Building a top producing sales team to grow an organization has never been easy. Arguably, many factors impact reaching sales targets year after year. Selling as a practice is more art than science. There is more to sales than selling and a lot more to building a sales team that successfully exceeds revenue goals.
I learned this the hard way when I started my first business at 6 years old, selling flowers door to door. An early spring bloom presented a business opportunity.
I went for it.
I sourced my inventory from the rose bushes lining the property of the scary lady who lived next door.
I recruited my team. My twin sister became my star because she had great references, knew the territory and looked like someone who could close business.
I made her an offer and she accepted.
Business was booming until market conditions outside my control led to the shut-down of operations. It all happened (as it often does) after closing a big deal where we were paid more than market value; twenty bucks. I had no change. Let’s just say we found our first capital investor.
With a healthy cash flow and a winning attitude, we knocked on a few more doors. Success made us sloppy with the P&L. We foolishly agreed to accept payment from a client’s penny jar. Unfocused and needing naps, we later accepted a deal that paid in pretzels. With inventory running low and frazzled nerves, we knocked on the door of a prospect we didn’t qualify. We were laughed off the front stoop before we could even give our sales presentation.
The high from our earlier success was forgotten. We grew dejected and ate the pretzels. As the business owner, I became preoccupied by the pressure of falling sales and did not realize that my sales star had grown disenchanted.
I believe now she was only in it for the pretzels.
She started making excuses for her lack of sales like being thirsty from all the walking, talking and eating the salty profits.
Nonetheless, hyper focused on our slipping margins, I worked harder, heading over to scary lady’s house to pick more inventory instead of managing my team. While I was distracted trying to save our failing enterprise, my sister/trusted employee, who had just consumed a significant portion of our earnings, decided to inform Legal, (our mother) regarding concerns she had about the business.
A PR nightmare ensued when, red handed with inventory, I was apprehended at the rose bushes by Legal, who immediately halted business with an unprofessional and undignified, loud, disciplinary action. Just when things could not get worse, scary lady came outside.
My relationship with my team deteriorated. My sister resigned under the strain and accepted an offer from Malibu Barbie. I persisted but key supplier relationships were damaged. Scary lady decided to put a fence around the rosebushes. I cheapened my brand by replacing the roses with weeds which, even at discounted prices, were an inferior product offering.
Without the synergistic sales and marketing support from my sister and a product I believed in, I could not recover the lost revenues. Sadly, the business folded.
The principals I learned from my door to door flower selling business so many years ago are the basis of how I practice the art of sales today.
Here they are.
10 Principals I Learned
1. Just because someone resembles a power, sales-closer, do not be fooled! Many salespeople with great references and resumes who look the part on paper are unable to close business in less than ideal circumstances. They are easy to spot because they never last very long at any one company.
2. She’s in it for more than the money. A great salesperson needs to close a deal for reasons that extend beyond money, like a passion for excellence, a desire to bring a great product to market, a calling or a life purpose.
3. She is a person of knowledge and integrity. If she’s faking it, in the end her words become worthless weeds.
4. She does not make excuses. She knows her number and she has a growing and evolving toolkit of strategies to overshoot it, consistently.
5. She knows that the most dangerous time for a shift to occur from closing deals to not closing deals is right after a big sale. She has a methodology for dealing with the big wins and growth. She has learned that if she doesn’t use this strategy with discipline, she will encounter a ricochet that will threaten future business.
6. She protects the profits. She knows selling to price dilutes value and is not selling but bleeding profits and harming the business. This type of discount never serves the customer. It forces the market to compromise quality to compete. What the customer saves on the front end he more than pays for on the back end, often to another company.
7. She knows how to manage her time, when to re-fuel, and most important never to give up when the customer says “no”. Each, “no”, is a step closer to, “yes”.
8. She does not get distracted. She scores high on emotional, intelligence indexes. She takes a genuine, human interest in the people that she works with because good relationships are the best guarantee she has for future sales. A disjointed sales organization fosters mutiny and self-interest which takes the entire team and ultimately the company down. It’s a toxic energy and it will always work its poison.
9. She does not eat the profits up with counterproductive activity i.e. making a presentation to an unqualified prospect. Anything that is not moving the sale forward is moving it backwards. Staying on task and defining targets are keys to great sales results.
10. She resolves a challenge by learning how to transform it into an opportunity to gain a deeper loyalty from the customer by using creativity, knowledge and experience.
The metrics used to identify sales team members remains unreliable at best. Evaluating character, personality, skills of persuasion and communication is not an exact science. Consistent top performing sales teams are a result of a synergistic dynamic which considers all the moving parts of an organization while fostering, nurturing and maintaining standards of accountability. When there is a breakdown in any one area, sales are affected. Having a plan in place for these inevitables is the art and practice necessary for longstanding, consistent business growth.
For more insights into winning sales team dynamics and strategies to grow your team or to provide feedback, please reach out to me on LinkedIn!