Building Careers. Powering Businesses.


Building a Solid Sales Team

Salespeople are where the rubber of your greatest business ideas meets the road of reality. A perfectly structured company – fully optimized, with excellent HR and a shimmering corporate culture – is absolutely useless and doomed for ignominious failure without good salespeople.

Do You Really Need Salespeople?

The short answer? Yes.

The long answer? For one hundred years, people in business and the media have been foreshadowing the imminent demise of the salesperson. As the Harvard Business Review recalls, a 1916 article in the New York Times wondered if the onset of media advertising – in print and on the radio – meant the end of salespeople, who at that point were only understood as door-to-door peddlers.

Again, in 1962, a book called The Vanishing Salesman by E.B. Weiss postulated the very same thing: that a changing economic landscape, spurred by new technology like catalog shopping, branding, pre-selling and credit, spelled the end for salespeople. And yet, despite literally a hundred years of “the end” being near, there are more salespeople working today than ever before in history.

So what gives? Well, human beings adapt, and no one is more adaptable than good salespeople. Folks in sales did not simply throw in the towel when catalogs were invented; they learned to sell from catalogs. They did not retire when branding became popular; they learned to sell to the brand.

What all this means is that new technology is not poised to replace salespeople, at least not anytime soon. You simply need adaptable salespeople.

Are Good Salespeople Born or Made?

Both, actually.

As the Harvard Business Review muses, certain inherent traits are more conducive to success in sales. Extroversion, charisma, confidence, and empathy are all valuable tools in a salesperson’s arsenal, and surely only a dope would refute that. But that isn’t the whole story.

Good salespeople can be made into great salespeople, and great salespeople can be made better. That’s why US companies spend $20 billion annually on development and ongoing training for salespeople. Any trade community worth its salt recognizes that there is always room to improve, and sales is no different. Investing in developing your sales talent is a wise and worthy expense, and one that will pay for itself over the life of your salesperson’s employment.

Further, while good salespeople may be born, good sales teams are made. Establishing a well-defined sales strategy for your organization is important. Without one, each salesperson with undoubtedly develop their own particular methods and tactics, and while this is not inherently problematic by itself, does pose trouble at a macro level.

In “Great Salespeople Are Born, but Great Sales Forces Are Made” the following are identified as key components to building a stellar sales team:

  • Strategy
  • Organization
  • Talent
  • Execution
  • Support
  • Improvement and Adaption

When your whole sales force is working in parallel with one another, performing the same regular follow-ups after milestones and promoting the same events and pitching the same products, it is much easier to create a coherent campaign and efficiently maximize both your resources and, as a result, your sales. An in-sync team making one unified push (or a series of them) can cause them to be more effective than the sum of their parts, something that a “team” of isolated individuals can never hope to be. It also makes sales management more streamlined and easier to track.

So, yes: you do still need good salespeople. But the good news is, with solid training and a unified strategy, you can help your good salespeople become a great sales force.

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