How to Build — And Scale — A Successful Sales Team

by Madeline Hester
November 22, 2019

Pillars. Core values. Building blocks. 

Whatever you call them, these structures are what keeps a company from (figuratively) collapsing. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, they set out to make a company based on the motto “Don’t be evil.” As the company grew and (thousands) of new hires were onboarded, the motto was rebranded, expanded and defined throughout Google’s eight pillars of innovation — the declaration on how Google continues to stay inventive while growing exponentially. 

For sales leaders looking to grow their team, finding passionate people is only half the battle. Anyone can be motivated to make a commission, but are they passionate about what they’re selling and the company’s mission? 

To ensure they’re hiring the right people, sales managers must incorporate their company’s pillars into the hiring process, training and employee development. We asked six companies about their blueprint for building a successful sales team (while growing like crazy).

 

frontsteps
frontsteps

Frontsteps’ software platform allows community residents to engage with their homeowners association, project management consultants, builders and security companies all in one place. 

Senior Manager of Business Development Jeff Dunn explained how investing in a training and development team helps new salespeople find a home at Frontsteps.

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

For our fast-growing software-as-a-service company that’s serving the residential association space, we look for sales representatives that want to grow their professional sales career, have a proven track record and have experience working at a smaller startup. Because we are an established startup with thousands of customers and millions of dollars in annual revenue, we have lots of opportunities for professional sales representatives to grow their careers and even move into leadership opportunities. 

Although our products have been in existence for many years, we still maintain the startup atmosphere as we rapidly develop new products and acquire complementary businesses to integrate into our platform.

Our training programs involve product, sales skills and personal development.

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? Put another way, how do you scale your training and hiring processes and your culture alongside your team?

“Develop our people” is the first core value for our company. Because of this, we have invested in a new training and development team. Our training programs involve product, sales skills and personal development.

 

guild
guild education

This female-founded, mission-led startup is reinventing job training and educational opportunities for America’s workforce using their online platform.

Senior Vice President of Sales Karina Salenieks said that hiring diverse teammates is essential to creating a winning team at Guild Education.

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

The first step in building out a team from scratch is ensuring we have the right functions to represent all parts of the sales process.  All good sellers have the “art” of the sales but the best ones blend in the “science” — the sequence of events, the repeatable steps and the diagnostics that help both them win the deal and the client get what they need.

Different perspectives help us see around corners and grow as a team with particular strengths. It’s also important to cultivate a culture that allows us to operate and win together as a team. As we scale up, deliberate onboarding is critical to ensure both speed and quality, as well as productivity.  

...our clients win by finding a solution that truly solves their challenges...

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Write it down! We have grown so big so quickly that we can no longer rely on the expertise in one person’s head to serve as a resource. We have aligned up and down the organization in terms of who we are and what we mean to our buyers so that we all have the same North Star.

To some extent, let the culture create itself. It’s natural to see that culture evolves as the team expands and important to not get precious about it. As long as the principles of teamwork, doing right by our clients and being good citizens of Guild are there, the right aspects remain in tact.  

The company wins by our team hitting our sales goals and our clients win by finding a solution that truly solves their challenges and propels them into best-in-class organizations. The sales people win by exceeding their goals, honing their craft and being part of a winning team at a critical stage of growth. 

 

KPA
kpa

When your company is a leader in cloud-based risk management solutions, some of the same risk-management solutions apply when building a sales team.

Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Patrick broke down the “secret sauce” for scaling the sales team at KPA.

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

Everyone has their own “secret sauce” for what makes their teams great. KPA focuses on achieving the right blend of strategy and execution. First, we get crystal clear on where we’re headed as a business and the opportunities available to our ever-expanding team. 

Next, we thoughtfully hire talented people and give them the knowledge, support and tools they need to be successful. The final piece is structured effort. Being great at sales requires execution with deliberate purpose, persistence and resilience.

...it becomes increasingly important to communicate effectively and transparently.  

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Everyone at KPA is unique yet we all share the same passion for the work we do on behalf of our clients. As we scale the team and internal processes to support growth objectives, it becomes increasingly important to communicate effectively and transparently.  

We encourage open dialogue and feedback throughout the organization so voices are heard and people have the opportunity to influence future decisions. To achieve our future growth objectives, we must continue to think about how we can improve.

 

wowza
wowza media systems

Wowza Media Systems provides customizable and scalable technology solutions that simplify media streaming on any device. 

