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18 Ways to Build a Successful Sales Team

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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.

For many companies, sales teams are the ultimate growth engine—which makes the effective hiring of sales reps tremendously important.

Building a successful sales team means hiring sales talent that synergizes well and 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. These investments will help sales teams 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 organization, you’ll get 18 tips for putting together a team that’s successful and reliable and enjoys their work, too.


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Hire your sales team

First things first, let’s examine how to hire your sales team members strategically.

Figuring out the right time to hire, nailing down the responsibilities and expectations of the sales role, and understanding how to evaluate and select the best talent can make or break your business. 

And rightfully so: If you hire the wrong person, it can end up costing your company a fortune to find, hire, onboard, and train a replacement.

Read on to learn essential tips in the sales talent acquisition process.

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 to decide not only who you hire but why you hire them.

It’s also important to consider timing. Before you go in search of the perfect sales rep, you’ll want to make sure it’s actually the right time to hire one, whether you’re just starting to build out your sales team or you’re looking to expand the one you have. 

New hires should be hired not only when they’re likely to make a positive impact on your business but also when you’re ready to onboard them and provide training and support.

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.

Building a brand-new sales team

If you’re building a sales team from scratch, the first thing to consider is your customers’ buying process. How many people need to sign off on the purchase decision? Are there multiple friction points that may prevent them from doing so?

When you have a map of this journey, you’re able to see how many sales team members could make a complete team, plus where they can specialize. This means you have an idea of the skills you’ll need for each hire, making the recruitment process go that much smoother for building a new sales team.

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. Plus, you’ll be smarter about hiring the right people for the roles that fit their credentials.

Build out as much of a structure as possible before your first hire, including a playbook, scripts, and an initial sales process based on everything you’ve done so far because that will help your first sales hires be successful from the start.

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.

Look for business cues to know when to expand

Another element you have to consider when hiring salespeople is your business strategy, particularly in relation to your forecasting for the year ahead. 

Consider your planned activity for the coming year, quarter by quarter, before deciding whether to hire a new sales rep. 

Here are some other signs that you may be due for a sales personnel increase.

  • Lead flow: An increase in lead flow indicates that it may be a good idea to add new hires to your sales team. If you have the lead flow coming in and can support another person on the team, it’s a good sign to start hiring.
  • New product or service rollout: If you’re rolling out new products or services to the market, it could be another sign to expand your sales team. The logic here is simple: If you reassign your existing sales reps to the new products, you’ll be spreading your current team too thin, and sales for your existing products may suffer as a result.
  • Targeting a new market segment: It’s important to hire new sales reps if you’ll be targeting a different market segment. A new product offering will have a separate business use case and a unique value proposition, so it often makes sense to expand your team so that you can segregate your sales efforts by product and target market.

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 increase the likelihood of only the most qualified candidates applying, reducing your team’s workload.

Identify the job profile

Start by building a job profile for the salesperson you want to bring to the team. A job profile differs from a job description because instead of focusing on your company’s culture or product, it outlines what it will actually look like to be in the position.

Include crucial information that helps applicants understand how they’ll be selling. For example, will it be a six-week cycle or a two-year cycle? What is the price and value of the product or service? Who are the decision-makers they need to call? Will they mainly be talking to new prospects or upselling to established clients?

Looking at a salesperson’s past experiences and successes is useful, but it’s the job profile that will uncover whether they’re an ideal fit for the role you’re looking to fill.

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.

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.

The traits you should look for in a perfect sales rep include a history of measurable impact in a previous sales role, as well as intangible attributes like soft skills and passion.

Here’s the thing: The role of your sales team is to demonstrate how your product or service can improve their prospects’ lives and make them more successful. To do this, your sellers’ job goes beyond the words and statistics they say and extends to their tone and their ability to tell stories that prospects can relate to.

A great rep truly understands the uniqueness of their challenges and goals, and finds a way to communicate solutions that make prospects more successful.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you qualify your initial applicants to progress to the interview stage.

Beware of the cost of a sales mis-hire

When a new salesperson joins your team, you’re not only investing in their compensation. You’re also investing time and company resources to hire, onboard, and train them, all with the goal of increasing revenue.

If you hired the wrong person, you didn’t just lose the time and money it took you to get that person on board. You also have severance costs, the lost sales they hadn’t brought in, the reduced productivity of the rest of the team operating in damage control mode, and the opportunity cost of not hiring a better candidate.

SEARCH for the perfect interviewee

Before you get to the hiring process, you’ll want to filter your applicants and recommended candidates based on an ideal candidate profile. This way, you can quickly identify good matches for the position and move them to the interview stage.

To help this process along, we suggest following an acronym called SEARCH to define the candidate profile and the skills, experiences, and results that should match the job profile. The acronym stands for:

  • Skills the candidate needs to have to become a top performer in the role
  • Experiences from their past work
  • Attitude they use when working (e.g., What is their mindset? Can they demonstrate a collaborative attitude if the role calls for it?)
  • Results that they bring from their existing job, like the type of prospects they’re currently selling to
  • Cognitive skills (e.g. Do they do pre-call planners? Are they using a CRM, and if so, how?)
  • Habits they need to have

Once you align these traits with the specific job profile, you will have an easier time determining if a person is a match for the role.

6. Interview to find the ideal sales representative

After you’ve decided it’s time to hire a sales rep and you confidently know who you’re looking for, it’s time to get to work.

‍A strategic sales team hiring process goes beyond simply asking questions, accepting the answers, and settling on the best candidate out of those who applied.

Look at hiring as the long-term strategy, not a short-term fix

Considering the steep costs of a sales mis-hire, a long-term approach is the only right way to look at sales hiring.

