One of the biggest questions facing fast-growing companies is: how to scale a sales team. Scaling a sales team is so much more than a massive recruitment drive. More people mean more overhead and more aggressive sales targets.
It’s easy to fall into the traps like many other organisations before you. You might sacrifice culture for turnover and accept an elevated attrition rate in your sales team.
Some will argue that a revolving door of demoralised salespeople in exchange for hitting targets will be worth it in the long run.
Except it never is. On average, most departments will experience a 13% or less attrition rate. In sales, it jumps as high as 35%. So you need to budget for hiring an extra third of your workforce on top of what you’re already spending.
Considering costs of recruiting – including onboarding, a ramp-up period, reduced output from supervising staff and recruitment fees, you can usually add between 30-70% of base salary on top. This, of course, depends on the role and level of experience.
To break that down in simple terms, taking a conservative 30% cost of hire:
Rounding down, for every 10 people you recruit, you will need to actually recruit 13. If their base salary is £25,000, you need to allow for between £7,500 per person, on top. Recruiting for an extra three people for every ten will cost upwards of £22,500 a time.
By focusing on hiring the right people and investing in their onboarding process, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money and time. Not to mention reducing disruption and avoiding the hit to morale a constant churn of staff can cause.
You need to be able to create a series of processes that are both scalable and repeatable. This will allow you to build the best sales team quickly and cost-effectively.
Before you can ask: how to scale a sales team, you need to ask: how does my sales team sell and is it scaleable? Before you write your first job description, you need to define your sales process. This will allow you to onboard and ramp up your new recruits rapidly.
Your sales process will serve as a step by step guide for your sales teams so everyone knows what is expected of them. It will also help to sell more effectively and close deals quickly.
While you can develop a process that works best for your business to sell your products or services a good starting point is:
A typical sales process generally includes:
Who are you targeting? How do you find these prospects? Outbound, inbound, cold calling?
You need to take the time to define who you prospect. This needs to be done in a scaleable way.
What makes a qualified lead for your business?
A qualified leads means something different in every business. Of course, they need to have the budget and the authority but maybe in your businesses, there are other indicators. It’s important to take the time to put this on paper so new employees know what leads are a good fit and which aren’t.
Contact your leads/ demo/ pitch
Who contacts the lead, and what questions do you ask? Do you pitch on the first call?
For some businesses, the first conversation is a pitch and for others, it’s more of a discovery call. Either way, you need a process that is clear to new joiners.
If your company handles, processes, files, and manages the data of one of the 12 million Americans who visit the European Union every year while they are located in the EU, GDPR applies to your company.
Closing the deal and retaining the customer
How do you close deals and then hand the customer off to the customer success team?
The best companies delight customers before and after the deal is closed.
It’s critical to document what happens after the deal is signed so that the energy created by sales can continue through the project and leads to more work in the future.
However, you need to create a process that works for your organisation and your people, so design it accordingly. As you develop your process, it’s also worth considering:
Before you set anything in stone, it’s wise to break down each step of your sales process into smaller sub-steps. This gives everyone a clear understanding of how each part of the process works and how best to achieve it.
It will also help you to determine if any steps are missing or unnecessary. Equally, you can identify areas that require additional information, such as objection handling or answers to frequently asked questions, so your new recruits aren’t caught off guard.
The effort you put in at this stage will translate to a confident, motivated and capable team. Rather than one uncertain of expectations and concerned for their job security.
Team members who feel safe perform better. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fear of failure or punishment isn’t a particularly positive way of leading a team.
Once you’ve created your sales process, it is wise to create a sales process map. This allows you to determine what activity and metrics are important to your business and how that equates to the performance of your sales team.
Some important things to consider:
Your sales process needs to help your team succeed. If you approach this reluctant to support them or reward them for their efforts, everyone loses. You may still hit your targets and turn a profit but you’ll create a toxic environment that will become stressful to navigate and hiring will become a constant struggle.
Don’t forget, platforms like Glassdoor make it very easy for ex-employees to warn off potential hires. Sacrificing the culture and the people in favour of ‘the commercials’ is unsustainable. As the saying goes – ‘so goes the culture, so goes the company’.
Remember, the objective is to make your business scalable. That means building a great team and making selling as easy as possible for your business. That means structure, transparency, accountability and support.
Your sales process should be simple enough that your new hires will be able to jump in and know exactly what is expected of them.
Creating KPIs based on your organisation’s vision, values and objectives – rather than an arbitrary target will keep your teams focused and motivated.
Although some KPIs will be set by the company leadership, as a sales manager or head of sales, you will need to determine what success looks like for your team.
Making money isn’t enough. A salesperson can be terrible at their job and be miserable to work with and still hit their target. You need to go deeper.
Consider the length of your sales cycle, retention rates, cancellations and repeat business.
These are all valuable metrics to factor into the sales team’s performance as if a high number of clients are cancelling during the cooling-off period that suggests something is wrong.
This could be a product or service being mis-sold, which has legal implications, or a salesperson could be pressuring prospects into agreeing.
Creating ethical incentives and reward structures will help to prevent unhealthy competition or pressure selling. All of which makes for happier salespeople and happier customers too.
