When I started my business in 1991, I did everything and anything that the business needed, and that included sales of course, and since I was on a shoe-string budget, I didn’t have the dollars to build an inside sales team (or outside) from the ground up, yet.
Fast forward many years to 2017, (and just before I sold the company to private equity) and I was leading one of the largest privately held telecom companies in the nation. Our company was producing so many sales leads on a daily basis that we didn’t know what to do with them.
By the way, if you want to listen to this blog, it’s been recorded into a podcast. You can find that here:
Building Your Inside Sales Team, and Outside Sales Team
The Early Days of Building the Sales Team
First, I had to start with me, and when the dollars followed, at a future date, I would be ready to develop the sales team.
Without sales, there’s no business, so I spent a considerable amount of my time in both sales and marketing.
I was young, naive, and full of energy. Enough energy to canvass every single floor in most of the large commercial office buildings in downtown Toronto.
Most of the buildings didn’t want someone canvassing their clients from floor to floor, and consequently, I was politely escorted out of most buildings.
I did this for many years, and it worked, as I was able to grow my business from a single-employee founder-led fledgling company to a thriving and profitable organization with over 50 employees that survived for 27 years.
By my third year in business, recognizing that I wouldn’t be able to be the business’s entire sales department, I hired our first salesperson.
My situation is probably not that much different from most of the other small business owners who started as their business’s first and best salesperson.
You’ve done a great job, but in order to grow your business, you need to scale beyond a team of just you. It’s difficult to find people who are as passionate about your business as you are.
It’s important to remember:
You’re the owner, and although every person you hire will care about your business, it’s extremely rare to find an individual who will put the time, passion, and enthusiasm into a business similar to what an owner will do.
While you’re working on weekends and spending 60, 70, and sometimes even 80 hours a week working, your other team members likely won’t spend that kind of time working in your business. And if you do manage to find someone like you, who cares for, and is as passionate about the business’s success as you are, then hang onto that person.
Building The Inside Sales Team, and Outside Sales Team
One of the things that prove the most challenging for an owner in building a sales team is the difficulty in letting go of sales, and for a good reason. Sales are what keeps the doors open, lights on, bills paid, and profit in your pocket.
Sales are generally the one thing most business owners do well. You started your business, you know your products and processes, you’re passionate about your product and company, and you’ve built the business to where it is.
You’re also likely your business’s best salesperson. And therein lies the owner’s dilemma.
If your marketing is working, and your business is bringing in leads, there’s a temptation to take the best leads for yourself. If you do that, you’re missing an opportunity to train your salespeople on your business’s process, style, and sales methodology.
Building a Sales Team – The Paradox
How do you scale and develop your business when …
- You’re the best salesperson
- You don’t want to let go of leads
- It’s challenging to trust other people to sell because not everybody is like you
Is it possible that you’re the business’s bottleneck?
It’s often difficult for a business owners to see themselves as the bottleneck to success, especially when you work so hard to close as much business as you do.
It’s also difficult to know when to step aside and let others move in.
The reality is, if you are trying to grow the business, you will come to realize that you are a part of the problem. Yes, you are a fantastic salesperson, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t do a great job as well.
Every business needs “A” players, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to build a sales team. I address that in this post: 4 Essential Steps To Build a Successful Sales Team
We’re now ready to move into …
The 9 Steps to Build Your Inside Sales Team (and Outside Sales Team) From The Ground Up
With the owner’s dilemma in mind, I’ve listed the steps you need to take to build your sales team.
Many of the following steps happen concurrently, and in many cases, the order will change. Nonetheless, I’ve captured most of the salient points.
And, yes, I will also address the owner’s dilemma in greater detail as we move along.
1: Design Your Sales Team and Designate the Positions/Roles you Require
I like the baseball diamond analogy. Not because I’m necessarily a big baseball fan, but because it’s an analogy I used with one of my previous sales managers as we built out our sales team.
What’s baseball have to do with building a sales team?
Nothing actually other than my sales manager and I frequently talked about gaps in the sales team and what positions we needed to field, and he likes baseball, so the analogy stuck.
Building our sales team was no different than the work a baseball manager does in building their roster. The concept of using the baseball field positions is an example of what positions we needed to fill on our team.
Who needs to play which position?
We drew a picture of a baseball diamond on the board and started filling in different positions. The outfielders were the inside sales team. They catch the pop-ups and make the long throws to the 2nd baseman (passing leads to the other reps).
Regardless of what analogy you use, and whether the concept of baseball works for you or not, you need to make a plan for your organization and decide how many roles you require and what part each person is going to fill.
As you contemplate the types of roles you want, you need to consider how many ADRs (account development reps) you need, otherwise known as an inside sales team (person). This person finds leads and passes them to other account executives.
You can coordinate your reps by area of expertise or specialization, for example:
- Reps to cover territories (spots in the city, country)
- Some reps manage national accounts and other reps manage smaller accounts
- Certain reps focus on product categories
The larger the inside sales team and outside sales team, the more critical specialization become. When you have two or three salespeople, this isn’t something you typically need to be concerned with. Everyone plays all positions.
