How to Build a World-Class Sales Organization

by Agota Alvarez

The world of sales is changing, and top sales leaders are changing with it. Building a world-class sales organization starts with building a world-class buying experience for your clients – and the key to this process is developing true relationships between salespeople and customers. These days, it is not about pushing products; it’s about creating an experience and a relationship that addresses clients’ needs.

The Selling Climate Today

The world we live in is becoming more dependent on technology and digital communication, and industries are changing as a result. The average customer is changing, as well. Today’s customers are coming in prepared with information they have gathered from Web sites, social media, and word of mouth, and they are expecting more from salespeople than ever before.

Given the changing landscape of the marketplace, salespeople can no longer simply stick to what has worked in the past. Buyers are coming in prepared, and most customers have made their buying decisions before ever interacting with a salesperson. The sales process no longer simply entails showing up and attempting to close the deal. To be successful, salespeople must be experts who can read the customer, learn quickly, be resourceful, and connect the dots for the customer. Salespeople must become trusted advisors who provide insight, not just information.What Can Sales Leaders Do?

Today’s sales leaders are faced with the challenge of creating a better, more efficient sales organization. Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO
of Selling Power, explains that sales leaders need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do I hire the right salespeople?
  • Do I give them the right start, with comprehensive training on company culture and professional selling skills?
  • Do I provide the tools needed to succeed, and do I give the right coaching?

According to Mr. Gschwandtner, “Sales managers should not be numbers catchers, but people developers.” Coaching and development should be a priority.

“As a coach,” he says, “ you want to look at two things all the time. First, is the salesperson setting high enough standards and high enough goals? And second, which is more difficult, what are the self-imposed limitations that salesperson believes they have?”

This requires a listening on the part of sales leaders, as they must try to uncover the hidden obstacles and internal roadblocks their salespeople have in place.

How Do We Get There?

It is critical for sales leaders to understand the strengths of their sales team. Tom Gartland, President, North America at Avis Budget Group, states that a major goal for sales managers and leaders is “ensuring that you have the right people in the right jobs.” According to Mr. Gartland, “You have to be able to assess that, be decisive, and move on.”

He recommends matching words to actions. It is important for sales leaders to get to know each individual on the team, understand his or her role, and use that knowledge to create the best team possible.

In order to do that, Mr. Gartland says, you have to, “invest the time in them to understand them personally, their strengths, their development areas, and then make a decision and put the right team on the field. And support them.”

Implementing the Solution

The key to mentoring your sales team is listening carefully to what the salesperson is experiencing and seeing how they respond. To help your salespeople adapt to this new business environment, add some innovative or creative aspect to their standard methods of operation. Salespeople must learn to adapt to this new type of customer in order to create that world-class buying experience, and doing so involves thinking about how to sell to an organization in a way that makes a difference to them.

Salespeople today must develop the required business acumen and learn to connect the dots to address crucial aspects of the client’s business. Sales leaders have to focus on the knowledge and motivations of each team member and then predict how they will respond to sales situations and whether they will be successful. It is no longer as simple as identifying a “hunter” or a “farmer.” Those models are outdated, and sales leaders must create a new sales force that possesses the knowledge, insight, and resourcefulness to adapt to the new business environment and consistently provide a world-class buying experience to clients.

This process begins with assessing your sales team by using a valid and reliable personality assessment, like the Caliper Profile. Sales leaders can use the
information gathered from the assessment in coaching initiatives, Three Sixty engagements, and even Talent Audits. Mr. Gartland told us how his experience with the Three Sixty approach: “I’ve been through the Caliper process, and so has my team, and we’ve all discussed these openly.” These open discussions allow team members to understand one another’s strengths and areas in which they struggle.

“We’ve done Three Sixtys on all of us, including myself,” Mr. Gartland continues, “and I know the areas where I’m vulnerable.” Once all parties understand their behavior dynamics and motivations, members of your sales team can work together to make decisions and move forward to create a world-class buying experience for clients.

“Be totally open to the diversity of ideas that your new team is going to bring. Get shoulder to shoulder with them; work with them,” says Mr. Gartland. In order to create a sales force that will understand your clients, you need to truly understand the members of your team and ensure they are placed in roles in which they will succeed.