15 Ways to Build a Successful Sales Team

As a sales manager, you’re ultimately responsible for hitting your company’s monthly or quarterly sales goals, but you can’t do it by yourself.

Even if you personally worked the phones all day long, you’d still need a team of sales professionals and a streamlined system in place to grow your business and meet your quotas.

Building a successful sales team means providing your team with all the resources they need to reach their goals—from motivation and professional development to up-to-date equipment, software tools, and rewards—and these investments are going to help your sales team fill their pipelines and make more sales.

Ack, that sounds like so much! How can I do that? What steps do I need to take?

Don’t worry. We’re here to help. In this guide to how to build a sales team, you’ll get 15 tips for putting together a team that’s successful and reliable and enjoys their work, too.

1. Know who you need to hire and why

Imagine this scenario: You recently put out a job listing for a new salesperson. Out of the resumes you received, one comes from an applicant who has been in sales for 25 years and one applicant is fresh out of college and hasn’t held a sales position yet. It’s going to be up to you decide not only who you hire, but why you hire them.

Before you can truly understand what kind of hire you need, you will need to take a look at your current sales environment. Who do you already have on staff? What skills might some of them be lacking which could be met with a new hire?

Need someone with experience who can hit the ground running? Better hire the veteran with all that experience. Need someone who may not have any preconceived notions of what sales is supposed to be but is overly enthusiastic and willing to try out all sorts of tactics? Make an appointment with the newbie out of college. Don’t just make hiring decisions based on “I need a body in that seat.” Make the decision based on who you need, for what position, and what role they can play on your team.

The goal is to build a successful team, not just fill seats with any warm body.

For a deeper dive into building a sales team: How to Hire a Sales Team: The Complete Guide

2. Develop a sales team role structure

Every sales rep has a slightly different role, whether it’s simply a specialty with certain demographics or they have entirely separate responsibilities. Your sales team might consist of:

  • Sales managers
  • Account executives
  • Sales specialists
  • Customer service representatives

Before you bring other people into these roles, take the time to understand them yourself. You’ll know how each role is different but just as essential for your success.

3. Scale your sales team according to your business

One of the most important things you can do when building a sales team is to ensure you create one that fits the scale of your business. If you’re a smaller business, you don’t need to have a large, full-sized sales team. Similarly, if you’re a large business with a significant number of customers and leads, you want to build a sales team with personnel to support that.

If you’re a small business, your sales team can grow as you grow. Consider starting with one or two representatives who can make sales calls, then hire for more roles as your business increases in size. As a larger business, it might be best to start with hiring a sales manager(s) as well as sales representatives.

4. Create accurate job descriptions

Clearly defined expectations make a team more efficient and more motivated to do their part. Setting them begins in the hiring process. To bring in the best talent for the roles you have, start by making detailed, accurate job descriptions. This will let potential hires know whether they’ll be a good fit. Accurate job descriptions also make it more likely that only the most qualified candidates will apply, so it also reduces your team’s workload.

5. Recruit and select your candidates

Now, it’s time to build your team. Your hiring team can reach out to new recruits online, or you can look internally and see if anyone is due for a promotion. This goes back to knowing who you need to hire. Consider whether you need someone who knows your company’s values or you’d rather bring in new ideas from outside representation.

6. Train and onboard your sales team

Your training and onboarding process needs to give your new sales reps everything they need to succeed. During the first few weeks of your new hire’s employment, give them resources to understand your company’s goals, the average sales process, and common troubleshooting options.

The onboarding process can be more than reading articles and taking quizzes, though, especially when you’re hiring a group of people at once. Take them through roleplay scenarios so they can understand how to react in real-world situations. Assign your favorite books on the sales process and have discussions about the most crucial parts.

A new hire’s onboarding lays the foundation for their entire career with your company. It’s up to you to make it comprehensive enough to ensure success.

7. Define the compensation structure

Of course, everyone on your team wants to get paid. It’s one of the top things your prospective hires will look at, so be sure to have clear guidelines about whether your compensation is based on:

  • Salary: Regardless of sales, you pay your reps the same rate, whether it’s a yearly salary or hourly rate.
  • Commission: Your rep’s payment is based on how much profit they can bring back to your business. Commission-based compensation often has a low base pay rate supplemented by sales completed.

Before you make your decision, do some research on your average buyer’s shopping habits. What’s the ratio of first-time buyers to upsellers? If you’re going with a commission-based strategy, will that change how you compensate your team?

You want to maximize your bottom line, but you also have to pay your team enough to incentivize them to stay motivated. By understanding how your customers buy and the number of sales you can expect from any one rep, you can get the best of both worlds. 

8. Always be learning

Remember when selling meant literally combing through the Yellow Pages and calling all the phone numbers in hopes of reaching a live person willing to buy your product? No? Well, that’s how it was done! Now imagine if you had your team working such an outdated technique. They wouldn’t be all that successful!

Being successful in sales today requires constant preparation, practice, classes, and education. New techniques are constantly being worked on and optimized; think ringless voicemails, location-based text marketing, and advanced CRM software that automates data entry and time-wasting tasks. (Ahem, Nutshell.) You get the picture.

Your sales team will need consistent help staying up-to-date with industry norms, best practices, new software, and better sales techniques. Help them out by offering education like online classes, books on selling, attendance of sales seminars, and other learning opportunities to ensure their (and your) success.

Related: 14 Things Successful Sales Reps Do Every Week

9. Set clear, easy-to-understand goals and priorities

You wouldn’t set out on a long drive with the family without any idea of how to get where you’re doing, would you? The same should be true for your sales team’s daily work life. Work with your team to set realistic goals for the group and for individuals.