Concerning hiring, the adage “hire slow, fire fast” comes into play.
Before you begin the sales hiring process, consider what role you’re trying to fill (see step 2) and what the ideal candidate will be doing. When you’re interviewing, be up-front with the candidate on the role you’re hoping to hire for.
Whether you’re hiring your first salesperson and building sales your team from the ground up, or you’re now ready to hire your fifth salesperson, you need to understand what role the reps(s) are each going to play, and what specialization, if any, each individual will have. Or, mobbing back to my baseball team analogy, which position in the field each is going to fill.
2: Develop Your Sales Hiring Process Before You Start Building Your Sales Team From the Ground Up
When interviewing salespeople, you’re looking for someone coachable. If you perceive that they’re not coachable then move on, and by the way, this is probably the most difficult of all the traits to hire for.
Having industry and product knowledge is fine, but don’t hire someone just because they have product knowledge. I’ve seen, all too often, people with product knowledge that just don’t how to sell.
Sell me this pen …. I’ve had fun with this one over the last couple of years, and in fact, one of my most popular blog posts of the last year has been: Sell Me This Pen. I Tackle the Wolf of Wall Street Sales Riddle. Do You Know the Right Way to Sell the Pen?
In the movie, there’s a scene where Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Jordan Belfort, asks a room of salespeople to “sell him a pen”.
Belfort gives the pen to his “best” salesperson who Belfort believes can sell anything. You can watch the scene below.
Selling the pen isn’t about selling the attributes of the pen. It’s about selling yourself, and understanding the needs of the customer.
Here’s what I wrote in the blog post: What you’re selling when you sell the customer the pen isn’t the pen, you’re selling yourself. And you sell yourself by making yourself likable.
During the interview, hand the person you’re interviewing a pen. See how they sell the pen.
Do they ask questions?
Do they get to know you?
Of, do they immediately try to “sell you the pen”, by explaining all of the awesome attributes of the pen? (it’s blue, it clicks smoothly, and so on).
I’ve had some fun over the last year asking people to sell me a pen. I’ve used it as a training exercise. In fact, I’ve actually used the exercise a number of times when speaking with some of my friends and clients. to demonstrate the point of selling the pen.
Is the person coachable? Now that you’ve asked them to sell you a pen, tell them what they’ve done wrong, and then try the exercise once again.
Did they listen? Did they do a better job?
3: Develop Your Sales KPIs (key performance indicators)
Remember, you want to build a sales team from the ground up, so, you need to establish what your numbers are going to look like.
In sales, you’re as good as your last month’s (or quarter’s numbers).
The challenge is deciding on what numbers you need to monitor.
For the typical salesperson, you’re monitoring their monthly and quarterly numbers. But there are always leading indicators that will indicate whether your salespeople are successfully managing their base.
- How many appointments did the rep go on last week? Last month?
- How many calls did they make?
- How much of their business is being made to new versus existing customers?
What are you expecting from your reps? First, you need to figure out what your expectations are, and then you need to share that information with your reps so they know if they’re meeting expectations.
4: The Sales Technologies That a Successful Sales Team Needs: The Sales Stack, And Sales Team Quotes Software – CPQ
Any guesses what the sales stack is.
Let’s get this one straight because it’s one of the more important things you’re going to do when you build a sales team from the ground up.
The sales stack is the technology you use behind the scenes to manage and grow your sales team and sales in general.
I’m not sure there are too many software suites that have the depth, flexibility, and coverage offered by Salesforce.com, Inc. In my opinion, Salesforce is the only credible all-in-one sales tool. Yes, it is slightly more expensive than some of the other products, but you get what you pay for (in addition, you can also do your sales team quotes through Salesforce, more on that below).
Should you decide not to implement Salesforce, you need to make sure that whatever technology you use such as sales commission software, includes integration with the following:
CRM – Customer relationship management –The tool that keeps track of all customers, history, calls, and upcoming action items. You may also want to consider implementing a Salesforce deduplication tool like DataGroomr to keep your data as clean as possible.
CPQ –Configure, price, quote (sales team quotes) –Many CPQ products integrate with Salesforce, and Salesforce owns SteelBrick, which means it’s on the Salesforce platform.
Document signing tool –No need to email PDFs. Your reps will be notified as soon as a customer signs the doc, and all contracts remain in the CRM tool.
Commission reporting package –As your company grows, it might be a good idea to implement a commission reporting tool. Otherwise, managing commissions could become unwieldy.
Email integration – I have personal experience with Salesforce’s IQ Inbox, but there are others available.
Telecom solution –This one is a no-brainer. All calls into and out of the system are recorded, and the CRM maintains call record data. (As an FYI, this is one of the things the company I started did for 27 years. We sold business phone systems and did integrations with CRM packages.)
Reporting –This feature is integrated and built into most sales CRM packages.
Regardless of the products you purchase, you need to make sure that your software solutions speak with one another, in particular, the sales team quotes software (CPQ), and the CRM.
Many other tools might be applicable to your business. Screen sharing, prospecting, reporting software, LinkedIn … There’s no shortage of products. You should start with the basics and expand from there.
