t get in formal interviews. We’ve found this is definitely worth the extra time and effort to validate the character of your candidate.

4. Candidate testing: One area we see many firms ignore is the formal psychological testing of their finalist candidates. Adding this step to the process we’ve described will revolutionize your hiring results. There are a number of high-quality testing products available. Simple aptitude or personality tests are not adequate. Be sure you use a testing product that tests intelligence, judgment, sales aptitude, manageability, motivation, etc.

It’s About the Relationship

This may sound like a tedious process, but that’s certainly not the intent. If you’re hiring, you are growing, and that’s always fun! You will eventually form new relationships with great people who will join you on your journey. They will be a huge part of your success and valued members of your team. I always enjoy meeting prospective new team members and never feel like the hiring process is a burden. My counsel here is just to be sure you are following a well-proven plan for hiring success so you can build those lasting, high-quality relationships.