10 Rules to Help Any Business Create a More Successful Sales Team
Entrepreneurs are setting themselves up for failure if they don’t give careful attention to how they will actually sell their product or service, Catapult Creative Media CEO David Maples told a group of business leaders at the Louisiana Technology Park.
“This is the one nut that every business has to crack,” Maples says. “If you do not sell, you do not have a business. Just because you built and developed something does not mean it won’t die on the shelf.”
Maples started his first company at the age of 16, and by age 20 served as vice president of sales and marketing for a national gaming company. He built and led sales teams for Fortune 500 companies in both phone and business-to-business sales.
In 2007, Maples moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU Law. He and his wife, Virginia, founded a company that has since developed into Catapult Creative Media. They are currently developing Catapult’s new branch, Kydos!, a review-management software.
Maples offered insights into his sales success during a recent Tech Park Academy event at the Louisiana Technology Park. Maples says startups should build in a budget for a sales team early on in the process, but often fail to give that aspect of their business the attention it deserves.
“There are hundreds of amazing multimillion-dollar software products sitting on the shelf that have never been sold — that could revolutionize and change our lives — because no one figured out how to sell them before they built them,” he says.
Maples says long before hiring the sales team, companies should begin with a needs assessment that is “brutally honest” about what they are selling and why, as well as who the target clients and target market are. He says it’s also important to understand what the unique selling proposition is for a product and how to sell it in the marketplace. Finally, organizations should understand their core values in order to hire people who fit well into that culture.
Maples also outlined his 10 rules for building successful sales teams. “Breaking these rules is inviting disaster,” he says. Here’s an overview of his advice.
Have Processes for Measurement
Whether it’s an advanced software tool like Salesforce or merely a notebook and pen, it’s important to have a system to track your sales process, Maples says. “The numbers don’t lie,” he says.
Know Key Performance Indicators for Your Business
Maples says the key performance indicators (KPIs) are things a business knows it needs to succeed. These vary from business to business, he says, but for a typical sales team could be a minimum number of daily or weekly face-to-face meetings, phone calls or product demos. “I can measure it, I can track it, I can figure out if you’re meeting the standard or not,” he says.
Clearly Set Your Expectations
Sales people need to know explicitly what happens to them if they’re not meeting their KPIs, Maples says. A salesperson who is not pulling his or her weight does not deserve a place in the company, he says, and it’s the business owner’s responsibility to set those expectations up front and follow through on them if they are not met. “If it comes a surprise, it’s your fault,” he says.
Train Your Team on Skills Needed to Succeed
It’s vital, Maples says, to train your sales team on the core competency skills needed for your company to succeed. “If it means they must know how to leverage LinkedIn to sell people on stuff, you must train them on that skill they don’t already know,” he says. He suggests employee shadowing for smaller companies and startups who can’t afford formal training.
Practice Daily Training
Maples suggests having at least a daily 15-minute meeting with your sales team to discuss strategies and give feedback. “Training is not just about reinforcing good behaviors, it’s about eliminating bad ones,” he says. “It also shows your team you’re all in it together. Sales is hard. You get rejected every single day.”
Practice Radical Candor
Maples is an advocate of the philosophy proposed by business author Kim Scott in her book Radical Candor, which encourages leaders to challenge directly while showing at the same time they care personally about their employees. Maples says an example would be directly confronting a salesperson about his or her failure to make the required number of daily calls, rather than offering tepid praise that they’ll be on the right track with a little improvement.
Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard
Maples says business owners should understand the responsibility they have to the overall business and its employees and make the tough decisions when they are needed. That means being honest and upfront with your sales team when they have an issue, or letting them go if it’s clear they aren’t a good fit. “People lose their jobs if you can’t be honest with your sales team,” he says.
Embrace Your People
Maples encourages business owners and sales managers to invest time in mentoring and coaching sales teams, particularly if they show promise but need an extra boost to succeed. “If they are hitting their KPIs but not closing deals, they are worth your time,” he says.
Stay in Hiring Mode
Turnover rates are high in sales, so organizations need to build in processes to keep up. “That doesn’t mean you have to bring in 30 interviews a day, but you must always be on the lookout and probably always have a job posting up,” he says.
Promote the Right People
“Because someone is a good salesperson does not mean they’re a good sales manager,” Maples says. Sometimes, he says, the best path for a successful salesperson is to take on more responsibility by selling large items or handling more important accounts.