How can we build effective sales teams for the short and long term?
This is the perennial question that has been asked by sales managers and business leaders for years.
The simple answer is bit by bit, over time by investing wisely in the right things.
Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about investing and his insights and wise counsel hold very true for building highly effective sales teams. Here are some of his famous quotes and how we see them in relation to building sales teams
1. “There are no bonus points for complicated investments. The truly big investment idea can usually be explained in a short paragraph.”
This is true for a great sales strategy. A sales strategy should be easily understood by the sales team and the whole business and be expressed in simple language. It should clearly state the purpose of the business and its sales team, including which markets we are focusing on; the way we are going to go to market; and what values and governance we will stand to when engaging our clients and team members. Go ahead and write a simple paragraph describing your sales strategy. Could your sales team follow it easily?
We have to stop over-complicating sales teams with the obsessive focus on reporting on the numbers and results only (forecasting, pipeline, big data, results, etc.) at the expense of actually working with our sales teams to get them selling better. You cannot coach results, you can only coach activities. We need to invest in the front end getting sales people to sell better and then the results will come.
Instead of lumping all clients in one massive go-to-market plan we could instead practice micro segmentation and equip and direct our sales teams about who they need to specifically sell to and why. Result? More targeted sales activities, client conversations, better sales results and happier clients.
2. “Buy businesses that can be run by idiots. I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.”
We need to stop relying on silver bullet point solutions to run sales teams and operations and start putting in place well-prepared sales operations frameworks and good sales strategies that allow anyone stepping into our sales world to have the best chance of getting out there and selling effectively.
We need to take sales management much more seriously and start to properly train and equip sales managers to be effective sales leaders. Equipping them with the right resources to make sound decisions around sales strategy, market segmentation, account mapping, sales financials, people selection and development, how they lead and deploy their sales teams, and how they work with the executive team ensuring understanding and respect for the sales function in all its complexity.
3. “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
We need to have well prepared, ready-to-go and relevant sales operations frameworks and effective induction and development programs that actually equip salespeople from the get-go, making it easy for them to learn and earn quickly. We must desist from chucking them in the deep end, which sadly has been the standard approach to ‘salesperson induction and development’ for what seems like an eternity.
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4. “Time will tell. Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.”
Developing an effective sales team takes time, dedication, leadership and courage in the face of short termism and fads. For instance, after more than two years of working with Barrett using the Sales Essentials Learning Framework, sticking to the regular follow up sessions with their salespeople, attending the managers’ coaching sessions with us, our client has successfully established a robust sales learning and coaching framework with their sales teams. The sales managers can now implement 1-on-1 and group coaching in the field and in sales meetings and successfully facilitate sales workshops for their sales teams.
The results are there: The retention rate of salespeople has improved and their clients now accept our client’s salespeople as worthy consultants in the field rather than product salespeople (still the standard in their industry).
5. “Bad things aren’t obvious when times are good. After all, you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”
How many businesses and their sales teams have been caught short by the GFC and the many changes in the market place since? Too many. Why? Because too many were not geared for customer centricity still focused on themselves, and they did not look ahead at what was changing, nor did they really listen to their clients and what they were wanting. The result? Too many businesses and their sales teams are in a pricing-race-to-the-bottom because they do not know how to sell value instead of product, amongst other things.
So, to get things going and make sure you are on the right track, here is our sales operations checklist. Do you have the following in place?
- Sales strategy, the right market segments supported by the right sales messaging, go-to-market action plan
- The right sales structure with clear levels of accountability including standards of behaviour and values so we know what we need to do to deliver better sales results
- The right sales processes in place that can be easily taught and applied in the real world
- User friendly technology that helps us to sell and not tie us up in excessive administration
- Effective sales managers who lead, coach and support us instead of selling for us
- A continuous learning environment that encourages regular reflection and practice and keeps us up-to-date and fit for purpose
If you don’t, contact us and we will help you get started in investing wisely in your sales future.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.