How to Build a High-Performing Sales Team

When you think about building a team it’s easy to get blinded by the instant thought of “just hire more people.” Simple, right? In theory, yes, but you don’t just want to build any old team, you want to build a successful team and one that is going to improve your company in the long term not just generate short term results or, worse, cause problems within the department or even your sector.

In the case of sales it is these employees who soon become the faces of the company and often the first interaction that a customer might have with your brand and, as we all know, first impressions count. 

Here at Meet Hugo we believe that we’ve built up a genuinely high-performing internal sales team with a vast range of skill sets and levels of experience, helping to promote our sales intelligence product and not just tell, but also show, prospective clients how it works and how it can benefit their business by offering free demonstrations. Without their knowledge of the product, sales skills and personalities we wouldn’t be able to offer such a detailed walkthrough – and we certainly wouldn’t have more than 500 subscribers around the world (at the time of writing) – which is why we believe we’re pretty well placed to tell you how to build a high-performing sales team.

Different skills and strengths are key

Building a team who all have different approaches and techniques is crucial, enabling you to adapt your sales team’s strategies according to individual strengths and weaknesses. 

You may have someone who is particularly adept at speaking to certain types of people but struggles with others, or you might have someone who knows a sector inside out but isn’t as confident in another area where a different member of the team excels. While a lot of sales teams work towards individual goals it’s just as important to hit the team targets as it is to hit those personal goals come the end of the month.

This is an approach that CEO of English Blinds, John Moss, thoroughly agrees with. He told us that “Excellent teams need a combination of their stars or highflyers, steady key members and those with a wacky and yes, even potentially hit and miss approach. Sales representatives and executives should be nurtured into finding their own style and what works for them, identifying their own niche of clients that they perform particularly well with.”

John Moss, CEO of English Blinds

Cover all bases

You want to ensure that the people in your team are able to cover all of the key roles you find within a sales team. Developing training plans and campaign strategies, overseeing the wider team, setting targets and monitoring performance, creating reports and having the ability to build relationships with the team and customers are all key so if you can find one person that ticks all of those boxes you’re certainly well on the way to building your high-performing sales team.

Jayson DeMers, CEO, Email Analytics

Dig into the statistics to monitor and improve performance

Data is a valuable tool these days. It’s everywhere. It’s also freely available in the tools that you use and the spreadsheets that you might make yourselves to track your calls, emails and follow-ups. Jayson DeMers, the CEO of Email Analytics, is a real advocate for monitoring your performance through data and statistics, and he told us “To supercharge your sales team you must first enable them to measure and improve their average lead response times. With emails 35-50% of sales go to the vendor who responds first, and responding within 5 minutes puts you in the top 7% of vendors!”

He went on to say “It can often take five follow-ups to close 80 percent of sales conversions, yet average salespeople only follow-up once. The best, and those that really care about improving their own performance and that of their team – and company – will ensure that they follow-up again and again. Emails with between one and three questions are 50 percent more likely to get a response, so it’s definitely worth asking questions of your prospects in order to get them to convert, it’s a personal touch that can really work.”

Respond promptly to increase conversions

Response times are also key, making a monumental difference between a successful sale and a luke-warm lead that eventually goes cold. Tarah Darge, the Marketing Manager at timetoreply told us “One best practice that is almost always overlooked when building a successful team is the speed agents need to reply to emails. This isn’t as big a deal for internal emails, but critical for sales teams (especially when emails vs calls have increased over 20% since COVID).”

She went on to say that “If you reply in 1 hour, you have 7 times more success than 2 hours, and 60 times more success than a 24 hour period. However, the industry average response time is 42 hours! You also have a 900% increase in contact rates when you respond in five minutes. Most teams are unaware and never track this “time to reply” ratio, yet it can save their company if sales have dropped. Especially if there are fewer prospects with money, and 78% of sales go to the first company to respond.”

Tarah Darge, Marketing Manager, timetoreply

Peter Mann, Founder, SC Vehicle Hire

Develop a checklist of responsibilities

Another top tip comes from the Founder of SC Vehicle Hire from Southampton, Peter Mann. He told us ”To build a successful sales team, keep a daily or weekly record of your workforce performance. Make sure that you have a checklist of all your responsibilities for the month, and note which ones are being started, processed, and done. The result: improved productivity. The secret here is regularly monitoring your team’s improvements and taking into account the company’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sales, so you know which aspects must be worked out.”

He also recommended checking in on the health of your sales team. With such a target-focussed approach to working it can have a negative impact on someone’s health if they get bogged down in the number of calls, emails and sales. “Check if your employees are having enough breaks and aren’t overworking”, he said. “As time goes by, you will see what might be a slow but gradual development on your team’s performance which will eventually lead to success because they’ve taken the time to refresh, regroup and go again.”

