Here’s a question we obsess over here at Base: “How do great sales leaders build high performance sales teams?”
To find the answer, I met with dozens of successful sales leaders. My goal was to learn how they run their sales teams to drive explosive growth for their companies.
As I met more and more leaders, some very clear patterns emerged. Here are the 7 elements that those high performance sales teams share:
#1 Customer Obsession
Great sales teams are driven by creating real value for their customers. They deeply understand their customers needs and requirements, and make sure those can be solved by the product they are selling.
Sales professionals at such teams will sometimes tell potential prospects to go look for a solution somewhere else. They understand the importance of long term customer success and know that it is driven by creating tangible, measurable value for customers. If the value is not there to begin with, it is impossible to artificially manufacture it.
This level of integrity allows them to build long lasting relationships with prospects and customers. In turn, prospects come back when the time is right and are happy to recommend their peers to specific sales professionals whenever the need arises. Why? Because they gained their trust.
#2 Commitment to Excellence
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell Tweet this
Aristotle once mused: “Excellence is never an accident”. High performance sales teams establish a standard of performance and are committed to perform at that standard.
Excellence starts with the smallest of details. Here are 4 examples of such small details that I’ve heard from the sales leaders I met:
• Do the LinkedIn pages of your sales reps look professional?
• Are your sales materials perfected (no typos, beautifully designed)?
• What do team members say when they initially answer the phone?
• Are they writing concise and thoughtful emails?
Such level of excellence has two key outcomes:
1. Consistent level of performance – the level of performance is perfected across the team which ensures consistent results
2. It radiates to prospects – prospects who are engaged with such sales professionals develop a great impression of the company. This helps build the credibility that the product and the service will be of the same level.
#3 Product (Service) Mastery
Have you ever had a conversation with a salesperson who failed to answer the most basic questions about the product they are selling? How did that make you feel about the company or product?
Great sales teams put a lot of effort behind training their team members on the product and service they are selling. Even if they have a technical person who will be demoing the product, they master the details of the product they offer. They go deep in understanding the technical details behind the product because they know one important thing – at the moment of truth, the right answer to a product question can make the difference between winning or losing a deal.
#4 Scientific Rigor
One of the most important, and maybe surprising, patterns of high performance sales teams is that they approach sales as a scientific process. Every single aspect of the sales process is measured and calculated. The team leaders meet frequently to analyze the metrics and use the insights to introduce game changing improvements to their team’s process.
Such sales teams know that sales can be boiled down to a formula that describes the different drivers of their sales. They break down their sales process to a granular level and measure conversions at every step to understand how to improve their performance.
Many of those teams are even taking it a step further. They will analyze the attributes of great team members and build a profile of the ultimate team member. They will then go on to score candidates against those attributes to make sure they’re bringing in the same type of successful reps.
#5 Tech Savviness
The right technology can transform how a sales team sells and great sales leaders know it. Sending a sales team into the battlefield without the best tools at their disposal is unacceptable. New sales technologies help reps communicate with prospects effectively and get real time insights about their deals. Leveraging such tools, reps can stay on top of their sales activities and make consistent progress towards their goal. The outcome? professional and productive team members.
This is even more true today, when great modern sales technologies are easy to implement, affordable and available on both PCs and mobile devices.
#6 Plan B… and Plan C
One of the most powerful aspects of sales is that both the goals and the results are extremely measurable. Since John Patterson invented the quota system (more on that in a future post), most sales teams are measured in quotas. There’s a very specific number that the team has to hit collectively and there’s a specific number each individual member has to hit personally.
One thing that came up again and again in the conversations we had with stellar sales leaders, is the concept of Pipeline Development or Quota Attainment Planning. Simply put, if it is the end of the quarter, your quarterly goal is $1M and you only have one deal you are working on that is worth $500k, you will not hit your quota. No one will show up on the last day of the quarter and just drop a $1M order form on you. I can promise you that.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Tweet this
So what do high performance sales teams do? They plan. They know early in the quarter (or month) how their pipelines will look. They make sure they have enough pipeline to meet their numbers and get proactive if they don’t. But they don’t stop there, they also have a plan B in case a top deal drops and a plan C if plan B fails. This is how they eliminate any scenario of not meeting their quota.
#7 Competitive Spirit
Great sales people hate losing. But there’s a difference between hating to lose and doing something about it. High performance sales teams look at every lost deal as an opportunity to get better. They dive deep to analyze what happened so they can do better the next time around.
They will outwork the competition and provide great value to their prospects during the sales process. They will study their competition with dedication and learn things like:
• How good are their products?
• What are the product and service weaknesses?
• What are their strengths?
• What are the competitor’s customers not happy about?
• What is their competitor’s pricing?
• What kind of discounts do they give?
• How does the competitor talk about their own product?
This gives them a massive advantage over the salesperson from a competing company and makes them industry experts. Prospects respect that and react accordingly.
Here’s an actionable item – if you are a sales leader (or the CEO), you can take the list above and honestly score your team against it. It might show you where the gaps are in terms of achieving greatness in sales.
One last surprising finding – the personalities of the sales leaders I met varied widely. Greatness can come in many flavors but shares the same patterns.
At Base, we like to think about ourselves as students of sales greatness. We promise to keep sharing our findings on how to build a remarkable sales teams.