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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Nature vs nurture: Are selling skills born or made?
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