Renee Ingenito, head of global sales, explained why it’s important to reinforce and refine the company pillars while scaling her sales team. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

The blueprint for building and scaling a successful sales team consists of creating a foundation with our four basic pillars: develop a sales team structure; establish a sales process of managing the pipeline in a CRM; set sales activity metrics and revenue goals; and train the team on a sales methodology.

After many years of managing sales teams, I have learned that if you are off base or falling short in one of these key four areas, your team will feel it and it will affect your success. Your sales team structure should align with your business needs and the needs of your customers. It is important to set clear expectations with your sales team and make sure they understand their targets whether it’s revenue, activity or specific objectives. 

It’s important to give your team the tools and training to do their jobs most effectively. A sales methodology sets a team up for success. It provides a consistent way in which they should approach every prospect and manage the stages of every sale to uncover customer needs and solve customer problems that result in winning new business. 

 

Create the team that everyone wants to be a part of. 

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place?

To maintain a successful sales organization once you’ve scaled, you must constantly reinforce and refine your four pillars. It’s important to gather, analyze and draw conclusions from the sales data you’ve collected to better define your sales best practices and to redefine how your team achieves targets. In analyzing the sales data, you will uncover parts of the business that need improvement and you will find trends and indicators regarding large wins and losses. 

A sales manager has the personal responsibility to invest in each individual on the team and be a co-owner in their success to drive overall team success. Create the team that everyone wants to be a part of with your four pillars, enthusiasm and a great work ethic.

 

opentable
opentable

When a sales team meets its goals, a fancy dinner is a great way to celebrate: Time to make a reservation.

OpenTable, an online provider of restaurant reservations, has seated over 1 billion diners. Inside Sales Manager Jon Schwartz told us that hiring people who not only complement the company culture, but drive it forward, is a key driver of success. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new manager was to first identify the attributes you can coach and then find the items that are less tangible but are core pillars to performance. With that in mind, I look for self-starters. Sales incentives and commission plans are great motivators, but my best reps all share the common trait of simply wanting to be successful and have a willingness to do more to exceed their targets. 

Second to intrinsic motivation comes problem-solving and critical thinking. It is difficult to coach people to be curious or to approach challenges with a solution-first mentality. At its core, sales is about identifying a problem and working with your customer to find the best solution for them. By staffing with those principles in mind, I can be confident they will take their personal goals and reverse engineer the work required to achieve them. They will navigate changes in product, pricing and availability with a solutions-driven mentality and help provide stability to an industry that is fast moving on a slow day. 

Work with your team to add complementary people... 

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place?

We first make sure we identify the characteristics of our best sellers, then we candidly communicate that to our recruiting and training team. As your department scales, time becomes increasingly scarce so having a recruiter shadow your sales team can help find new talent efficiently and seamlessly. 

Work with your team to add complementary people: do we want someone with tenure, high energy or strong leadership traits?

When it comes to finding a culture fit, consider what your current environment is and whether the person can maintain your culture, as well as add something to the puzzle and drive it forward.  Lean on senior sellers to assist with tasks like training, interviewing and team events since this will not only help their professional development and buy-in but also create another champion for the culture you want to uphold. 

 

 

red canary
red canary

Red Canary helps companies of any size fight cyber attacks. Vice President of Sales Sergei Leonov shared how keeping core values flexible creative during growth periods is crucial when expanding a sales team.

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

As with most things in life, there is no perfect blueprint for building a sales team. Myriad factors need to be considered such as product maturity, addressable market, go-to-market strategy and much more. In fact, sales team organization and composition should be considered iterative as your company grows and changes over time. 

However, some concepts can be useful at any stage to ensure a happy, healthy and productive sales organization. Consider what your sales team's culture and values should be. These can often be tied back to the company's mission and should help you identify some core behavioral competencies that will be important in building out the team. 

Try to align individual contributors into cross-functional teams and encourage collaboration to foster creativity, competition and camaraderie. Ensure you're building a diverse team by seeking out professionals from different backgrounds and walks of life to maximize your team's creative output and resiliency. 

Ensure you're building a diverse team by seeking out professionals from different backgrounds...

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

While core values are fundamental to maintaining team culture during growth, it's important to be flexible and creative when scaling the team. The precise elements of your team at one stage may not work for a sales team at a later stage. 

If you've managed to build a diverse team of curious, driven and collaborative professionals, they will help you scale the organization while maintaining the core team values. Fostering transparency and trust within your team, as well as in your enablement and hiring practices, will set the right tone for sustainable growth. 

 

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