4 Key Practices for Managing A High-Performing Sales Team

Written by
Josh Jordan
August 18, 2022

Outstanding performance doesn’t just happen by chance. You may find several great sales reps that exceed quota all on their own, but this is an anomaly. For the most part, a sales team that really moves the needle on revenue does so because they are supported by a great sales manager. It’s that person’s job to develop a habit of great performance with these team members. But how do the most successful teams achieve this?

For starters, you can’t just hand off your sales process to a team of inexperienced reps and expect them to make it work. It needs to be executed by people who understand basic sales techniques — people who can bring your sales process to life. To do this most effectively, they need a manager that can support and direct them as a team.

Sales managers often need to wear a lot of different hats. You need to be the boss, the navigator, the coach, the cheerleader, the researcher and much more. But when you’re aiming to develop a sustainable high-performance sales team, it’s important to stay focused on what matters most. To simplify the process of managing a high-performance sales team, take a closer look at how you handle your team culture, how you manage sales training, how you keep track of metrics and how you coach your reps.

Applying yourself in each of these 4 key areas of management will help you cultivate a more successful team over time. Let’s take a closer look at how you can do just that.

What Makes a High-Performance Sales Team?

To apply management strategies and best practices effectively, it’s important to first understand what a high-performing sales team looks like. In short, a high-performance sales team is one that closes more deals and produces more revenue with fewer resources. Here are a few key traits that define the most effective sales teams:

  • Goal-Focused - Effective sales teams don’t just wing it. They are focused on meeting specific metrics that define success. They aren’t distracted by doing work that doesn’t matter. They are always striving toward clearly defined goals.
  • Teamwork-Oriented - Having a bunch of lone wolf sales reps plugging away at a list of leads isn’t always the most effective strategy. Instead, working as a team helps people approach problems from multiple angles. Sales teams that lean on each other for insight, inspiration and different perspectives often close more deals.
  • Highly Engaged - Sales reps perform better when they are highly engaged with their jobs. This means they care about the work and feel connected to other people on the team as well as the larger purpose of the company. While this requires some degree of intrinsic motivation, you can foster that kind of passion as a sales manager with the right approach.
  • Trained in Top Sales Techniques - In addition to following the official sales process, the best sales teams will understand effective sales techniques and strategies. They tailor their approach to meet the needs of individual prospects and demonstrate a clear understanding of your company’s sales methodology.
  • Empathy and Honesty - The most effective salespeople aren’t robots. They’re real people who can empathize and relate to other human beings with real problems. This helps them speak to prospects on a personal level, not just as a faceless representative of the company. They also understand the target customer’s needs and strive for clarity when communicating the unique value proposition of your product. This helps them establish trust and close deals more effectively.

Optimize Your Sales Team’s Culture for Success

Company culture plays a major role in your sales team’s ability to achieve better performance. If your culture is counterproductive to the goals of your team, it’s bound to fail (and people will be miserable all the way down).

When your reps come to work each day, what is the culture like? Do they feel supported, motivated and enabled? Or do they feel discouraged and stifled in their performance?

Think of your culture like soil in a garden. In order for things to grow, the soil needs to be healthy and fertilized with material that makes growth possible. Here are some strategies to build a culture within your company and a sales team that supports your reps and encourages best practices.

Strive For Transparency

Transparency in a sales team often helps everyone succeed. It doesn't mean your reps need to know each other’s salaries or share intimate life details. It simply means that everyone is on the same page about the mission, goals, ethical standards, performance statistics, etc. of the company. These are the things that directly relate to strong performance. Managers should know how well each rep is performing and how their performance impacts company revenue. Reps should know about new company goals and initiatives, staff changes, etc..

This attitude of transparency establishes trust throughout the organization and improves engagement among team members. This usually creates a much more profitable organization, making it easier to work as a team and hold people accountable to performance standards.

Be Mindful of Company Politics

A work environment laden with company politics is toxic. It makes people dread coming to work for fear of being bullied, impeded from doing their work or potentially losing their job. This kind of environment is bad for engagement levels, and it may completely destroy the potential for effective teamwork.

Office politics is a broad term referring to toxic behavior which occurs between employees as the result of ongoing power struggles. Gossip, manipulation, power moves and bullying are all examples of such toxic behavior. While it may be impossible to eliminate office politics altogether, try to shield your sales reps from its crushing influence as much as possible. Stay positive, remain transparent, call out toxic behavior and be an example of someone who lives out the values of the company.