It takes a significant investment of time and resources to get a new hire from starting level to a high level of competency and performance. If this investment results in a lackluster performance, it can devastate your bottom line.

The key is to take your time. Don’t rush things in the hiring process. Identify the right person, and wait for them. The biggest struggle companies have in recruitment is impatience to hire talent as soon as possible. 

But remember: If you hire the right salespeople, success will come quickly and for a long period of time. If you hire the wrong people, you have to fix that mistake, and it may take you a solid year and a half to do so.

Instead of imposing a hard deadline on your hiring process, it’s better to wait for the candidate who fits every element of your job profile, even if it takes months longer. This patience will pay off for years.

Use the ‘reversing’ technique in your interviews

By now, you have your candidate profile, and you’ve committed to waiting as long as you have to in order to hire the right person. So, how are you going to test your candidates? What are the specific steps you can take to discover and identify those perfect sales hires?

Experts suggest a technique called “reversing.” This strategy reverses the flow of information from candidates to you rather than from you to the candidates, and it’s a way to uncover the true intent behind a response or a question.

For example, an ineffective interviewer will say something like, ‘One of the important skills we’re looking for here is prospecting. How do you feel about that? What are your prospecting skills like?’ The candidate knows what you expect to hear, and they’ll tell you that.

Instead, reframe the questions so that they require them to speak about their experience and provide real examples. This will make it harder for them to come up with a rehearsed answer. If you ask them about the ways they get clients at their current job and their answer is ‘From a lot of different places,’ peel back the onion and ask a follow-up question.

You can also use the reversing technique when your candidate asks you a question. Let’s say the candidate is wondering how they’ll get leads at your company. A bad response would be to explain a good marketing strategy you have in place.

Instead, you can say, ‘Great question. How do you get your leads now?’ The candidate might say, ‘I have to get them myself, and it’s harder since we’re on commission.’ You can follow up with ‘How would you like to generate leads?’ and if the candidate responds with something like, ‘I think creating leads isn’t the best use of my time, the company should secure them,’ you’ll know how this person feels about prospecting, and you’ll be able to compare it with the job requirement.”

Get the sales team involved

When you’re adding new members to your sales team, it’s crucial to involve the entire team in the hiring process. Have the candidate get to know the type of people they’d be working with—and vice versa—and decide if it would be a good environment for them.

If the candidate feels excited about working with the team, and can clearly articulate why they’re a good fit for the company, then you have a potential new hire that is a long-term fit.

Otherwise, if your sales team members take the time to explain why a candidate may not be a good fit after working with them, it’s important to listen. Hiring despite valid protests can negatively impact the team, so it’s very important to take their feedback into consideration.

Related: Why Increasing the Diversity of Your Sales Team Improves Your Bottom Line


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Onboard your sales team

Now that you’ve found the ideal new hire, it’s time to show them the ropes. These tips will help you make sure you cover all your bases when getting your sales rep acclimated. Check out our sales rep onboarding guide for a more detailed look into the onboarding process.

7. 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.

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

8. Revisit the job profile and outline expectations

If you created the job profile outlined in the previous section, the expectations conversation should go smoothly. Otherwise, it is important to set expectations of your new sales rep’s responsibilities as early as possible.

Let your new sales rep understand what their average day should look like and the metrics and expectations by which they can regularly measure their success.

Let this be a two-way conversation: allow your new team member to outline what they expect they can accomplish and compare it to what you’d expect. It’s important also to give space, especially in the first few months, for trial-and-error as your new recruit grows accustomed to their role.

9. 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 motivate them. 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.


Unsure which sales process stages are right for your company?

Our 16 Sales Process Templates for B2B Pipelines provide top examples of how companies just like yours structure their sales processes.


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Nurture your sales team

Sales rep retention is important for business growth. And making sure that your team members feel like they’re growing and learning in their roles is critical to encouraging them to stay in their position. Here are some tips for nurturing your new hires and existing team members.

10. 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 developed and optimized—think ringless voicemails, location-based text marketing, and advanced CRM software that automates data entry and time-wasting tasks.

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

Related: 14 Things Successful Sales Reps Do Every Week

11. Encourage continuous professional development

In the spirit of continuous improvement and learning, you can incentivize and encourage your team to develop skills that will improve their sales performance, as well as your revenue. This can look like:

  • Notifying team members of skill-building seminars/webinars and encouraging them to attend by providing paid leave, transport, or some other incentive for them to attend and return to relay what they’ve learned to the rest of the team.
  • Keeping an online library of resources for team members to check out and be rewarded for reading/implementing
  • Encouraging mentorship programs in larger teams, where you can offer an incentive for more experienced team members to mentor new hires.

Steps such as these help to encourage a willingness to learn and a growth mindset in your sales team.

12. 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 going, 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. For instance, 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 and 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.

Reporting & analytics in Nutshell

Learn more about Nutshell’s reporting and analytics features


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13. 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, let them know so they can continue to be a positive influence on your sales. If you notice a sales rep underperforming, let them know about the situation and work with them to find solutions to the problem. 

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

14. 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.

Empower your sales team

As a sales manager, you are as much an overseer as a solution provider for your sales team. If you notice issues that could be solved more efficiently, it would be your responsibility to do so. Here are some short—and long-term solutions for empowering your sales team.

15. 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 send 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, it 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!

Looking for an easy-to-use CRM with all the features you need to boost sales?

Nutshell has what you’re looking for.

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16. 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

17. 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

18. 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 the time and effort you invest will pay off. If you implement some of these suggestions, you will be able to hire the best people, meet and exceed your sales goals, and have a happy, healthy workforce.

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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