5: The Sales Quota
YES, you need a sales quota, and it’s one of the more important ingredients when you build a sales team from the ground up.
Every salesperson requires a quota, and you’re going to know fairly early in the onboarding phase whether they’re going to make it or not. There’s a mantra “hire slow, fire fast” that applies to sales especially.
The quota applies not only to the salespeople but, to your sales manager especially. The sales manager needs to own the team’s number, not because you gave them the number, but because they designed the sales process, team, and strategy themselves with your sign off.
If the expectation is that your salespeople will have a monthly quota of $80,000 a month in revenue, then a sales onboarding ramp-up could look as follows:
- Month 1 = $0
- Month 2 = $15,000
- Month 3 = $30,000
- Month 4 = $60,000
- Month 5 = $80,000
There could be some leniency around the sales number, but, you need a good reason why a salesperson isn’t making a quota. Next, if they don’t make a quota for a certain period of time (and you need to decide what the time period is), then they’re on probation and by the way, once someone is on probation, there’s a very high chance they’re not going to make it, at least that’s been my finding.
All of the tracking that you do of your sales team should be done inside your CRM software, that way you have can, at a quick glance, see how your outside sales team, and inside sales team, are doing, all from one dashboard. In addition, the sales team quotes should be clearly identified in the CRM dashboard, along with the overall amount quoted for the month/quarter, and year.
6: Do You Need to Hire a Sales Manager?
Acting as the sales manager is likely something you can do for a short period, but since you’re going to spend time managing and growing the company, you probably won’t have time to build and manage your sales team.
That’s where the role of the sales manager comes into play.
By the way, just because someone on your team is a great salesperson doesn’t mean that an individual will make a good sales manager. The roles are very different.
A sales manager needs to understand how to hire and grow a sales organization, and that includes individuals both on the inside sales team and the outside sales team. They need to be a leader and understand how to inspire people.
Whether or not you need a sales manager will depend on where your company is on the growth scale.
If you have two salespeople currently and are hoping to grow to four, you can likely get away without a sales manager. If you have five people now and want to increase the team to ten, then you’ll need someone to help you.
You need to focus on growing the company, not on selling product, so as your company grows, you need to spend less and less time directly selling and managing accounts and more time building the business.
Work “on the business, not in the business.”
7: Read Lots of Books and Listen to Lots of Podcasts:
You, as the business owner or manager, need to be passionate about building your business, but, and more importantly, as it pertains to how you build your sales team from the ground up, how educated you are, AND, how educated your salespeople are as well.
Training is a critical component of the entire process.
Here are some good sales books:
- Challenger Sale–Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
- Predictable Revenue– Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
- SPIN Selling– Neil Rackham
8: Train and Train Some More
The salespeople are on the front lines dealing with customers. They need to understand your company, product, brand, marketing strategy, customer base, margin strategy, and how to use all the software tools in your sales stack.
You should coordinate frequent training sessions, let’s say at least twice a month. You can present, have your suppliers discuss the products, and get your inside sales team to explain what they do and the types of issues they’re dealing with.
You should be training your sales team with the following processes:
- “Four-legged calls” – this means that you, or your sales manager, is going on calls with your salespeople. This is a training opportunity.
- Role-playing: have them sell you your company’s product. See how they do, and provide extensive and continuous feedback.
- Books – I listed a few of my favorite books above. Have your salespeople read these books, and train using them
- Product demonstrations: this could be from your vendors, product managers, sales engineers, or other industry experts. Do at least one of these types of sessions a month.
- Screencasts – make videos for your salespeople to watch. You can provide product tips, suggestions, technical and product information, and so on. You could/should also produce these videos for your clients to watch (as they are product-related), but, I’ll leave this discussion for another blog. You can read one of my marketing blogs here: What’s the Number 1 Most Important Thing You Need to Understand In Order to Scale Your Marketing Returns?
9: Get Out of the Way, and Let Your Team Succeed
This gets me back to how I started this blog: you can’t be the best salesperson in your company. You need to train your salespeople, and then, get out of the way. Hire well, train them thoroughly, develop your KPIs, and then let them succeed.
Conclusion ob Building Your Sales Team
The ultimate goal as the business owner is that, eventually, you no longer manage accounts.
Better hiring, training, and managing of your sales team will provide you the opportunity to spend less time directly selling and more time supporting the sales and marketing teams and growing the company. Ultimately, and in the end, the group of people you hire, both on the inside sales team, and outside, should carry a load of sales for the entire company without you having to do any direct sales yourself.
And that, my friends, is how you will deal with the owner’s dilemma and, ultimately, build your sales team from the ground up. Hopefully, this information was helpful in getting you to think about how to ignite your sales team, and build your company.
Good luck with your business and sales team building.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this one: Profit Isn’t a Disease. It’s the By-Product of a Well-Run Company. If You’re Not Yet Profitable, Fix It or Get a Job.
You should also consider subscribing to my blog. I publish one article a week on small business and wealth creation. You can subscribe here.
Also, I published a book during the summer of 2018, “The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing, Three Simple Steps to Create Massive Wealth with Your Business’s Profits.” It was number 1 on Amazon in both the business and non-fiction sections. You can get a free copy here.