In an ideal scenario, sales reps would be able to focus completely on their work and on improving their performance while developing positive, supportive relationships with coworkers. However, the fear of being bullied or fired makes it much harder to focus on what matters at work. Try to diffuse as much of the politics as possible and help reps feel secure and capable in their roles.

Improve Your Team Structure

Sometimes the structure of your sales team can incentivize behaviors and attitudes that are counterproductive to a healthy organization. In these cases, restructuring your team can help you cultivate a better environment for high performance.

To start this process, consider how different roles or team members interact with each other. Larger sales teams may have separate SDR and AE teams that handle different parts of the sales process. SDRs typically generate leads while AEs close deals. In this setup, there is the potential for enmity between the two teams. This is counterproductive to high performance.

Different team structures (such as the pod structure) can optimize your system for better teamwork. In the pod structure, multiple different roles work together to handle a single prospect. Each time they tackle a new prospect, they always work together. This can help your reps lean on the strengths of other team members and support one another in their development.

Create a Supportive Environment

A supportive work environment is motivating, enabling a sales rep to do their job well and allowing them to be vulnerable about challenges without fear that someone will exploit their vulnerability as a weakness. In this environment, reps are free from needless concerns that could distract them from outstanding performance.

To cultivate this, encourage your reps to be respectful of each other and provide constructive feedback when necessary. More than that, it’s important to recognize the good traits in each member of your team. Don’t take the Jordan Belfort approach, encouraging reps to eat each other alive. Instead, practice regular team-building exercises that help build connections and empathy among reps.

Improve Your Sales Training Process

When you hire a new sales rep, it’s best to hire someone with some form of training or sales experience. Trying to teach someone who is completely new to sales all the intricacies of B2B SaaS is a huge and expensive undertaking. But even the most experienced reps will need to be trained regarding your product, your customers, your sales process, etc.

That’s why creating a unique and effective training process is essential to any good management strategy. Here are a few tips to create your own effective process:

Training Should be Ongoing

While you should have an initial training and onboarding period for all reps (usually lasting around 4 weeks), training should continue beyond that. Enable your sales reps to continue learning best practices and sales techniques at their own pace.

You can do this by setting up video learning modules or other training courses in an online database. This way, your reps can work through the material asynchronously (i.e. when it works best for them). By doing this, you won’t need to keep reps in the training room for too long (not making calls), and you won’t need a manager or trainer present to teach them. They can take charge of their own development at their own pace and keep their skills sharp.

Review Customer Personas

In order for reps to communicate your software solution to your customers with clarity, they need to ‌think like an ideal customer. That’s why it’s important to introduce reps to detailed customer personas early on during training and review them regularly. These personas should have both demographic (occupation, industry, age, location, etc.) and psychographic (opinions, values, interests, etc.) information. Whenever you review a sales call or point to a specific customer, try to connect it with one of your unique customer personas. Take time to think through the challenges of their industry and what they need in order for the deal to close.

Utilize Mentors and Peer Shadowing

As a sales manager, being able to relate to your sales reps is a major strength. This helps establish trust and respect with your team. But the work lives of an entry-level SDR and an experienced sales manager are very different. Add in the power dynamics between a manager and a subordinate, and it may be difficult for reps to receive your advice sometimes. This is just one reason peer shadowing sessions and mentorships are such effective training strategies — they allow reps to learn from their fellow reps, more experienced people they can relate to more easily than a manager.

At Prehired, we match all of our members with a mentor that can help them succeed in their sales journey. Besides being relatable, a mentor can get to know a new sales rep on an individual level, providing unique coaching, feedback and tips based on that person’s needs. They can also model effective techniques and workflows for new reps to imitate.

In this exercise, new hires can have a live, in-depth look at how an experienced rep does the job well. They can also ask questions about specific techniques and gain a full picture of the job from an over-the-shoulder perspective. Overall, it’s a much more hands-on learning experience than sitting in a classroom that also tends to solidify learning more effectively.

Practice Call Scripts with Role Play

Well-designed call scripts and email templates are the base for a productive sales conversation. While reps won’t need to repeat each script verbatim, it provides a direction or a strategy of how to move the conversation. Reviewing these on a regular basis will help reps improve their conversation skills so that calls flow naturally toward the most important topics of discussion.

