According to Failory, about 90% of startups crash and burn. Many within the first few years. If it’s your first time starting a business, you face even tougher odds. According to Lean B2B, first-time entrepreneurs have an 18% chance of succeeding.
Startups hit rock bottom for a variety of reasons, the main one being lackluster sales. Sales are the lifeblood of any business, and startups are no different. If your startup can’t generate revenue, it will eventually fizzle out and die. That’s why it’s critical you build a top sales team from the start.
The great news is, it’s not as difficult as you might think. With carefully selected sales courses and a bit of elbow grease, you can build a team that will help your startup thrive. Here’s how.
Define Your Ideal Customer
The first step to building a top sales team is defining your ideal customer. You don’t want your team chasing after every lead that comes their way. This often results in frustrated employees who quickly burn out. Instead, focus on a specific type of customer who is most likely to convert.
To define your ideal customer, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target market?
- What needs does your product or service address?
- What are the demographics of your ideal customer?
For example, let’s say you’re selling a new type of software that helps businesses track their inventory. Your ideal customer would likely be a small to medium-sized business owner struggling to keep track of their inventory manually.
Identify the Skills that Matter Most to Your Startup
A startup has different sales needs than an existing business. For example, let’s say you’re selling a new product or service to customers who may not be familiar with them. You need people skilled at educating potential customers. If you’re selling a luxury item, you’ll need salespeople skilled at closing high-ticket deals.
Startups are also ripe with a lot of uncertainty and change. Not every salesperson can handle that type of environment. Sales courses say that people who thrive in those conditions are most often adaptable and can roll with the punches. They’re also frequently excellent problem-solvers and creatively resourceful.
So, before you kick off the hiring process, identify the sales skills that matter most to your startup. Then, look for candidates who excel in those areas. You’re likely going to wade through a lot of attractive resumes. Avoid the temptation to hire the salesperson with the fanciest resume. Go for the sales rep with the skills and attitude that fit your startup’s needs.
Hire a Sales Trainer Instead of a Sales Manager
When most startups think about building a sales team, too many automatically gravitate towards hiring a sales manager. However, this isn’t always the best option for a startup. Managers are often more concerned with hitting their targets and less with developing their teams. This can be detrimental to a startup team that is still in its early stages.
Instead of hiring a manager, consider hiring a sales trainer. Their primary focus is on developing the skills of a team. Trainers are also more hands-on and can provide one-on-one coaching to sales representatives. This is especially helpful for sales reps who are new to the industry. Also, sales trainers are typically more affordable than sales managers. If you’re working with a tight budget, this is a great option.
If you can’t afford to hire a trainer, consider investing in online sales courses for your team. There are many programs available at a fraction of the cost. To ensure maximum training ROI, avoid generic classes. Instead, pick ones that sharpen the skills your sales team needs to make a real impact. For example, if you’re selling to businesses, you’ll want a class that covers topics like B2B sales, enterprise sales, and solution selling.
Get Rid of Rotten Apples Quickly
Have you ever heard the expression, “One bad apple spoils the bunch?” A salesperson with a lousy attitude and a mediocre work ethic can drag the whole team down. Turning a startup into a successful business takes immense time, focus, and energy. Selling is also a highly demanding profession. Major disruptions to team cohesiveness can quickly derail sales productivity.
So, if you spot a rotten apple, address the issue immediately. Keeping them on the team can make it harder for the rest of the team to succeed. It can also create a toxic sales culture that will eventually drive away top sales talent.
It’s important to catch non-performing employees early and nip them in the bud. So, ensure you have a system in place to review sales rep performance regularly. For example, you could do monthly performance reviews.
Offer Ongoing Sales Training
Hiring brilliant sales professionals is just the beginning. Without rigorous ongoing training, they are unlikely to keep firing on all cylinders. So, commit to offering continuous sales training courses.
First, it will keep your team sharp and up to date on the latest selling trends. Second, it will show them that their company is invested in their development. Studies show that this can keep employees fired up and motivated. A study by the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce (EQW) found training more effective at increasing productivity than improving work equipment.
Third, when employees feel like they are constantly learning and growing, they are more likely to be deeply engaged and enthusiastically invested in their work. Finally, ongoing training helps to create a culture of excellence within your company. By setting the expectation that employees will constantly be learning and growing, you encourage them to strive for excellence in all that they do.
Starting your own business can take you on a thrilling adventure. However, as any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s also a lot of hard work. Assembling a sales team is one of the most important tasks you’ll tackle. Use the above steps to help you hit the ground running.