No one understands your business, your clients and customers, or your market better than you do, so it will be up to you to set whatever goals you deem necessary for the team to meet. Make them too unrealistic and motivation could fall. Make them too easy, and your team will coast at the end of the month instead of hustling.

Goals can be set on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, always keeping in mind what you would like your year-over-year progress to look like. Say last year you had 10% more sales than the previous year; would it be ok to set a 15% revenue increase goal for this year? (Btw, Nutshell’s reporting software can help you set sales targets that will compel your team to give their best efforts without driving them insane.)

Whether these goals are big, scary, “We’re never going to get there but we might as well try” type goals, or reasonable “Let’s try to set five more appointments this month” goals, teams thrive when they have clear, easy to understand goals to shoot for.


Want to be a better leader?

The Sales Manager’s Survival Guide includes 70+ expert tips on hiring, coaching, and motivating your sales team. Download it today!


10. Communicate regularly and give feedback

One of the best ways people learn is by receiving feedback from their peers and superiors. Whether it’s positive or negative, sales representatives need to know what they’re doing right or wrong in order to improve. As a manager, it’s your job to stay in touch with your sales team and regularly provide helpful feedback and encouragement to them.

If you notice someone doing an exceptional job, make sure they know that so they can continue to be a positive influence on your sales. If you notice someone underperforming, make them aware of the situation and work with them to find solutions to the problem. 

Providing feedback to sales representatives isn’t a matter of simply pointing out what they’re doing wrong but helping them to improve and better themselves so everyone can work to the best of their ability.

11. Listen to your team

At the same time, don’t discourage your representatives from offering their own feedback as well. Just as your team can benefit from feedback, so can you. One of the key tips for building a successful sales team is to listen to your team and make sure they know their thoughts, opinions, and ideas matter to you.

Your sales representatives are on the front lines, so to speak. This means they know what systems and processes work when it comes to successfully reeling in and converting sales leads. If they come to you about making improvements to processes within the sales department, hear them out.

A good manager listens to their team and works with them to help create a work environment that’s constantly improving.

12. Implement time-saving and efficiency tools

As mentioned earlier, salespeople used to have to dig through the Yellow Pages for contact information. Those days are long gone, and your team should be set up to take advantage of all the amazing software available to them.

For example, a modern sales automation platform might have features like personal email sequences, which sends an automated series of templated emails to your contacts, or click-to-call, which is exactly what it sounds like: you click a number in your database and the call is automatically made and recorded. Once the call is over, the call is logged for future reference.

Thanks to always-improving technology, today’s salespeople have access to automation tools, collaboration software, remote access to sales materials, and cloud-based CRMs to make their jobs quicker and easier than in the past. Be sure to give them the right tools for the job!

13. Provide incentives

Sales can be a difficult gig, and if you had become a sales manager after being a salesperson, you know this deep down. Some days are just plain bad, filled with rejection and hangups. So why do people keep showing up for work? Why would you keep showing up for work?

Humans need the motivation to continue pushing uphill, even when faced with constant challenges. You can give your sales team that motivation by offering incentives for meeting and beating goals, going above and beyond, and finding new lead sources for their pipelines. Whether those incentives include money, days off, extra vacation time, flex time, or some other form of award, keeping your team motivated will pay off and help you meet your benchmarks.

Related: How to Use Slack to Motivate Your Sales Team

14. Measure progress and success

How can you know how you are doing sales-wise if you aren’t tracking progress and results? All the calls in the world won’t result in more sales if you don’t continuously measure and optimize your processes. But here’s the kicker: You need to be measuring real numbers and not just “how many calls were made today?”

Some things to keep in mind:

Calls do not create revenue. If you called 1,000 people and made one sale, or called 100 people and made five, which is the better measure of how your salespeople are performing?

All leads are not created equal. Be sure you are providing your team with a healthy sales funnel full of actual potential clients, not just a random list of people. Spend money on targeted advertising, buy lead lists of contacts in your target industry, or generate leads organically through an inbound marketing campaign.

Existing clients can be easier sales. What happens after a sale? Does the client disappear, never to be heard from again? Or did your salesperson have a good relationship with them, which kept them coming back again each time they needed something? Keeping track of your client retention rate is a valuable way to measure how well your sales team is performing.

Related: 4 steps to quality CRM data

15. Establish a healthy company culture

No one—OK, almost no one—wants to work in a windowless room, under yellow lighting, at desks they have to share with five other people, for a miserable boss, and for less money than they could earn elsewhere. So what can you do to create a company culture that encourages your team members to show up and do their best?

You can provide them with some key things, including:

  • Remote work opportunities.
  • Regular salary increases.
  • Professional development classes.
  • A culture of open communication between staff levels.
  • Feedback and encouragement
  • Recognition of their achievements.
  • Company-wide events, competitions, and games.

Good company culture starts at the top, and, well, that’s you. You are the one looking to create a successful sales team, and you’re going to be the one responsible for supporting them. A poor company culture could result in higher-than-average staff turnover, which hurt your sales and company dynamic if you have to continually hire and onboard new employees.

In Conclusion…

Creating a successful sales team will take some work, but in the end, the time and effort you invest will pay off. You will be able to hire the best people, meet and exceed your sales goals, and have a happy, healthy workforce if you implement some of these suggestions for your sales team.

Trust us, we know—we live and breathe sales every day, and if you need some assistance, Nutshell is designed to help you get there.

Nutshell’s all-in-one CRM software helps your sales team organize and stay on top of leads so your company can continue to convert leads into loyal customers. With pipeline management tools, your sales team can keep track of where leads are coming from, prioritize them, and connect with each of them in a timely manner.

Nutshell takes the headaches out of contact management and streamlines it into a process that spells success for you. Learn more about how Nutshell can round out your sales team by starting a free trial today or attending a live virtual demo.

This article is part of our Playbook for Managing a Sales Team.


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