Ask any sales leader whether they want to build a high-performing team, and the immediate answer will be “Yes.” But what are the specific best practices that support this goal? Here are three that we have seen in organizations that are thriving in 2021.
First and foremost, create clarity about the salesperson’s role. A simple and effective way to begin to do this is to invest a little time in a KARE analysis. Is the role you are looking at primarily responsible for KEEPING existing customers, for ACQUIRING new customers, for RECAPTURING customers who have been lost, or for EXPANDING business within a current account? These are four very different priorities, and a written job description should clearly identify for you and for the sales professional exactly what the expectations are for the role in question.
Next, identify the high performers on your current team. Taking the role you have just identified into account, ask yourself these questions: Who would you most want to hold on to? Who would you replicate if you had the power to do that? Who would you most want to serve as a role model to other sales professionals in your organization? Bear in mind that cultural fit needs to play a role here; someone who brings in a lot of revenue, but who has entitlement issues or routinely undermines values that are important to your team and your organization (such as collaboration, process adherence, and transparency) should not be considered a high performer. Why not? Because you don’t want people imitating their approach to the job. Once you have identified the top performers, see what they have in common and create a talent profile. This is a document that identifies the attitudes, skill sets, experience, and competencies you as the leader are looking to hire, develop, and promote. You may want to do formal assessments to determine which competencies – such as independent problem-solving ability, creativity, a possibility mindset, willingness to challenge the status quo, proactivity, and goal orientation – are most likely to distinguish top performers from everyone else. (We recommend OutMatch for this kind of assessment.)
Finally, break it down to numbers. What specific behaviors are commensurate with success within this role? What are the metrics that connect to those behaviors? Don’t just focus on lagging metrics like closed sales. Those are the outcomes. What are the front-end behaviors that make those outcomes possible – the leading indicators? Identify those activities, connect them to your sales process, make them part of the salesperson’s playbook, and build them into your coaching sessions. Measure them regularly and re-assess them from time to time to make sure the KPIs you have identified, and are coaching to, are still relevant. Last year’s numbers may not be what you need to measure this year! Ensuring that the metrics you are monitoring actually support the salesperson’s success is a vitally important step: A recent survey from the Sandler Research Center, “Leading from the Front in Challenging Times,” found that 43% of the sales leaders surveyed have updated the KPIs they monitor, so as to reflect changing business conditions. Download the report here.
As the leader, it is your job to connect all the dots. You are the one who can identify the right profile, and then develop and hire people that fit the profile you have identified. You are the one who is responsible for knowing what you are seeking (and not seeking!) in new hires, what you want to develop, and what you must coach to. It is also your job to set the personal standards, such as operating principles and values, that are consistent with what high performance looks like in your organization or team.
These, then, are the proven steps for building and supporting a high-performance sales team that can create sustainable competitive advantage for your organization over time. Take them!