Your sales team is more often than not the engine of your com­pa­ny. In essence, with­out a strong and effec­tive sales team your com­pa­ny would cease to exist (unless senior man­age­ment take to the phones of course). But the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is — what makes a sales team effec­tive in the first place and are sell­ing skills born or made?

Lucy Franklin is Sales Direc­tor for Accor­dance VAT, who spe­cialise in help­ing busi­ness­es to trade inter­na­tion­al­ly. Lucy cur­rent­ly man­ages 23 sales pro­fes­sion­als and says it’s one of the strongest sales teams she’s ever worked with. But why does she think this is?

What’s the magic formula? 

Sales Man­agers and Sales Direc­tors all over the coun­try, in both prod­uct-based and ser­vice-based indus­tries (B2B and B2C) would be rub­bing their hands in glee if there was a sim­ple answer to this ques­tion, but the truth is, there is not a mag­ic for­mu­la. That said, from my own expe­ri­ence of build­ing, man­ag­ing and coach­ing effec­tive sales teams, there is most def­i­nite­ly a for­mu­la!  

Hav­ing inter­viewed many sales peo­ple over the years, I can safe­ly say that the old-age inter­view ques­tions relat­ing to dri­ve and moti­va­tion, effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, nego­ti­a­tion and abil­i­ty to influ­ence oth­ers will cer­tain­ly offer you some steer as to whether the inter­vie­wee has the right attrib­ut­es and sell­ing skills. The prob­lem is, what some­one says and what some­one actu­al­ly does in prac­tice are two very dif­fer­ent things… And here­in lies the prob­lem – recruit­ment con­sul­tants will prep their can­di­dates so well that you poten­tial­ly end up with no valu­able, real insight at all, just anoth­er can­di­date with anoth­er tool kit of stan­dard respons­es – lead­ing you to high attri­tion rates. 

What you really need to know

What you real­ly want to know is the stuff that is hard to extract. Their val­ues, their motives, their aspi­ra­tions, their prin­ci­ples and ethos, their long-term goals, their polit­i­cal views, their choice of friends, their upbring­ing. This is the real insight you need – pick­ing apart what makes them tick, and tak­ing us back to the old-age the­o­ry around nature/nurture.

Selling skills: born or made

So how do you build an effective sales team?

In sum­ma­ry, the first step  in build­ing an effec­tive sales team is find­ing those peo­ple that are inher­ent­ly dri­ven (because they play com­pet­i­tive ten­nis every Sun­day), that are excel­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tors (because they write thank you cards at Christ­mas) and are mon­ey-ori­en­tat­ed and moti­vat­ed (because they took their first job at 13). 

In my expe­ri­ence, the best sales­peo­ple are those peo­ple that can be eas­i­ly over­looked (because you are focus­ing on their CV too much — what they have done rather than what they can do) or because you are not ask­ing the ques­tions that will real­ly offer you the insight you need.  Once you have found these peo­ple and you add excel­lent man­age­ment, career pro­gres­sion, like-mind­ed col­leagues, a good rewards pack­age, a relaxed but dri­ven work­ing envi­ron­ment; and most impor­tant­ly, strong train­ing, teamed with effec­tive coach­ing and men­tor­ing, you can do won­der­ful things. 

The perfect balance

I cur­rent­ly man­age a team of 23 sales pro­fes­sion­als and I would say that they are one of the most effec­tive and strong sales teams I have every worked with….and why? Because they have the per­fect bal­ance of nat­ur­al acu­men teamed with effec­tive learn­ing. And until I can find that mag­ic bul­let, this for­mu­la absolute­ly works.

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sales team guide

Nature vs nur­ture: Are sell­ing skills born or made?
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