If you have a sales team in place, consider talking to them to understand what works and what doesn’t. Let them help you to answer the question: how to scale a sales team! It could be that a particular step in the process is unclear or simply doesn’t work and they may have some great feedback to help you.
Or the client onboarding is often mishandled through bad processes, bad communication or both.
Obviously, if parts of the process are working well, then you need to know about those too. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, rather making the journey smoother.
It’s an opportunity to get a feel for how things are from the people actually doing the work. It may not be a comfortable conversation, but it will be a valuable one.
You should also take the time to ask your existing sales team the most common objections they come up against. Or any feedback they get regarding the quality of the product or service and things like pricing.
Assuming you’ve already gone to the time and effort of defining your sales processes, you’re in a good position to build the team. And they’ll be in a position to hit the ground running because you’ll have provided them with everything they need to succeed. When you ask yourself how to scale a sales team, onboarding should be one of the top things you look into.
Remember, in order for your recruitment drive to be successful; it needs to be scalable in all areas. So while your sales process may be nailed down, the other aspects of a new recruit’s onboarding process need to be similarly slick.
Your managers play an important part in the onboarding process. Not least because some of them will line manage the new intake of salespeople.
Team leaders and sales managers play a key role in determining the working environment your sales teams work in. If they only focus on the numbers, teams will feel under pressure and will quickly burn out.
If they support their people, they will be positive and motivated and determined to provide their customers with the best possible service.
Provide your managers with the training they need to lead and the tools to help the new team members get up to speed as quickly as possible.
You can also give them specific parts of the onboarding process to own. This way – if you’re onboarding in groups – your new hires will get to meet each of the managers in turn.
This will help them to feel more comfortable and know who to talk to if they have any questions. It also shares the responsibility and encourages collaboration between managers to make the onboarding as smooth as possible.
You can further help your managers by ring-fencing time to develop onboarding presentations and other material. You can also cancel all meetings for the first couple of weeks, so they are always available for the new hires.
All these measures will help to create a strong team that can rely on one another.
Onboarding in groups is an efficient way of introducing new hires to the essential information they need before they get to work. It also serves as an opportunity for them to get to know their new colleagues and start to lay down some foundations of friendship.
Safety in numbers will help the teams feel more at ease and more comfortable asking questions and learning the ropes. Don’t forget, learning new information and processes is mentally draining. Providing your employees with a support network from day one helps to ease that pressure.
Group activities or sessions can be suitable to deliver:
Where possible, groups who start the process together should stay together throughout the entire onboarding process. This avoids breaking up any new friendships and maintains the psychological safety needed for new hires to settle in positively.
Your hiring strategy should reflect your mission, vision and values. If you believe in treating your employees with respect you should only hire individuals who demonstrate those values.
If you believe everyone in your business should be trusted to do their job to the best of their ability without micromanagement or managerial pressure, only hire people you feel you can trust.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiring one person or one hundred. The long term success of your business hinges on your ability to protect and enrich the company culture by hiring people who are the right fit.
While this may seem complicated and time-consuming, it isn’t. If anything adhering to these values makes recruitment easier. Because everyone in the company shares the same values and can be trusted to hire using the same principles.
So while hiring dozens of new salespeople may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Especially – if you believe in the company values and are an exemplar of the culture, it’s easy to distil that into a list of attributes.
Define the kind of people you’d like to join the business. Whether that’s fun, reliable, confident or conscientious – you will know in your gut which is a good fit, as will anyone else conducting an interview.
Of course, you need to get a sense that the candidates can do the job. However, a culture-first approach will help you identify who has experience but won’t fit in compared to someone who will fit in but lacks experience.
Don’t forget, you’ve spent a lot of time defining your sales processes so anyone can hit the ground running and confidently sell in no time. So what does it matter if someone who would gel with the entire organisation lacks sales experience?
In truth, it doesn’t. Sure they may need a longer on-ramp, but if you’re hiring for culture – not for sales targets – that doesn’t matter either. With your help, they will achieve all they need to.
Adopting this approach – as opposed to the traditional churn and burn approach to sales – is you are able to protect the most important thing a company has: Morale.
A team that pulls together, who feel valued and safe within their organisation will achieve great things. The moment the safety starts to erode – because of the revolving door of salespeople – the morale goes with it.
It’s inevitable. Humans are tribal creatures and when we experience the alpha (you) casting out members of the tribe, we naturally start to wonder if we’re next.
That’s when people start to leave. It’ll start as a trickle, but before long, you will have a deluge of resignations on your hands. All the great people you embarked on your journey with will be gone, and you’ll be left wondering what happened.
The answer is simple – they stopped trusting you.
So, ensure that every hire is made with a culture first mindset. Married with a process that equips everyone with the tools they need to succeed, and you’ll have a happy, successful sales team in no time.
The answer to ‘how to scale a sales team’ comes back to the strategy and the tool kit you have to help you. After all that work to define processes and recruit great people, the next step is to get them up to speed. The question is how do you best train them on your sales process, how to ask the right questions, common objections to overcome and your product?
“Off the shelf” training systems aren’t built to help you train on complex sales processes or complex products. Instead, you need a bespoke training regime.
Custom digital training experiences offer the best approach because the digital aspect allows for an immersive and interactive approach. To learn more about training via digital experiences, download our whitepaper.
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