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Creating Consciously Competent Sales Teams

By Jarrod Kleweno, Director of Corporate Sales at Service Source

This blog was live-blogged from B2B Tech Sales MeetUp in Seattle, WA on July 30th, 2014. B2B Tech Sales MeetUp is for people looking for actionable strategies in tech sales who want to network and collaborate with sales leaders.


My first days in sales were rocky. In the words of my boss at the time, I was “unconciously incompetent” at my job. Which is to say, I wasn’t aware of everything in sales that I wasn’t aware of. Luckily for me, my first boss recognized that I had a positive attitude, willingness to be coached, and desire to improve. Through active coaching, lots of work, and time, I shifted from being an unconsciously incompetent salesman to a sales leader building sales teams.

I’m passionate about building consciously competent sales teams. I’ve built enough sales teams to know that, depending upon the business and existing sales staff, each team I build is going to look slightly different. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about building consciously competent sales teams:

1 - Understand the Goals of the Organization & Build A Hiring Plan - Before you begin building out your sales team, you need to understand your organization’s growth goals. To do this, I map out growth goals across a span of years.

Once I understand a company’s growth goals, I utilize the company’s sales process to analyze and evaluate the company’s sales talents. In my experience, the best way to do this is by getting onto sales phone calls with existing staff to assess what they do well and what they can improve on. Additionally, I look at the existing training offered by the company to assess where I may need to make investments in training in the future.

2 - What to look for when building a team - Once I’ve assessed the current state of sales in conjunction with the company’s sales goals, I’ll look to hire new salespeople to round out the sales team talent pool. Some of the traits I look for are:

  • Drive

  • Coach-ability

  • Self-Awareness

  • Sincerity

  • Business Acumen

  • Ability to self-educate

In addition to these traits, I’ll vet salespeople across various selling temperaments. For example, if I was building a sales staff for a startup, I’d want to search for a salesperson who is comfortable operating in an unstructured sales environment. Alternatively, if I’m hiring for a large, sophisticated sales operation, I aim to hire a salesperson who has a high tolerance for bureaucratic systems.

Some other traits I look for in salespeople are: do they prefer high-volume sales or high quality sales, are they closers or pleasers, do they have a rapport with executives or do they prefer interacting with mid-managers. Before you build your sales team, make sure that you understand what type of sales environment your company has and select for salespeople who will fit well in your given environment.

3 - Define the Carrots and Sticks - This is an area that’s easy to get wrong when you’re building a sales team. Often, I’ve found that company’s build their incentives around the top couple of performers in their organization and end up losing lots of competent salespeople because of unrealistic expectations. You can’t build all of your carrots and sticks around your highest performing salesperson – you have to create incentives for your competent middle to perform well.

When building a sales team, I think of base salary as a hiring tool, and commissions as motivation to reward positive performance. My goal is to build out a commissions system that operates like a bell curve, benefitting the middle performers enough to encourage 40 hours of solid work, pushing out my low performers, and providing enough rewards to my top performers that they’re well-compensated for their rockstar status.

4 - Conduct Sales Training With New Staff - Sales training is the time to set clear expectations with your sales staff. Provide a framework for your salespeople and help them understand what they need to be successful.

During the training process, I’m focused on a salesperson activity, attitude, and results:

  • If a sales person doesn’t have much activity, and has a good attitude, they probably won’t get the desired results

  • If a sales person does a lot of activity, but has a bad attitude, they probably won’t get the desired results.

  • If a sales person does a lot of activity, has a good attitude, but doesn’t get good results, then I know that I need to provide that person with more coaching and resources to be successful.

In truth, good sales teams never stop learning and improving. I like to sit in on phone calls from time to time to actively coach my experienced salespeople, and I set the expectation that I’ll be taking an active role in their progress.


