How to Build an Effective Sales Team

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Building an effective sales team isn’t just about making sure team members work well together. That’s important, but in order for sales teams to unlock the power to close more sales, they have to understand what customers need and expect from them. To do this well and be a successful sales team, specialization and ongoing team feedback are key. With these in place, it’s easier to boost revenue. Here’s what you need to know to build a sales team that exceeds goals and delivers outstanding results.

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The 5 Stages of Team Development

All teams develop according to some natural patterns and using that knowledge, you can offer some guidance to build the kind of team that communicates well and finds better ways to collaborate and achieve the goals you’ve established. Here’s what you need to know.

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Your sales team is a customer acquisition powerhouse. They’re the ones “selling” the product, building relationships with new leads, and closing deals. That’s why paying close attention to how your team functions determines how successful and effective they’ll be. After all, an effective sales team results in sustained customer growth, while an ineffective team can cause major revenue loss for your company. One of the main factors impacting sales effectiveness is a lack of defined roles and an unclear sales process. When your team is small, it makes sense for two or three people to wear multiple hats. But problems crop up if your team continues to operate this way as it grows. As your company grows, you need to have dedicated sales reps who can help customers with their specific needs. This gives team members a chance to specialize in topics, like product features, upgrades, integrations, and more, instead of a few team members carrying the weight of growing customer demands. This approach sets the tone for the customer’s experience, gets rid of bottlenecks within internal processes, and avoids tasks not getting done. Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski, General Partner at Upshift Capital, explains this idea this way:

“When you break responsibilities down into pieces, you create more accountability and transparency. You know what everyone is doing and how it’s impacting the growth of the company.”

To build an effective team, the goal is to define what tasks you need each person on your sales team to take responsibility for and create roles and expectations around those needs. This way, nothing falls off the radar and all tasks are given equal attention.

Take the time to assess your customers’ needs

It’s easy to get caught in the weeds of day-to-day sales calls, emails, and weekly targets. You might see an increase in acquisitions but miss the fact that customers need you to anticipate their needs instead of pitching a product or asking for feedback.    You have to take a step back, figure out what your potential customers need the most, and come up with a plan for how to meet those needs. For example, during product demo calls, be mindful of the types of questions leads ask during the session. Their questions will tell you what’s most important to them and help your sales teams speak to specific points of interest during future sales calls. Let’s say leads generally like the product but the price point is a common objection your sales team has to overcome. Ask yourself why leads are focused on the price. Is it because they don’t understand the value they’re getting? If that’s the case, make sure future sales calls make the product’s value and the benefits that customers get from using it very clear.  The key here is to use the insights you get from sales calls to cater to the needs of the rest of your audience. Keep learning from your interactions with customers so that you’re able to show them that you understand their needs so you can convert more of them and grow your revenue. This ability to listen and focus on what’s most important to leads will ultimately make your team more successful.

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Specialize roles to boost sales team’s effectiveness

A common misconception among small sales teams is that they can’t specialize until they’re bigger. But the opposite is true. To improve your team’s effectiveness, specialization should start as early as possible. Aaron Ross, co-author of Predictable Revenueexplains this idea using the 80/20 rule:

“When your reps, as a group, are spending more than 20% of their time on a secondary function, break out that function into a new role.” He continues, “For example, if someone whose primary role is to generate outbound leads begins spending more than twenty percent of their time qualifying inbound leads, it’s time to look at specializing and creating a separate role just for responding to inbound leads.”

It’s tempting to keep things the same when you’re small, but you have to create clear roles to be more effective in the long-term.  Ross suggests specializing based on your team’s core functions. For example:

  • Inbound lead qualification

  • Outbound prospecting and cold calls

  • Account execs

  • Account managers and customer success

Then, determine how the sales process will flow to incorporate these functions and give team members ownership of specific parts of the process. For example, your process can look something like this:

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[Source] In this example, the inbound reps always work with leads that come from marketing efforts. Outbound reps always find new leads with cold calling, emails, or by re-engaging lapsed customers. These two groups of reps only focus on qualifying leads and nothing else.  Once leads have been qualified by either inbound or outbound sales reps, they’re passed onto account execs whose only job is to close leads. Account execs know the product well, so they’re responsible for driving home the product’s value and acting as a resource for new customers.

