There’s no quick and easy way to build and train a great sales team, and even the best leaders will make mistakes. But some missteps could become major problems, according to business expert Scott Edinger.
Often, success is a culmination of multiple elements working together flawlessly. Think about a car, which has a variety of parts that each serve a critical function. Ignore a rattling sound coming from under the hood for long enough, and it’s likely just a matter of time before you end up broken down.
Just a single failure point could spell disaster for even the most thoughtfully designed sales teams and strategies. But not all sales issues are equal, so it can be challenging to isolate which ones you or your sales leadership want to prioritise as you scale your organisation and grow revenue. In fact, many sales leaders and frontline managers will approach solving these critical problems in ways that are not scalable or that wind up creating more problems in the future. Some of the most significant issues include the following:
- Shifting training and coaching to Human Resources
- Inadequately forecasting the market
- Failing to develop the right strategy
These missteps are often the result of leaders and managers who lean too far into an “inspection” approach to team management. They want to observe their team but fall short when it comes to providing the right coaching or guidance at the right time. This approach can create several predictable failure points that managers and leaders should look out for, especially because many of these failures can go unnoticed until it’s too late and teams start to see their revenue suffer.
Below, we’ll walk you through each of the sales performance stumbles and outline ways you can fix them, with insights from Scott Edinger, sales expert and speaker at the Highspot 2021 SPARK conference.
Stumble #1: Shifting training and coaching to Human Resources (HR)
HR is an absolutely critical team at just about every company worldwide. Apart from supporting employees, HR teams also help develop and guide overall company culture. Sometimes new employee onboarding and training rolls up under HR, in sessions that can take days, weeks, or even months.
However, HR is not a replacement for the training and coaching that must take place within the team. Go-to-market teams have their own unique sets of challenges, and it’s safe to say that most HR departments are not equipped to help develop every employee on every team. That’s where managers and leaders of teams come in.
Leaders who put the time in to develop their teams and individual representatives will not only forge better trust and relationships, they’ll also help demonstrate and encourage the types of selling behaviours they want to see. Keep in mind that learning can take time, so reps might need patience as they learn the ropes, but they’ll never forget the effort and guidance that their leaders, managers, and even fellow team members provided for them, especially early in their careers.
Furthermore, while conferences and two- or three-day training camps can be a great way to infuse fresh ideas into a team, they’re not replacements for truly demonstrating best practices and leading by example. The strategies teams learn at those fun camps will rapidly fade as reps return to the “same old, same old,” unless the people around them seriously put effort into taking on new ways of doing things.
Stumble #2: Inadequately forecasting the market
To return to the point earlier about leaders who are only concerned with “observing,” it’s also worth noting that what is being observed is also important here. All too often, leaders comb through late-stage analytics with a fine-tooth comb, focusing on the end of the sales cycle instead of the entire journey. Unfortunately, these leaders might end up not seeing the forest for the trees. This is a problem because by this point, problems might be too late to fix.
For example, shifts in the market can happen rapidly, and if leaders are only paying attention to sales calls toward the end of a sales cycle, they might be too late in anticipating new market changes or opportunities. This leads to a team constantly playing “catch-up” while their competitors are more agile and likely saw these changes coming from a mile away.
Having a well-trained team is also critical to keeping a finger on the pulse of the market. Reps who know what to look and listen for can surface any critical feedback or trends they might notice, such as new positioning from competitors. Experienced reps might even have the foresight to sound the alarm on changes long before leaders or managers notice the tides turning.
Finally, every closed deal should tell a story of “why.” Leaders should look at the entire buyer’s journey to understand what went well and how to best repeat that success across multiple reps who might be selling to many different personas with different needs. Forecasting the market well also means having a strong model for what “good” looks like, and that model should be scalable over the long term.
Stumble #3: Failing to develop the right strategy
This last issue might seem much too broad. But leaders should keep in mind that strategy helps inform the most critical component of the sales process: the sales call. Strategies that aren’t well executed on reps’ calls are likely not the right strategies for your team. No customer is going to tell a rep, “It’s not you, it’s your strategy!” but a keen sales leader will know when their strategy struggles to come together on the front lines.
Again, having well-trained reps who can be coached in your sales strategy is key to pulling off phenomenal sales calls. This doesn’t mean just sending reps a list of bullet points and wishing them luck that day. Your team should have crystal-clear insight into how your organisation as a whole is positioned in the market and what gives you a competitive edge. Every member of your team should know your market and how they plan to hit their numbers. But beyond that, your team should also know how the overall sales experience and buyer’s journey creates value for your customers.
This is where sales calls come in. Reps who know their strategy like the back of their hand will have an easier time navigating these calls and speaking to the value of the organisation. They can articulate competitors’ shortcomings and help buyers access all essential content and data to make an informed decision. In fact, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the decision factor for buyers rests solely on the sales experience itself. Well-coached reps who can speak with confidence about the sales strategy and elegantly demonstrate that knowledge on their sales calls are invaluable assets to your team.
By anticipating these issues and building a team with a growth mindset, you’ll see problems coming long before they make a major impact on your goals. Think of investing in your team in terms of the “long game,” which will require a lot of careful training, coaching, forecasting, analysing, and executing over a very long period of time. But you and your team can rest easy knowing that this time and effort is never wasted.
Interested in diving deeper into the strategy of building winning sales teams? Be sure to listen to the Highspot podcast episode “How to Lead Teams That Consistently Excel” to learn more about how you can leverage coaching and guidance to best lead your team.