12 tips for managing a high-performing sales team

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If you are the Founder of a company poised to become the next Facebook, Google or Salesforce, you have stepped into the driver’s seat of a race car with potential for 750 Horsepower, capable of going +200 mph. You can hire the best mechanics to build the engine and the world’s greatest pit crew to give you advice along the way, but if you don’t know how to drive the car, you will crash!

Knowing how to read the dashboard and get the most out of your sales engine is essential for competing in the high-velocity world of tech. Managing any team is a challenge, but until you have managed or been on a sales team building revenues at +20% MoM AT SCALE, you may be in for a swift and rude awakening.

These 12 Tips are based on real knowledge gained from building companies from 0 – $100 Million, from world renowned sales leaders:

1. “Be results driven”- David Baga

Hire people with drive and determination and create an environment that is very transparent and metric oriented. Ultimately, when you put competitive people together in a transparent environment, it drives the entire organization up and to the right. Make sure that you emphasize outcomes to prevent people from confusing activity with productivity.

David is SVP of Revenue & Operations for Rocket Lawyer where his team has grown revenues from $2 million to over $40 million in just four years. David spent seven years at Oracle, building and leading sales teams that delivered record-setting results.

2. “Identify where you are and what you need”- Aaron Ross

Identify which category your potential hires fall into, builders vs. growers. Builders grow from scratch. They start with nothing. Growers grow once everything is in place. Most people are not good at both. Know what stage you’re in and what type of sales person you need, and ask questions to separate the builders from the growers.

Aaron is the #1 best-selling author of Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com, and the Founder ofPredictable Revenue Inc. consultancy. He is a former sales guru at Salesforce.com, where he helped increase their revenues by $100M.

3. “Manage expectations accordingly”- Navid Zolfaghari

You want to get your team excited and do whatever you can to support them. I think everyone knows what over-performance looks like, but not very many have defined what under-performance looks like. Are you comfortable with a sales person that consistently performs at 90% of quota or one who can be at 150% one month and way under the next?

Navid is the Founder of Pinpoint Mobile, formerly the Founder of TriFame online talent discovery site, and an early member at Wildfire Interactive, which was acquired by Google in August 2012 for over $400M.  

4. “Coachability is key”- Mark Roberge

You have to make sure your hires are good at taking feedback. Gauge this by doing a role play in which they actually conduct a demo for your product. Then ask them how they think they did. Then give them feedback. Grade them not just on how smoothly the demo went, but how open they were to self-assessment, taking feedback and applying it.

Mark is the Chief Revenue Officer of the HubSpot Sales Division. HubSpot ranked #33 on the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2011, and Mark was ranked #19 in Forbes’ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World.

5. “Set the bar high”- Andrew Riesenfeld

When there’s a high goal, there is something worth pursuing and your group needs to believe that anything’s possible. If you achieve only 70% of a stretch goal, you’re doing better than achieving 100% of a mediocre goal, as long as there is a collective nirvana about what’s being built that is fueling your success.

Andrew is currently VP of Field Sales at GuideSpark and the former VP of WW Sales Development + Pipeline at Responsys, where he helped lead the company to an acquisition by Oracle for $1.6 billion.

6. “Incentivize your team”- Arjun Dev Arora

For example, invest in a few screens around the office displaying a live feed of deals closed and current monthly dollar value, or deals closed for each person. This creates transparency across the organization and team, and a sense of urgency and motivation.

Arjun is the Chairman of the Board and Founder of ReTargeter, where he bootstrapped the company to be in the top 100 of the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2013.

7. “Training matters”- David Baga

Make continuous learning part of the culture; emphasize and invest in training and professional development. Every successful sales organization should have a regular cadence of training that is consistently developing the fundamentals of product knowledge, competitive intelligence, prospecting, opportunity management, territory planning and professional communications.

8. “Use the volume-versus-value ratio”-Aaron Ross

Your highest value people (most expensive) should be spending time on the lowest volume (but highest importance) activities – like building relationships, securing referrals and partnerships. Your lower value people should focus on higher volume activities, like turning prospects into leads. This holds true for leads, too. Go after fewer, but better prospects.

9. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution”- Navid Zolfaghari

You have lots of different personalities working for you. Your role is one of mentor and enabler. You want to shield your team from internal politics, make it easy for them to focus on the job at hand and be more successful. Different people need to be managed differently – figure out what motivates each of them and push those buttons to develop better sales people overall.

10. “Specialize early to grow sales”- Mark Roberge

Don’t treat all your sales people the same. Group them by their preferences and strengths – do they prefer to go after large pieces of business or are they better rapport builders with small businesses? Do they understand certain sectors better than others? Segment your prospects and segment your sales team to address them, especially as you grow.

11. “Design a transparent organization”- David Baga

Transparent means that your peers, managers, everyone, should know how you’re performing. The best sales organizations should know each team member’s goals and their progress against them. For example, the number of calls made every day, the amount of time spent on the phone, what each person’s pipeline looks like – these should be available for everyone to see. Your work ethic should be on display.

12. “Think through how you distribute accounts”- Navid Zolfaghari

It’s only natural to want to give your best opportunities to your best salespeople but you also want to balance that with a system that is fair. You want everyone to feel that there is a good opportunity for them to succeed, so make sure you invest in your new talent and give them a chance.

This article first appeared on SalesHacker.com

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Gabriel Osteseski
Gabriel Luna-Osteseski is the founder of Upshift Partners, a growth stage sales accelerator, which help companies bridge the gap between validation and scale. As an advisor and angel investor, he has helped numerous companies launch and navigate growth and scale.

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