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Account managers focus take over after each deal is closed and make sure that the product delivers the promised value. They also act as a liaison between the company and the customer. So no matter what issues or concerns customers have, they’re always talking to dedicated reps who have a record of their needs and expectations. Once the process and roles are clear, you need the right people in each role. When you’re hiring people for each of these roles, keep the following in mind:

  • Think about the experience and skill level needed for each role. For example, do you prefer people who have worked in sales for a certain amount of time? If so, be clear on how many years of experience they need.

  • Put together a description of day-to-day responsibilities so candidates know what’s expected of them. 

  • Based on the types of calls, emails, and social media comments and questions you receive, decide how many people you need on each team to ensure that there’s enough coverage. You want to be sure you can follow up with leads in a timely manner.

Being clear on specific roles for each team member lets everyone function more effectively without miscommunication or gaps or overlaps in coverage. Once you have this plan in place, it’s time to measure your effectiveness so you know exactly where to adjust.

Track the system to determine success

When you build something new, the hardest parts are the prep and execution. You also need a way to track the impact of the changes you make. After you’ve put in the work to streamline your sales process and introduced specialized roles, set up a process to help you track how well your changes worked so that you can adjust the process as needed. There are a few ways to track how your changes impact your team’s effectiveness:

Customer feedback

Your team’s effectiveness directly impacts your customers, so build feedback into your sales funnel to learn from them. You can put feedback in the middle of the funnel to get a pulse for how well your team is doing, or you can put it at the end. Here’s what this looks like: At the end of the sales funnel

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In the middle of the sales funnel

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If you want to learn more about building your own sales funnel, then check out this guide from

When building your sales funnel, keep in mind that you can have more than one customer checkpoint. The more you have, the more insights you get and the better able you are to adjust and improve your effectiveness. Feedback can be an email with a link to a short standard survey, or you can set up a specialized survey to track your Net Promoter Score (NPS).

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[Source] NPS consists of one question that asks customers how likely they are to recommend you to others. You can also include a comment section and ask customers for specific feedback. Here they can explain their impression of the team, the team’s effectiveness, their overall experience, what they would change about the process or anything else that will tell you more about how effective your team is.

One-on-one meetings

Have regular meetings with each team member and use these check-ins to learn what’s working for each person and what isn’t. For example, here are examples of the types of questions to ask different sales reps:

  • For inbound lead qualification, ask where leads are coming from and assess their quality.

  • For outbound prospecting and cold calls, ask about the kinds of objections the team encounters.

  • For account execs, ask about the kinds of leads they’re getting.

  • For account managers and customer success, ask how frequently customers come to them with questions.

Use the responses to make changes to internal processes and improve effectiveness. Also, use one-on-one meetings to gauge how excited team members are with their responsibilities. Are you finding that some team members are interested in different opportunities and want to take on a new focus within the sales team? If so, see what changes you can make on the team to give these team members a chance to try something new. Remember that effective one-on-one meetings don’t have to be longer than 10 to 15 minutes. To make sure your meetings are short but productive, here are three tips to remember:

  • Have one specific question in mind to discuss with each team member.

  • Set a mini-agenda to make sure the meeting stays on topic.

  • Restate the agreed action plan to make sure you’re both on the same page at the end of the meeting.

Focusing these meetings around specific questions and outcomes for your sales team members helps everyone step back from their task lists for a few moments to review and analyze the larger picture. The next step is to share those insights with the entire team.

Monthly team meetings

Get the team together regularly so that everyone can share their experiences. Ask each member of the core functions you’ve identified to discuss what worked well, what didn’t, and what opportunities exist. For example, the inbound lead qualification team might find that they get better leads from organic traffic to the website than from special offers in display ads on other sites.  This might be because people were already looking for products similar to yours and were in the decision stage of the buying cycle and ready to buy. Whereas people finding you through ads might not necessarily be ready to buy. If these are your team’s findings, then follow-up needs to happen quickly with website leads to close them before they buy somewhere else. Make these meetings about knowledge-sharing so that team members can highlight wins like what objections they encountered and how they overcame them. This will help other team members be more effective if they have a prepared response that does a good job of explaining the value of the product and helps close more sales.

Be flexible and open to suggestions

Experiment with the types of changes you make on your sales team until you find a process that works. You might start with three core functions but find that you need five. Or maybe your tracking process looks a little different. Make your process unique to you, but remember to be flexible and adjust the process as needed. The more open you are to making changes, the more effective your sales team will be in the long run.

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