How do you successfully scale a top-notch sales team?
It’s a question that many growing companies face. Unfortunately, all too often, they go about it in a haphazard manner instead of using a well-thought-out strategic and tactical plan.
If the goal is to have an exceptional sales force of 50 people or more, then there are 7 key aspects to keep in mind:
1. Make sure you have someone who is experienced and talented at leading a sales force. In nearly all cases, this is not the founder or owner of the company. An investment in an excellent sales leader will reap huge rewards long-term. A good sales leader will first determine how best to go-to-market with a sales force in terms of whether the product and/or service would best be sold via remote methods or face-to-face—or a combination of both.
2. Develop a sales profile to use during the recruiting, selection and hiring process. This is usually a time when HR may need to be involved and a good HR partner can be invaluable. But HR is, in most cases, not good at hiring sales people. A good sales leader needs to be heavily involved in the recruiting process.
3. Hiring people who have the potential ability to be excellent sales people is both and art and a science. For the science, use the sales profile to assist in decision-making. The art aspect is more determined by a good sales leader with excellent EQ to assess an individual’s internal motivation.
4. Know the characteristics you’re looking for. An ideal candidate already possesses good business acumen, good interpersonal communication skills and “fire in the belly” (internal motivation). Everything else—sales skills, product and industry knowledge, etc.—can be taught.
5. Don’t underestimate the critical role of onboarding. This cannot be done by osmosis but rather requires a well-thought-out and planned process of educating and training to ensure success. Leaders can start assessing the sales person after the onboarding process. Early on, these key activities can be good leading indicators until the critical key lagging indicators (contracts and revenue) can be evaluated. Additionally, within the first few weeks of hiring the person, the sales leader needs to have the all-important discussion of assisting with the development of an individual business development plan that both agree and commit to.
6. Good sales people will not last long under a culture of micro-management. Optimizing sales performance is a combination of hiring talented people who have the potential to be high-revenue producing sales people and training them exceedingly well—spending time with and coaching them often, finding ways to inspire them and track the agreed-on measures and metrics as appropriate. “As appropriate” means to be sure not to micro-manage.
7. The sales leader must develop a plan for the number of sales people to have on board and actively selling on a yearly basis. This plan should include a spreadsheet with the names of current sales people, potential need of any replacements (voluntary or involuntary), and new sales people to be added and when.
Scaling a Sales Force: What You Can Count On
The rule of thumb is that one sales leader can successfully onboard three sales people per year. If the company has more leaders and/or a well-developed onboarding process, it can hire more sales people per year.
Another rule of thumb is that for every two new salespeople hired, only one of them will be with you in three years, on average. Therefore, sales candidate recruiting needs to be ongoing when the plan is to ramp up a sales force.
Don’t make the mistake of going into the process unprepared. Ultimately, sales people will give their very best effort and produce high results when they know their sales leader and company are behind them in helping ensure success for all involved—company, customer and employee.