As a sales manager, it’s important to practice these scripts in role play exercises. They don’t have to be cheesy. You can make them realistic and effective by modeling each scenario after an actual sales call recording. Role play offers an opportunity to practice sales and conversation skills in a controlled setting. This allows reps to receive feedback and practice new techniques without the pressure of a real sales call.

Create a Sales Playbook

A sales playbook is a resource that breaks down your sales process into individual modules or micro-processes. Creating a sales playbook can help your new hires learn your sales process more easily. A sales playbook provides clear steps which your reps can easily consume and memorize in smaller, more manageable chunks. It also acts as a reference guide for sales reps to access quickly throughout their regular workflow in case they forget a step in the process. If they need to know how to qualify leads, how best to generate leads or how to build a sales pipeline, they can look up the information quickly.

Focus on Sales Metrics

Highly productive sales teams are focused on the goals of the department and on the metrics that define success. These help you know where you stand with regard to your goals as a department and as a team. To be an effective sales manager, you’ll need to draw the focus of your reps back to the concrete goals. Are they meeting targets? Are they following the process? This consistent metric-focused work will help produce better performance over time.

Individual and Team Metrics

As a department, you should be tracking performance metrics at both the individual level and the team level.

Individual metrics show if each sales rep is pulling their own weight. If you have someone who isn’t meeting targets for a long period of time, you’ll need to coach them toward better performance or let them go. During 1:1 meetings, individual metrics make it easier to hold reps accountable to high performance standards and point to specific areas of improvement.

Team metrics remind the team they are all working together. No individual person is responsible for the success or failure of the team — that burden is shared among everyone. Creating a team metric will remind your reps that they all need to work together to achieve collective success. Team metrics may also give you insight into whether or not your overall sales process needs improvement. Sometimes when an entire team is failing to meet goals, it’s a systematic issue. You may discover your reps have needs that aren’t being met across the department.

It’s important to keep track of both types of metrics in order to gain a clear picture of how your team is performing at every level.

Lead Metrics vs. Lag Metrics

There are plenty of metrics you may want to track, depending on how your sales team is set up. Most of the time, these metrics fall into two categories: lead and lag metrics.

Lead metrics are performance standards that are within the sales rep’s control. Also called activity metrics, these often take the form of call quotas, email quotas, time spent prospecting, etc.. As long as a sales rep puts in the effort, they can meet lead metrics.

Lag metrics are performance standards that are somewhat outside of a sales rep’s control. These are the outcomes of the lead metrics — things like meetings booked, deals closed, revenue generated, etc. Your sales reps can’t make people close. They can’t directly increase revenue. But if they aren’t making enough calls or getting enough qualified leads, they likely won’t close enough deals either. There is a definite correlation between the two types of metrics.

When reviewing these metrics with your sales reps, it’s important to place the appropriate amount of weight on each type of metric. Have reps focus on the daily work they’re responsible for (lead metrics), trusting that they will achieve the results (lag metrics) in time.

With that, it’s important to focus on the outcomes as the overall target. If a sales rep isn’t generating enough revenue or closing enough deals consistently, there’s no use in having them make calls all day with the same technique. Something about their work is obviously ineffective, and you’ll want to review their calls to see how they can improve their technique to produce better results.

However, if a sales rep meets quota (lag metrics) with fewer calls or emails (lead metrics), it’s best to not hold them accountable to meeting lead metrics for that period. If they were able to meet the same goals more efficiently, that should be rewarded. In other words, don’t make them do more work when they’ve already hit the desired target.

Set Clear Expectations

Sales reps should have no confusion about what is expected of them. Lay out the metrics you use from the beginning of the training and onboarding process and make sure reps understand them. This makes it much easier to hold them accountable to performance standards later on and avoid the “I didn’t know” conversation if they don’t meet expectations.

This is also essential to creating a transparent organization. When everyone is on the same page about what success looks like, people are more likely to strive for those goals together.

Make Team Metrics Public

Metrics can also motivate people toward better performance. While individual metrics should be private (i.e. between the rep and the manager), making your team metrics publicly accessible can be a great motivation strategy. Try sending updates about new deals, or set up a consistent revenue tracker that the team can view at any time. As the team watches metrics improve, this can show them the fruits of their team efforts and spur them on to keep working hard together.

How to Coach Your Sales Reps

Perhaps the most important part of a sales manager’s job is coaching. For the most part, sales reps do their jobs independently of supervision. But they still need direction to reach their full potential. The goal of coaching is to teach, encourage, and motivate your sales reps to consistently meet and exceed desired targets. This means reinforcing and rewarding good habits, as well as keeping your team focused on the goals of the department.

