The sales team, more than any other functional area of the business, needs to work well.  If they don’t, all other functional areas of the business have nothing to do.  So, with that in mind, here are five elements that are essential to building a strong sales team.

  1. Hire for alignment.

Take time up front to profile the type of salesperson you want working for you.  Identify the skills, values, and motivations that drive success for the position.  Then screen candidates for those criteria.  Interview only the ones that align well with the profile.  This course of action may mean more time in the hiring process, but that’s okay.  Mis-aligned hires usually become bad hires.  Bad hires cost money.  Invest the time up front to avoid the money loss down the road.

  1. Honestly evaluate existing team members.

If your new hire standards are high, your retention strategy should be equal to that.  Look at your existing team and determine if they are performing up to the standards you desire and meeting the revenue goals.  This step is not necessarily a “cleaning house” strategy.  Rather, it is an opportunity to work on alignment.  You want to align people with objectives and identify where there are mismatches.   Determine the gaps between an individual’s performance and the roles and expectations you have for them.  Where gaps exist, you can take corrective action through either improved performance or replacement.

  1. Be a desired place to work

The first two elements speak to attracting and retaining top-level performers.  Doing this requires building an environment and culture they desire, and that entails more than just money.  Numerous studies identify what motivates people – particularly what motivates them in the workplace.  Money was not at the top of the list.  The top motivators are often the work environment, the level of respect and value afforded someone, and co-workers.  Money usually ranked no higher than third, often coming in fourth or fifth.  So, a desired place to work should include a product or service that elicits confidence and pride, a sense of meaningfulness derived from the work and the culture, and high compensation commensurate with great results.

  1. Clarity

Set clear goals and expectations.  Be clear in communicating both the goals and the expectations.  Be clear about accountability and tracking of results.  If your hiring process is clear in terms of the type of individual you want on your team, then leadership needs to be clear in what you want from them.  The best salespeople are self-motivated.  They just need to know the direction you want them to go.

  1. Focus on Relationships First

A universal among great salespeople are they are masters at building strong relationships.  They recognize that clients buy based on trust which requires building a strong relationship.  For potential hires, ask references how they felt about the person.  For existing salespeople ask clients how they feel about working with your salesperson.  Build your team with people who put the person and the relationship first, even before the deal.  A deal for the sake of a deal is a transaction, usually one-time in nature.  A relationship produces dividends over a long period of time.

The leader’s role in building a sales team is architect and builder.  Recognize the traits and characteristics that make-up a winning salesperson.  Hire successful people in order to produce successful results.  Lead the team and hold them accountable.  When all of the pieces come together, the entire organization gets very busy.