Best practices of high-performing sales organizations

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: March 18, 2011

Colleen Stanley

Sales managers often are portrayed as hard-driving, take-no-prisoners types who expect only the best from their sales teams.

But the truth is, many lack a road map about the best direction to take as they try to lead and motivate their teams.

They could learn a lot from the best practices of top sales organizations. Many people think those exist only at the Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 level. Not so. There are many small sales teams that also perform well.

Here are seven practices of high-performance sales teams. Don’t reinvent the sales management wheel. Just duplicate and install these into your sales organization.

Top sales organizations hire sales managers with enough friends.

They’re comfortable with the title of boss and don’t have to be every salesperson’s best friend. The sales manager is comfortable with the responsibility that being the boss brings: accountability; managing results, not excuses; and being the official bar raiser at the company.

Sales managers directing top teams care about the team, and that’s why they’re willing to hold each salesperson accountable to a specific set of metrics for sales activity, pipeline and results. He knows that if his sales team makes quota, commissions, retention and happiness improves for everyone.

Top sales organizations have a defined business-development plan that can be measured

Ask a member of a top sales team about their sales-activity plan, and you’ll hear a specific set of numbers linked to a specific activity instead of vague statements such as, "We do some of this and some of that." These sales organizations also know that sales activity isn't enough. They also provide skills training. (Ever met a sales stalker at a networking event or received a put-you-to-sleep prospecting email?) Activity combined with skill training is their winning formula.

Top sales organizations have a defined sales playbook

They don't fall into the naive trap of, "We hire veterans so we don’t need to give them training." Sounds like old dogs not willing to learn new tricks.

Instead,the best sales organizations emulate top athletic teams, which have seasoned veterans. They have a playbook and practice every week. Sports teams don’t allow each athlete to run their own practice or playbook, and neither do effective sales organizations. The smart sales manager knows she can’t even read 15 different playbooks, much less coach them.

Top sales organizations are clear about their target clients

They don’t want to or need to do business with every prospect. First, figure out if your prospect is a jerk — meaning, do they treat your salespeople like a partner, not a vendor? This type of client keeps salespeople motivated to jump through hoops for them. Retention of both salespeople and clients go up,right along with profits.

Top sales organizations have a tangible and intangible award system

They don’t use the excuse, "We're not big enough" to hold a year-end event to celebrate victory.

PhilKnight, founder of Nike, said it best: "You must act world-class beforeyou become world-class."

These organizations also are excellent at sharing daily success stories.

For example, one sales manager is really good at this best practice, and every member of his sales team exceeded quota last year. He makes it part of his weekly sales-management activity plan to recognize members of his team for executing a specific sales skill, hitting the activity quota and, of course,closing business. The result is a jazzed sales team that’s winning business in a market where it’s often won on price, not value.

Top sales organizations have a results-only sales culture

The sales team lives by the slogan, “manage results, not excuses” These sales teams recognize there are always plenty of excuses for not hitting quota: the economy, marketing collateral and/or bigger competitors.

Theyalso know that these same excuses provide opportunity. A bad economy meansthat weak competitors go away. Lack of marketing collateral means thesalesperson gets to be the walking brochure. A small company can move andadjust to client demands without 15 board meetings — excuses turned intoresults.

Top sales organizations are emotionally intelligent

Salespeople on these teams score high in interpersonal skills and empathy. They truly know how to walk a mile in their clients’ and colleagues’ shoes. These teams are good at sitting on the other side of the desk and figuring out what’s of highest value for the customer. They turn off the WIFM channel and turn on the What’s In It For You one.

"Discover Your Sales Strengths," by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano, consultants for Gallup, reiterate in their book the high value that customers still place on the relationship with the salesperson. Soft skills, which lead to hard sales results, are at the foundation of relationships.

There you have it.  Count to seven and go.

About the Author

Colleen Stanley is founder and president of SalesLeadership Inc., a sales development firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, consultative sales training, emotional intelligence training. and leadership training for sales managers. She is the author of Growing Great Sales Teams and Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success. Reach Colleen at 303-708-1128 or visit

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