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4 Ways To Shift The Sales Mindset

by George Brewster, President and Founder of Gimbal Systems

This blog was live-blogged from B2B Tech Sales MeetUp in Seattle, WA on July 30th, 2014. B2B Tech Sales MeetUp is for people looking for actionable strategies in tech sales who want to network and collaborate with sales leaders.


What is your biggest challenge to success in sales today? I believe that one of the biggest challenges to success for salespeople is that they’re walled-off from prospective buyers and they’re unsure how to communicate with leads. Given the ever-expanding number of ways that you can communicate with potential buyers, it’s no wonder that prospecting for new leads feels like trying to drink from a firehose.

In contrast, buyers have never had so much power in the sales process. Potential buyers are no longer dependent upon salespeople to educate them about products or services. They have access to real-time reviews from customers, can trial your competitor’s products or services, and can learn about your history as a salesperson.

While the balance of power in sales has tipped in favor of buyers (and I think that’s a good thing), the negative perception of salespeople as pushy, sleazy, hucksters remains. Why is that? Why have people’s mental models of sales not caught up with the changing reality of the modern sales environment?

If you work in sales, I believe that you can shift your buyer’s mindset in a positive direction by shifting your own mindset. Principally, you need to work to overcome common fears or misperceptions about sales. Below are 4 negative mindsets about sales to change:

This word cloud shows words that people commonly associate with sales. Give the right type of follow-up & be persistent, not pushy

This word cloud shows words that people commonly associate with sales. Give the right type of follow-up & be persistent, not pushy

1 - I don’t want to be the pushy salesperson - Your buyers don’t want you to be pushy either. However, our fear of being too pushy has led salespeople to be too timid when approaching prospects. Most sales are not made during the initial contact. In fact, most sales are not made during the second, third or fourth contact. Nearly 80% of sales are made after making contact with a prospect between 5 to 12 times.

It’s important to know that there is a distinct difference between being professional persistent (which is a good thing) and spamming your prospects with unwanted messages. When you’re professionally persistent, you add-value at every point of contact and you always have a reason for contacting your prospects. Don’t let your fear of being perceived as pushy interfere with your need to follow-up with prospects.

2 - You have to be an extrovert to be in sales - This is one of the most persistent stereotypes about salespeople. The image of the gregarious, outgoing salesperson is powerful - and probably false. In fact, most studies have shown that there is no definite link between being an extrovert and being successful in sales. The latest research suggests that the best salespeople are able to modulate between extroversion and introversion.

What does this mean for you? If you are an extrovert, your sales challenge may be to act more like an introvert and focus on your listening skills. If you’re an introvert, your challenge is to assert yourself and proactively communicate with potential leads.

Instead of shying away from tough questions, run towards the "roar" of difficult questions.

Instead of shying away from tough questions, run towards the "roar" of difficult questions.

3 - I need to know everything in order to sell well - This line of thinking tends to block salespeople’s from taking action and causes people to shy away from tough questions. In truth, salespeople do not need to know everything in order to achieve a sale. When you’re faced with tough questions, attack them head on with your potential buyer and seek solutions. Your product or service may not have everything that a prospect thinks that they need. If you shy away from answering their question though, you’ll almost assuredly guarantee another lost sale.

4 - It’s all about business and closing the deal - this final mindset can be one of the most challenging negative mindsets to overcome in sales. In fact, it’s this fear that you must close a deal at any given opportunity that can causes many salespeople to lose sales. When you’re faced with a stressful situation, how you show-up under duress is critical to your success. Focus on not losing your cool and blowing your buyer out of their seat. If they’re not ready to make a decision yet, think of your next contact as another opportunity to add-value.

One final thought – I think one of the most harmful misperceptions in society today is that people don’t want to be sold. I couldn’t disagree more. People don’t want to be sold a bad deal. They’re wary of the old-school “cavaet emptor” world of sales that placed all of the power in the hands of the salesperson. However, when sales is done right, people absolutely like to be sold to. As a seller, focus on offering genuine value at every step and you’ll make the sales process a delight.


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