How to Build — And Scale — A Successful Sales Team

by Alton Zenon III
November 21, 2019

When scaling a sales team, it's incorrect to assume that hiring more salespeople will equal more revenue. 

First, the duties of each role and how success will be measured should be well thought out and documented. Based on that, new hires must be placed in positions they’re well suited for in relation to their skills and ambitions. Furthermore, new applicants should fit within the culture of their sales team and the company as a whole. 

But this only scratches the surface when it comes to building an all-star sales team. We heard from seven sales managers who shared how they grew their teams while positioning employees for career success. 

 

Grubhub team members chatting
grubhub

Kevin Kearns, senior vice president of Grubhub’s restaurant network, said the food delivery platform’s sales team is all about recreating success.

By documenting and repeating certain key processes — like seeking specific traits in applicants and developing a playbook of best sales practices — the sales staff is able to hire talented individuals and set them up for successful futures at the company.

 

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?

In the past year we doubled our sales organization. Our goal is achieving both efficiency and effectiveness throughout the sales organization. For efficiency, we have removed barriers that get in the way of selling time, eliminated red tape to get deals done and set metrics that our teams need to achieve each day.

For effectiveness, we have streamlined our sales process to be consultative and value-focused, created a detailed playbook based on best practices of our top sellers and built a recognition program that keeps our teams energized each day. To round it out, we have built a culture of excellence, which includes recognition programs celebrating top performers and specific performances, and created a sales council that address areas of opportunity on behalf of their colleagues.

We executed a discovery process and identified key areas of opportunity across areas like sales process, market coverage and many others. We identified issues in each category and prioritized our action plans based on what had the biggest impact. We also structured our management team to be primarily focused on rep development.

Hires now get a full month of onboarding and hands-on coaching...”

 

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

Instead of hiring the way we always did, we needed to figure out how to bring on talented individuals at scale. To do that, we evaluated the traits of our best sellers and created a hiring profile and interview process that was replicable and increased the likelihood of a great fit. Once on board, instead of ad hoc training and shadowing, we reinvented the training process to be more effective. Our new hires now get a full month of onboarding and hands-on coaching, which is significantly more robust than in the past. We also invested in our trainers, all of whom have been successful sellers at Grubhub. The data shows our new hires are more productive than ever and we have reduced turnover in the first six months.

In terms of culture, we bring all new sellers into our headquarters to observe first-hand the winning attitude of our team. We then pair sellers with mentors that exhibit the habits of success within our team. Finally, we constantly reinforce the cultural attributes that make our team great: teamwork, professionalism, high performance, effort, fun and customer obsessed.

 

Sprout Social team in group photo
Sprout Social

Director of Sales Development Brian Mullin said Sprout Social wants its sales team to do more than meet quotas. The company wants staff to feel like they have a voice, and feel comfortable making their opinions heard.

To that end, Mullin said employee feedback at the social media management platform is incorporated into everything from training to building company culture.

 

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?

Building a successful team starts with identifying key traits your top performers exemplify. We articulate a vision for our people that inspires them to do their best work and reach for more than they thought was possible. Every person on our team has a unique reason for choosing Sprout to start or continue their career, but regardless of the reason, that commitment is something we value and show gratitude for.

We base our hiring processes, training and culture off of the feedback from our employees.”

 

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

The strength of our culture is foundational to why our people love coming to work everyday and it’s important that our individual contributors feel like they have a voice in the decisions we make as a business. We focus on encouraging feedback across all levels of the organization. When team members are able to openly share their thoughts and ideas, it promotes trust, drives innovation and strengthens their commitment to doing their best work. We base our hiring processes, training and culture off of the feedback from our employees — if they aren’t bought in then it’s all for naught.

 

ReviewTrackers team in group photo
ReviewTrackers

ReviewTrackers’ VP of Sales Jeff Pearlman said despite aggressive hiring goals, the customer feedback software platform only brings a new salesperson onboard if all hiring managers are a “hell yes.” This ensures that they only hire top performers who are highly self-motivated. 

 

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?

It all starts with hiring the right people. We look for people who are curious, collaborative and competitive. Our culture avoids micromanagement at all costs, which means the people we hire must be autonomous and highly self-motivated. To build on those strengths, we make sure we have the right training and support system in place so that every rep has the correct tools and training to succeed. We also have a scaling compensation plan that rewards over-achievers as well as a clear career progression plan to make sure the team knows exactly how to earn promotions. 

Most of this was identified by myself and my sales management team based on successes and failures in previous roles. For example, in one of my past jobs I saw multiple top performing reps who had exceeded their quota be placed on performance management for not making enough calls. These double standards never made sense to me, and they were a driving force behind how we look at metrics.

Our culture avoids micromanagement at all costs, which means the people we hire must be autonomous.”

 

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

The key is to make sure we have the right support system in place. When we started our hiring push this year, we evolved our training model from a scrappy, startup-based new hire training model to a comprehensive curriculum, which included several weeks of training from multiple leaders from across the company. We are also fortunate to have a great group of individual contributors who are highly competitive but also help each other and share sales best practices. This model allows new reps to have mentors while they continue their ongoing training.

