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Small Business Digest


Creating Effective Sales Teams

In today's difficult economy it is critical for businesses to have effective sales teams in order to make the best use of the company's resources and maximize the sales revenue.

Nancy Clark, President of Leadership Dynamics, Inc ( offers several suggestions for companies.

Tip #1 - Get the Right People into the Right Jobs

* A company's most important asset is not its people…rather, the most important asset is the right people in the right jobs doing the right things.

* Interest, experience, and knowledge are key elements of the equation in selecting a sales person, but work style is an equally critical predictor for success.

* If companies are not using valid and reliable tools to predict behavior before they hire, they are tempting fate and increasing their business risk.

* By including a proven behavioral assessment in the selection process, companies can increase their hiring success to 90% or greater; a significant improvement over what Peter Drucker estimated as 1/3 good, 1/3 marginal, and 1/3 poor.

* Just because someone was good as a sales person, does not mean s/he would be a good sales manager.  Recognize the significant and subtle differences of each job and hire appropriately.

* Managers need to understand themselves and how they see the world.  Their reality may not be accurate and may be creating poor hiring decisions.

Clark offers an example from one our her client companies.  She says, “Jim, President of an equipment business ($20 M), is a very high energy, competitive, outgoing person.  He was eager to hire Frank as a new sales person.  Frank had been in the industry for years; he was very knowledgeable and highly respected.  Competitive and focused on winning the deal, Jim convinced Frank to join the company.  However, within a short time, it was clear that it was not a fit.  Jim was mystified.  Rather than going out and calling on customers, Frank sat in his office and buried himself in the technical manuals.  After reviewing his behavioral profile, it was clear that Frank did not fit the job.  (Jim had been too eager to  get the profile before he hired Frank.  Anyway, Jim was certain that Frank would be great.)  After months of frustration and a costly separation, Frank left the company.  The cost to the business was over $120, 000 plus lost sales opportunities during that time.  Jim now will not hire anyone until he sees the profile.  Jim regrets the costly mistake plus the pain of putting someone in a job that set him up for failure rather than success.”

Tip #2 - Develop your sales managers into performance coaches

* In order to drive performance, sales managers need to know:  1.  Where the sales person is weak in the selling process (e.g., opening, investigating, presenting, dealing with objections, asking for the business, expanding the relationship), and 2.  What drives the person (his/her work style).

* Business leaders need to be performance coaches as well for all their direct reports.  By modeling the behavior of coaching, they will create a coaching culture that drives performance throughout the enterprise.

* Leaders should not guess what training they think employees need.  Make sure whatever training, coaching, etc. applied is targeted and leverages the top performers.

* Without a diagnostic tool to measure sales knowledge, the sales leader is in the dark as how to help and how to minimize the slump.

* Managers, not just sales managers, need to understand people and behavior.  To help them, provide them training and tools to accomplish that.  Clark says, "the best tool that I have found for my clients is the Predictive Index.  Bottom-line there are a few goods approaches and tools on the market—just make sure they are valid, reliable, and defensible."

* If managers are not providing methods, tools, and training to their sales managers, then they are restricting their resources.  It is a bit like playing golf blindfolded — people can keep swinging at the ball, but their chances of making par are limited.

Clark believes that “during these turbulent times, companies need to be diligent with their spend, however they should not become ‘frozen.’  A greater risk is doing nothing. No company grows from inaction.  To survive the current downturn and to be ready for the next up cycle, companies better use this time for expanding their capabilities.  (This doesn’t mean adding staff, but instead adding strength to the existing bench.)”

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