Collaboration and team building

Working together and ensuring that the team remains tight knit is key, even in such a competitive environment as sales where everyone has their individual targets as well as team objectives. At Meet Hugo it’s vitally important that the whole department can support each other inside and outside the office, as Senior Sales Executive Kamal Leadbitter explains:

“We do a lot of work activities to keep the team tight like having lunch together and socialising outside work, and ensuring that we welcome any new members into the team at the earliest opportunity so they feel comfortable around us all. This helps us to become more of a family than a team and we can then work together to hit our targets.”

It’s not just within the sales department where people are encouraged to work together, as the Meet Hugo sales team regularly meet with members of the marketing and research departments in order to ensure that they have the most accurate information to work with, helping them to achieve more sales. That sales data can then be collated daily and interpreted to establish opportunities for improvement and training based on the number of calls made, size of the pipeline and total sales.

Kamal Leadbitter, Senior Sales Executive, Meet Hugo

David Richter, Director of Marketing, Ciphr

Coordinate the teams

David Richter, the Director of Marketing at Ciphr, agrees with this notion of ensuring that sales and marketing take a collaborative approach.

”Since lockdown, direct mail campaigns have been put on hold because nearly everyone is working remotely,” he said. 

“Feedback from the sales team is that since schools have returned, the back office staff have also returned to the workplace too. The marketing team have been able to run targeted direct mail campaigns to the relevant people at these prospects in the education sector. Coordinating this with the sales team has enabled the sales team to be proactive in their outreach efforts to follow up on the direct mail campaigns.”

Make every member feel valued, incentivized and empowered

Founder of Meet Hugo Ben Harper, who has overseen the growth of the internal sales team, believes that building a successful sales team is about making each member feel valued by providing them with what they need to succeed, while also giving them the freedom to fly solo.

“Empower the team with the best tools and training to develop will undoubtedly bring the best out of each member of the team as everyone responds differently,” he said. At the same time, setting tangible commission or reward-based structures gives them the push they need to not just reach those targets but to push themselves to develop, to be creative and to ultimately succeed.”

Ben Harper, Founder, Meet Hugo

Tom Holland, Sales Manager, Meet Hugo

The Meet Hugo process in practice

The Meet Hugo sales manager Tom Holland takes all of the above into consideration when adding new members to the team, and has also provided a step-by-step process that explains just how current members are recruited and integrated into the sales department. 

“Building a high performing sales task is no easy feat,” he says. “You need time, understanding, patience and a clear understanding of what personalities mix well and work for your product. 

You post an advert, ask Linkedin for recommendations and reach out to those who either you know at competitors or businesses that align well with yourselves. Still in this digital day and age people send in their CVs or something similar that gives you a rough idea of someone’s career path, but that doesn’t always tell a full story about them as a character and their all important personality. If I had my way, CVs would be a secondary tool to confirm someone’s previous work history and candidates would apply with a video recording – something fun, captivating and that can tell a story far better than any list of business names and dates!”

“When it comes to the next step in the application and hiring process traditionally I would pick up the telephone and have a chat with candidates and talk as if they were a friend. I try to avoid speaking about their career too much and focus on knocking down the wall put up between us and talk on a personal level, trying to understand the individual and how they present themselves. Could this person represent me as a sales manager and us as a business? Could they sell our product and how will they be perceived by our target audience? If the answer is yes to all of the above then we move onto the interview stage.”

“At this point I like to keep things fairly informal, relaxed and moving at pace. I like to understand and get to know the person, their journey to where they are now both personally and professionally as this will help us to find out if and where they would fit into the current team. I might ask questions like, ‘Talk me through your career to date?’, which is an open question that enables the candidate to discuss each step towards their current situation, and – of course – being in sales I like to throw in the odd question to see how a candidate reacts to situations, so I might ask something like ‘what is a strength of yours that doesn’t align well with sales?’ Some of the answers are great. There isn’t a right or wrong answer but the facial expressions are priceless!”

“I’ve always found that each personality on my team is received well by different sectors. You tend to find that different client sectors have their own personalities and with people buying from people this is key to success. I guess that, in a nutshell, I look for personality rather than experience. The sales aspect of the job is key, but this is something that can be taught whereas you can’t teach someone a personality. That’s why I try to keep the interview process as fun and pacy as possible, and hire someone for what they can be, not what they are today because nobody is the finished article when they come into a new role. There is always something you can learn.”

We hope this gives you something to think about when it comes to building your own sales team, and the people you look to recruit. Here at Meet Hugo we’re always looking to develop and educate our employees – in all departments – so if you have any top development tips for us then be sure to get in touch with us. If you’d like to learn more about our sales intelligence platform then don’t hesitate to drop us a message and a member of our team will be happy to speak to you and even show you a demonstration.