When it comes to hiring, we follow the mentality of “it’s either a hell yes or it’s a no.” This is hard to do in a tough market with aggressive hiring goals but as long as we stick to this, we know we will bring on the right people and not sacrifice our culture.

 

Pricefx leaders and an elf
pricefx

VP of Sales in the Americas Dan Costanzo said building an atmosphere of trust and continuous learning at pricing software company Pricefx is the key to sales success. And that goes for sales leaders as well as new account execs. 

 

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?

I look for self-empowered individuals who demonstrate a sense of urgency and a passion for delivering value to customers. In doing so, they reap not only personal success, but also a high degree of professional satisfaction in being part of a collective effort felt by customers, colleagues and the market. The best way to identify these characteristics is by gaining a sense of candidates’ professional values and personal initiative. 

The best way to learn and grow as a professional is through learning from my peers.”

 

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

Ensure that candidates are well-grounded in the values of the founders. I have always believed that the best way to learn and grow as a professional is through learning from my peers, so building an atmosphere of trust and continuous learning is very important to me.

 

Chowly team in group photo
chowly

As the VP of Sales at Chowly, which integrates third-party delivery platforms with restaurants, Tom Lawton does his best to pay attention to his individual team members. This means understanding understanding what motivates them — individually and collectively — as well as hearing what changes they’d like to see to sales protocols.

 

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?

While I don’t believe there is a cookie-cutter blueprint to building and scaling a successful sales team, I do believe there are key factors to ensure the team has the opportunity to be successful. 

As a sales leader, creating a strong collaborative culture is the first thing I set out to do. You spend more time during the week at work with your team than you do with family and I am very intentional in building a team environment that supports that. After building that cultural foundation, you learn what motivates individuals and teams, so you can identify which levers to pull in certain situations. This could mean additional bonus incentives for a given time period, or collaborating with marketing on a specific message we want to spread to drive additional leads. 

Next, I really drive home understanding the science and art of sales, like knowing how many touch points, conversations and scheduled pitches it takes to close. Combining that with what you say, how you say it and your mindset throughout the entire sales process brings the formula of the science plus art to life.

I believe that while hiring is very critical, retaining your sales reps is even more important.”

 

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

I believe that your team carries the culture as you scale. Ensuring that you never stop learning and continue to take in as much feedback from your team as possible as you scale is important. Every time we onboard someone, we ask for as much feedback as possible to ensure the next time, we get better as a leadership team. 

I want to ensure everyone has a voice as we grow. We hold quarterly meetings on any “sales-bible rule” changes the team would like to vote on. We create certain criteria but ultimately, the team adjusts the "settings" so we have 100 percent buy-in and alignment across the organization. 

While hiring is very critical, retaining your sales reps is even more important. From managers and directors to VPs, I want to make sure that when we hire someone, we give them every possible chance to succeed.

 

BigTime Software sales team in group photo
BigTime Software

A quarterback can’t succeed if they’re told to act as a team’s punter. BigTime Software’s Senior VP of Sales Michael Morrison believes that putting people in positions where they can succeed based on their skills is key to building a successful sales team.

In order to do that, he said it’s first necessary to determine the specific skills needed for success in each role. 

 

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?

When I build a sales team, I always start by researching and quantifying targets. Understanding who prospects are, where to find them and how to best engage with them is essential to organizing the most effective team. 

Based on over 20 years of experience in sales, I believe the second step is putting the right people in the right roles by establishing the critical skills and competencies for each position on the team. This ensures that you are hiring, training and evaluating talent based on the most relevant criteria.

The final step is execution and iteration based on the key performance indicators of the business. Are team members achieving their goals? Why or why not, and what can leaders do to help? 

A formula of regularly celebrating wins while learning from losses helps to foster an open and transparent culture.”

 

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

This is accomplished by putting people first. Whether it’s training or hiring, you must establish practices that ensure that you hire individuals based on the right criteria and that you are providing them with the environment and the resources to be successful. This, along with a formula of regularly celebrating wins while learning from losses, helps to foster an open and transparent culture where people can contribute, develop and grow as the organization scales.

 

TripActions team in group photo
TripActions

Commercial Sales Manager Jordan Gorosh and other leaders at TripActions encourage their sales teams to put both themselves, and the customers, first.

Gorosh said users of the business travel booking platform are a priority and striving to meeting their needs is a foundational value. However, employees are also pushed to invest in their own professional needs by advancing their skills through the company’s continual learning framework.

 

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?

The DNA of any sales team is built on its people and we place a strong emphasis on making sure each person is a cultural fit for the organization. Our core value of putting the user first is tied intrinsically to our sales team, and its leaders cascade that value throughout the team early and often. As we’ve grown and scaled our team to match that growth, keeping our users top-of-mind ensures we’re finding the right people who will own our mission and beliefs.

We center our teams around the concept of continuous learning...”

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

We center our teams around the concept of continuous learning, accountability, real-time feedback and personal reflection. Each TripActions employee is trained to use our debriefing and continual learning framework to ensure that no matter how fast we’re moving, we’re taking the time to learn for our own sakes and the sake of the business. 

 

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