How to Build a Successful Sales Team
Running a successful subscription business depends on two critical areas—retaining the customers you already have and selling to new ones. We’ve already discussed retention and churn rates in some detail, covering areas like customer success teams, engagement, and optimization. It’s time to explore the other side of things—how your sales team can drive success for your products and services.
We’ll discuss the practical steps you can take today to build a stronger sales team, share their success, provide training and resources, and create a culture that will help your business thrive.
The Characteristics of a Good Salesperson
Before we get into what you can do, it’s worth exploring what a truly successful salesperson looks like. Ideally, we’d be looking for the following behaviors:
- Relationship builder: Establishes a long-term relationship with the potential client, is focused on meeting their needs and selling services for years into the future.
- Problem solver: Builds recommendations and services around specific issues that the client is trying to solve and presents your services as an ideal solution.
- Aligns with client needs: Ensures that the product is a good fit for the client’s requirements, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
- Self-starting: Proactively works on their sales, kicks off communications, and takes the initiative when communicating or following up with clients.
- Company culture advocate: Understands the company culture and its importance to sales and encourages and shares in others’ success.
- Always learning: Maintains an open-minded approach to new tools, best practices, attitudes, and other ways of doing things.
Let’s review how you can encourage these characteristics in your sales team members.
Provide Clear Personal Salesperson Objectives Linked to Company Strategy
It’s important for your salespeople to know how their professional objectives link to your subscription company’s success. Every role and person in your organization should have clear, SMART objectives that directly link to your overall company strategy. For example:
- Strategy: Enhance customer relationships through technology > Objective: Assist and feedback on the implementation of a new CRM system.
- Strategy: Reduce the customer churn rate > Objective: Engage with the customer success team to identify at-risk customers and reduce the churn rate by ten percent.
Create a Friendly, Cooperative Company Culture
Company culture gets talked about a lot as a magical elixir for solving your workplace woes, but, of course, it’s never that easy. Simply put, company culture is “the way we do things around here,” and it’s driven by how employees feel and the behavior and attitudes they exhibit as a result. Changing culture can be tricky, but here are some great places to start. In brief, though, culture needs to come from the top, be demonstrated on a daily basis, and lead to positive results that help employees feel engaged.
Here are some key areas to focus on:
- Encouraging managers and supervisors to collaborate with employees to help them progress.
- Creating a feedback and opinion sharing process, without pushback or recrimination.
- Sharing how employees contribute to their own, their team, their department, and overall business success.
- Asking employees what needs to change in the business, or what they think of recent changes, and acting on the answers.
- Rewarding excellent behaviors in the organization.
- Pushing people to work across teams and departments.
Setup Mentoring and Buddy Systems in Your Sales Teams
Creating interpersonal, supporting networks in the workplace can be a significant boost for the self-confidence and esteem of everyone involved. Typically, a mentoring system will mean an experienced salesperson guiding and advising a more junior-level staff or a new starter. Buddy systems are similar, although they’re less formal and the buddies will typically be of similar seniority. These networks encourage people to ask questions and share knowledge—they’re of great benefit both to the individuals involved and to the team as a whole.
Celebrate and Share Sales Employee Success
Public recognition is an important part of positive company culture and makes a huge difference to your employees. When your salespeople, or other members of your workforce, achieve a significant goal or make an impactful contribution, be sure to recognize and reward them publicly. This demonstrates the good behaviors that people are showing and encourages others to do the same.
Establish Best Practices and Learning Resources for Your Sales Team
You need to set expectations of what a successful sales team looks like. One of the best ways to achieve this is through sharing best practices around the skills and approaches needed in the sales cycle. For example:
- How to initiate a conversation with a new lead or prospect.
- How to reinforce and build on relationships by focusing on customer needs.
- How to “read between the lines” and understand what a customer really means.
- How to proactively manage communications.
- How to get in contact with decision-makers and stakeholders.
- How to move towards closing the deal.
- How to remain engaged with customers, not just show-up for the subscription renewal
You can achieve this in several ways:
- Identifying employees who already demonstrate these behaviors and asking them to mentor others.
- Finding a good sales training company that can work with your sales team to teach the necessary skills.
- Providing online, multimedia resources that provide tips and techniques to strengthen these attitudes.
Give Sales People the Right Tools for the Job
Finally, it’s vital to give your salespeople the technology and resources they need to perform effectively. Inefficiencies are typically caused more by cumbersome processes or ill-fitting technology than by poorly-motivated or skilled employees. It makes sense, then, to focus on getting your technology right and integrated into your business. For a sales team, that means the following areas:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Your CRM tool is the software your salespeople will use all day, every day. It should be easy for them to track customer interactions and communications, and for you to build in the process steps needed to move customers through the sales pipeline. Ideally, your CRM will integrate across your other tools, removing the need for manual intervention or duplication of effort.
Sales Forecasting, Funnel, and Pipeline Metrics
Your sales team needs excellent visibility of all the leads and prospects moving through the system. This means putting your forecasting and sales measurement software front-and-center. Ideally, this will be integrated with other company analytics and will show trends over time, so your sales team can measure their own success.
Cross-Business Initiatives and Analytics
The third piece of the puzzle is understanding what’s happening in other parts of the business. For example, if marketing is launching a new promotional effort, your sales team needs to understand the details so they can deal with inquiries. If your development team is planning a change to product features and functionality, your sales team must be able to explain the new benefits to customers. Ideally, you can create cross-functional working parties, supported by software, to achieve these goals.
There you have it—our recommendations for building a successful sales team. Try introducing them one at a time and track the difference it makes to your conversions, revenue, and retention rates. You can keep building on what works, boost your subscriptions, and create a growing and sustainable customer base.