When a business moves into growth phase, one of the areas you need to scale quickly is your sales team. Amid the “war for talent”, there’s a temptation to hire anyone who seems skilled and available. But grabbing whomever you can for the sake of increasing headcount can lead to disaster, if they’re not the right people.
Building a sales team is much like building a sports team. You need to have coverage across the board, and hiring people to “fill” a gap in your team is perfect. You will never be able to hire the “perfect, unicorn sales professional”, so having a team that complements each other is a great alternative. This may include someone with experience in a specific vertical, or someone with more tech savviness that you can utilise to train the remainder of the team.
Cultural fit is a must. There’s no point hiring the best sales rep if all they do is create anxiety amongst the rest of the team. This is only going to take up more of your time, and restrict you from revenue generating activities.
Consider “the chicken or the egg” – which comes first? Do you scale at pace and bring in multiple sales reps at a time – meaning you have pods that work together throughout their on-boarding, or do you set the systems and structure first, then hire? We went with option 1 and focused on hiring sales professionals who we knew could add real value to stage 2, which was stabilisation.
Training seems like a simple concept, but effective training is critical in getting your sales team ramped ASAP. Having a common language that all sales reps speak too will enable them to collaborate between themselves, thus allowing more time to scale and implement systems and structure.
Before you hire, ensure you have your lead generation strategy locked in and rock solid. There’s nothing more deflating for a new sales rep than getting through training and realising that there aren’t the quality or quantity of leads they thought there would be. This also leads into the next point, which is to hire resourceful sales people. If you’re growing your start-up, you need them to understand that not everything will be perfect. They will need to demonstrate the ability to think outside the box when things don’t go to plan.
At GO1.com, we have scaled from one account executive (me), to 26 spanning both Australia and the US. The largest part of our growth has been in the last nine months when we went from four account executives to 26. This brings its own challenges, but having the following steps in place will allow you to hit your growth targets.
The five key steps to scaling:
Get your fundamentals in place
Ensure you have the fundamental basics of a sales team. This includes a CRM, lead generation strategy, commission plan and a basic user profile of your target audience.
Have a basic on-boarding schedule
Establish how you want to train your new reps. You need direction and an end goal, to know the fundamentals of your training message, and to deliver that to get them started.
Hire for cultural fit
The wrong person can damage company culture, team harmony and performance. Cultural fit includes having resourceful sales reps.
Hire resourceful reps
Resourceful people can be used for customer collateral as they are on the front line getting feedback from the customer. They will then have a better understanding of the sales cycle, meaning you can refine your training, and the sales process along the way.
Use data to drive your next phase.
Using the right metrics will allow you to better control the situation and know where the gaps are. Simple things like understanding where deals are falling out of the funnel so you can refine and train accordingly.
Adrian Hill is the Regional Head of Sales at GO1.com. He gathered the fundamental skills required to lead teams of people during his time in the Australian Defence Force.