Developing Your Sales Team


The salespeople that will put you on the map are hard to find. You want to build a sales staff of greats. They do 80% of the business. They usually number no more than 30% of your force — preferably more.

Fire or Train?

You should recognize that not every hire will work out and not every salesperson will be great. The key is determining which members of your sales force are helping you and which ones are costing you money. This will be especially true if you’re spending big money to generate leads. A mediocre performer will not capitalize fully on those leads. Some businesses have enough leads and a replicable system to let them have high turnover rates and consistently search for great salespeople. Many smaller businesses, though, don’t have that option. The time and money spent on a new hire is nothing to laugh at. So you want to retain your team and develop their skills.

Here are some guidelines for getting the most from your salespeople.

  • Make sure salespeople understand that you won’t settle for less than a 100% commitment from them. If your sales reps aren’t the best salespeople they can be, they will never sell at their maximum potential.
  • Encourage reps to emulate a top-selling sales rep. By using a respected, high-performing salesperson as a role model, sales reps can pick up the techniques that lead to success.
  • The sales rep should develop a pre-call selling plan which is based on the known characteristics and needs of each specific customer.
  • Reps should attempt to encourage buyers to discuss their problems and needs. Once the salesperson can get buyers to talk about their problems as they relate to the product, the sale is practically made.
  • To generate repeat business, your salespeople have to demonstrate to buyers that they are better than anyone else at fulfilling needs and solving problems.
  • Reps should have quick access to information — both from within and outside your company.

A Problem-Solving Approach Can Dramatically Increase Orders

Being bright, articulate and able to answer all your prospect’s questions are qualities that provide you with a good foundation, but they’re not enough. Salespeople need something more — they need to be conscientious listeners so they can help prospects solve their problems. They need to be familiar with the problem-solving method. It’s not a sales trick; it’s a holistic approach.

The first step toward understanding the problem-solving method is answering a very basic question: What are you selling? Some would say they are selling a product. Others would say they are selling themselves. The answer is that you are selling answers — you’re answering a question or a problem for your customer.

Using the problem-solving approach, the customer and salesperson work together toward a common goal. The salesperson’s objectives are profitable selling and customer satisfaction. The customer wants a reasonably priced solution to their problem. Everyone derives benefits.

Using the problem-solving method, salespeople must also learn to be service-oriented, not just sales-oriented. Salespeople need to be friendly, helpful, straightforward and need to ask more questions than they answer. They need to use questions to guide the conversation and then listen more than they talk. Listening and understanding the customer’s needs will help you sell. Your ears are more important to selling than your mouth.

Pushing Your Salesperson’s “Hot Button”

Most sales managers claim to use motivational talks, sales contests, compliments and other techniques to motivate their salespeople. However, what motivates one person on your sales staff may not motivate another. The sales manager should attempt to find the “Motivational Hot Button” of each person on the sales staff.

The seven motivational forces to which people respond are:

  • Acceptance: People want to be reassured that they are needed.
  • Accomplishment: People derive pleasure from a task completed.
  • Environment: People have great desire for pleasant surroundings and friendly associates.
  • Recognition: People want praise
  • Responsibility: People appreciate authority.
  • Security: People are deeply concerned about the future.
  • Status: Status symbols impress people. People want status.

You have to get to know your team to see what will motivate them. Then, use this knowledge to drive their development as great salespeople.

Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton is Executive Vice President at Tarkenton Companies, and has started several businesses and is interested in business formation, strategy, and growth. He was part of a group that started Renova Partners, a boutique investment bank, and was recognized as a “40 Under 40: Up and Comer” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2009. Matt performs business planning and marketing training for hundreds of professionals across the country, and co-hosts a weekly coaching program on entrepreneurial education. Matt graduated from Princeton University, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He maintains his Series 7, 63, and 79 licenses, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Villages, on the Education Committee of the National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA), and in leadership positions in various organizations.