To help you do this, here are a few best practices:

Use Multiple Motivation Strategies

Not every sales rep is motivated by the same factors. While no sales rep works for free, commissions aren’t always the best motivator when you want your whole team to go above and beyond expectations.

For instance, some reps may be motivated by promotions, while others are motivated by the idea of having fun at work. Others may want to earn prizes or public recognition for their efforts. You don’t always need to pay for a golf outing or a huge company retreat as a reward. Don’t underestimate the simple power of praise and recognition.

However you choose to coach and motivate your reps, consider the multiple different sources of motivation and implement strategies that can speak to those shown by people on your team.

Remove Roadblocks

When your sales reps complain about something getting in the way of their work, listen to them with an open mind. There is no reason not to remove a roadblock from a rep’s work if it doesn’t impede the company or another employee in the process. If there is a flaw in the process or something that requires extra work to complete, try to eliminate those things. Make success in your department as achievable as possible.

If for some reason you can’t solve the problem, it’s still best to listen and empathize with your reps about their concerns. This lets them know that you (the manager) hear them and you care about their frustrations. Don’t simply dismiss it and tell them to get over it. This will make your team feel like they aren’t valued by the company. If possible, explain to them why you cannot solve the problem and help them develop strategies that work around the roadblock. In most cases, sales reps will forgive the fact that something can’t be changed as long as they know their struggles are acknowledged.

Keep Track of Your Sales Pipeline

A huge part of managing a high-performance sales team is managing the sales pipeline. The most effective way to do this is to keep a close eye on your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform. The CRM allows you and your sales team to visualize the flow of deals and progress of each prospect in the customer’s journey. This can be such an effective tool for helping reps visualize the overall sales strategy, and should be used as often as possible during sales meetings and 1:1 coaching sessions.

As sales manager, part of your job is to forecast sales data and develop strategies for your reps that take advantage of those predicted outcomes. The goal with this is to have a steady stream of qualified leads and closed deals at any given time.

Your reps can then take this strategy and implement it in their daily workflows. But rather than giving them a blind set of directives, help them connect their work to the pipeline strategy. Coach your reps in strategies that best generate more leads and close more deals. What is the most effective activity for them to do this week? How can your reps best move these early-stage deals to the next stage? What accounts are most important to work on right now to create a healthier pipeline?

Review Call Recordings With Your Reps

If you record your calls using Gong or similar software, reviewing those recordings with your sales reps can drastically improve your team’s performance on sales calls. Something about hearing your own voice on a recording tends to turn on the inner critic. Sales reps may even point out areas for improvement on their own before you even have a chance.

It will also help your reps become familiar with the rhythm of a sales call. Over time, they will likely improve their flow and rhythm in future calls almost intuitively. Otherwise, when you are coaching your reps on how to handle sales calls more effectively, point to specific examples and provide direction for improvement. Phrase your critiques with this pattern: “Don’t do that. Instead, do this.” This creates an active approach toward improving sales techniques and makes it more likely you’ll see positive progress on the next review.

Final Thoughts

Building and managing a high-performance sales team is no easy task. You can’t just stop at an effective training process. Once a sales team fully ramps up to meeting metrics, it takes a truly outstanding leader with industry knowledge to develop a high-performance sales culture and maintain that performance over time.

But no matter how great of a leader you are, you can only do so much to coach and motivate your sales reps. Some people you hire may simply not have the skills or personality for sales. Even if they can technically do the job, training low-tier talent to achieve high performance requires more managerial support and resources. In some cases, the effort it takes to help them ramp up isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, hiring top-tier sales talent requires fewer training resources, making for a better return on investment overall. This way, you can achieve the same performance results with less effort.

At Prehired, our members are trained in the most effective sales techniques used by the top performers in the SaaS industry. We also provide them with continued support and mentorship throughout the entirety of their sales career. Beyond that, we curate lists of specific candidates for you to interview based on who we believe to be the best fit for your company.

As a Prehired partner, you can gain access to your own personal pipeline of highly qualified SDR candidates to fill your sales teams. These candidates also come guaranteed — if they don’t last at your company for 60 days, we’ll replace them at no extra cost.

Schedule a call with us to find out how hiring a Prehired member for your organization can improve your team’s performance with fewer resources.

Josh Jordan

As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.

How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...

...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...

...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.

Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.

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