The best sales teams seem to just do amazing things together. What differentiates them? Well, they do tend to work at some of the best companies, so there is that. But it’s more than that.
A few factors that contribute to high-performing sales teams:
- High quota attainment. The best startups invest in their sales teams and work hard so most of the reps hit and exceed quota. It’s no fun and demotivating for everyone to miss their goals. This doesn’t mean lowering the bar. It does mean a well-oiled machine that hires strong reps of all backgrounds, and gets them the help and training so they can scale up and succeed.
- They have low attrition. Turning over a sales team is very hard on the organization. It’s a lot of work to train and build a team. The best sales teams scale together, with low churn and, ideally, close to zero churn in management and top performers. The idea that you can just fire the bottom 30% each year doesn’t work in a solution-sale environment. At least, not that well. Even the best reps take a few quarters to really hit their groove, even if they hit their number before then. It’s hard to really hit 110% of the plan if any significant number of your top performers turn over.
- They have great leaders. A great VP of Sales is worth her weight in gold. The best reps want to work for the best VPs of Sales. Oftentimes, in fact, it’s the main way they choose between multiple options.
- They are reasonably well trained. You have to train your team for many of them to succeed. The more you train them, the faster they scale.
- They are well — but fairly — paid. The best sales teams may have tough goals, but if they hit them, they are well paid. This doesn’t mean huge compensation for low quotas. But it does mean if they sell a ton, they make a ton. More here: Your #1 Sales Rep Should Be Driving a Tesla Plaid or M8 Convertible By Month 12. (And Not Buying a Fancy Watch.) | SaaStr
- They have examples of success to look up to and emulate. You can’t build a great sales team until you have 2 or 3 stars proving to everyone it can be done. You have to show everyone it’s possible to do amazing things in sales. Then the new hires, and everyone else, will believe. If no one is blowing out their quota, though, you’ll often hear nothing but excuses. Because the excuses always have a lot of truth in them. Sales is hard, and there are a lot of Nos.
- They have great (or at least pretty good) marketing support. The best sales teams need help. They need well-qualified leads. They need great marketing collateral. They need to be up to date on the competition. Every marking team and VP of Marketing and CMO is different, and they’ll support sales in different ways. Some will love generating leads. Others will be more focused on brand as their passion. But you need to make sure the sales team has help, even if it’s not exactly the help they want.
- They have sales operations support. After 10 reps or so, you need dedicated sales operations. You don’t want closers doing anything other than closing. Openers just opening. Etc. Your VP of Sales can train a handful of reps herself, do the comp plan herself, etc. etc. But not once you are hiring 10+ a year. It’s too much administrative overhead, when your VP of Sales should be 100% focused on closing and hitting the revenue and bookings numbers.
- They have promotion paths. There usually isn’t enough room to promote every great sales rep that wants to go into management. But it’s important you promote as many as you can fit and make work. The best sales teams see there is a real internal promotion path for at least some of them.
- They believe in the company, the mission, and the product. Yes, sales is sales and there are 10,000 products out there and I guess any rep should be able to “sell me this pen.” But sales is hard. Getting told No is hard. The reps need to believe. That’s your job. If they do, it will be much, much easier for them to sell it.
- The best sales teams are self-replicating, to an extent. If you pay folks well for doing well, create a product and mission sales reps believe in, and hire great leadership — you’ll attract many of the most ambitious next generation of salespeople. Recruiting is always tough. But sales reps, almost more than any other category of hires, are looking for signals of where to go, from a lot of noise. Seeing that 5, 10, 20+ reps are doing well, having fun, and working at a great brand will just attract another 20, 40, 100 candidates. And the best reps will bring in their friends, and more. Get that flywheel going, and the team will partially build itself. Not entirely, of course. But a bit.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)