How to Scale Your Sales Team for Success

by Janey Zitomer
November 20, 2019

While many tactics in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” haven’t changed since he wrote the book, sales strategies certainly have. 

Not only that, they vary from team to team, no matter the industry. Below, six New York City general managers and sales leaders share their methods for making sure they’re always on top of their game. They cited diligently tracking results and the often-overlooked approach of using past mistakes as a point of reference as some of their best practices. 


 

Onna presentation
Onna

Have you ever struggled to find your keys, with no recollection or roadmap to even narrow down the search (did you leave them in the kitchen or on your desk)? Onna helps you find what you’re looking for, no matter where “it” is, within  a digital landscape. We recently spoke with Russ Grant, VP of revenue, about why understanding how they support businesses is key in growing their sales team. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

There is no blueprint, unfortunately. Each company needs to understand its market, buyer and internal team, and base their hiring plan off of those audiences. We serve such a huge potential market. Near-term, we are focused on building value for mission-critical applications for legal, compliance and IT teams and companies.

Building a team at our stage is truly about diversity. Different approaches to the sales process, ways of thinking about the industry and team interaction all play into our hiring decisions. 

Training, onboarding and culture are all constantly a work in progress.’’

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

We’ve set out with a plan for scale. How do we support a business a thousand times our current size? This helps us make decisions in context and set expectations for the amazing people we’re bringing on. 

Training, onboarding and culture are all constantly a work in progress. We don’t pretend to have a perfect mold. We’re also building an international team, so we have to simultaneously look for ways to integrate and enable every employee for success. Even if it’s a new role, we ask employees what they feel they need to succeed. 

 

Fundera team
fundera

The path from your apartment to the building’s laundry room isn’t the only place you’ll find five steps. We recently spoke with Tom McNulty, VP of sales at Fundera, who outlined how his team stays on course and continues to grow using distinct categories of achievement. Fundera is a marketplace for small business financial solutions that’s making big strides.  

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

If you are building a sales organization within a company, I have found that there are five steps to focus on. These include learning and development, repeatability, continued growth, profitability and horizontal expansion. At the beginning, don’t set robust targets. Hire industry professionals to speak to customers. Determine whether you can make your process repeatable while you implement compensation plans and workflows that you need in order to scale. 

During this stage, you will see a slight shift in growth. Simultaneously, hire traditional sales people versus industry experts and look at the long-term value of the system that has been set up. Lastly, utilize the process. Can you open up your organization to offering other product lines?

Every organization needs to determine when sales is its own function.’’

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Every organization needs to determine when sales is its own function. For example, at Fundera, we have sales development, sales operations and sales training in order to ensure that our sales function continues to grow and thrive. I do not believe that culture scales. I believe that culture shifts and you define your team based on that. You must effectively navigate the culture; not scale it. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t. 

 

Meetup team
meetup

If you’re interested in underwater hockey or needlepoint-based crafts, it turns out you’re not alone. At Meetup events across the country, people can (and do) come together to pursue their interests and make connections with like-minded individuals. While that concept isn’t exactly a tough sell, Enterprise General Manager JD Singh told us how the sales team effectively gets clients through the funnel.  

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team? 

Setting up clear processes and objectives is extremely important when building a highly efficient sales team. Ambiguity leads to misunderstanding, poor results and unhappy people. Having a clear process helps the teams learn quickly and achieve concrete results. Tracking the appropriate metrics tied to objectives and setting up a solid incentive system aligned with those objectives will lead to efficient teams who execute.

Culture and focus are key factors in scaling any team.’’ 

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Culture and focus are key factors in scaling any team. A sales machine needs to not only develop the ability to get clients through the funnel efficiently, but also  get sales representatives ramped up efficiently. Being data-driven and tracking how the team is doing on both fronts helps identify problems earlier.

 

AlphaSense
Alphasense

Information processing takes on a whole new meaning when you consider machine learning and artificial intelligence. Take, for example, AlphaSense’s AI-powered search engine. It enables businesses to access data-driven insights in seconds. Looking for a comprehensive view of AlphaSense’s hiring process and scaling methods? Vice President of Sales Enablement Alea Homison has that and more, below. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

Our blueprint begins with a robust interview process that allows us to identify and attract the best talent. We focus on core characteristics we know make people successful at AlphaSense: grit, coachability and curiosity. Our interview process, which includes assignments, helps us to clearly identify each of these characteristics. 

Once individuals join the AlphaSense family, our sales enablement efforts set them up for success throughout their entire career, from our onboarding and performance ramp programs to our ongoing sales effectiveness program while they remain here and become a vet.

Learning is so core to our culture...’’ 

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

We have an amazing culture that we are exceptionally proud of. Instead of focusing on protecting it, we focus on adding to and growing it over time. That said, we have sales enablement programs (onboarding, new hire performance ramp and ongoing sales effectiveness) that help us scale our training programs and provide consistent support for our sales team. Learning is so core to our culture that our investment in the professional development of our employees is inherent to our DNA. We have fun as we work hard by creating initiatives and friendly competitions in unique formats. 

 

DigitalOcean
DigitalOcean

In a perfect world, DigitalOcean Director of Inside Sales Ken Dooley sees managers treating new hires with the same level of consideration and necessary guidance as if they were direct reports. The sales division at the open-source cloud software company ensures that everyone is fully on board as the team forges new paths, an approach that is especially crucial amid rapid growth. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? 

I like to follow some guiding principles like “define your key outcomes” from the start. Let those drive every decision the team makes. Establish the “how” with clear guidelines to help the team as they work toward those desired outcomes. 

Finally, ensure everyone really understands the key outcomes and has what they need to achieve individual and team goals. Hire amazing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives and ensure they have what they need to be successful.

 

How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

These key principles are the result of my own learning, iterating, and course correcting  throughout the years. I’ve been lucky enough to have managers and mentors who encouraged me to take risks and not be afraid to fail. Innovation comes from failure.

I try to encourage the same kind of self-direction and autonomy with accountability on my own teams. I strongly believe that if you’ve taken the time to hire the right person and you set them up for success with clear outcomes, you have to give them the space to learn and flourish. That said, it is critical that poor performance is identified and managed quickly. 

I’ve been lucky enough to have managers and mentors who encouraged me to take risks...’’

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Don’t throw out the things that have worked previously just because your team is growing. When you scale, it’s important that team leads and hiring managers uphold the same key principles through their hiring, onboarding, training and coaching practices. While not every new hire will be your direct report, they are still on your team. Ensure every new person has the same level of understanding and clarity about the key outcomes and guidelines.

 

BetterCloud team
Bettercloud

On the BetterCloud sales team, success isn’t an individual sport. Chief Revenue Officer Christopher Jones told us how their leaders constantly improve their skills based on what has worked well for the team in the past. Additionally, a competition-based structure helps fuel employees’ fire to keep the SaaS operations management platform aglow. 

 

What’s your blueprint for building a sales team? How did you identify these keys and how have they made an impact as you build a team?

I believe that being a positive, high-energy servant leader is the most effective blueprint to building consistently high-performing sales teams. We have an extreme passion for winning, ensuring our teams relish the grind required to do so consistently. We have a strong team of sales leaders who are committed to coaching their direct reports to be sales champions. We value representatives who are relentless about winning, embrace a growth mindset, practice self-discipline, are team players and have a desire to be truly extraordinary. We look for examples of these traits throughout the interview process. When those candidates apply them here, success is pretty much a certainty.  

We have a ‘best is the standard’ sales culture.’’ 

 

When scaling, how do you ensure your team doesn’t lose the elements that made it so successful in the first place? 

Earlier this year, we hired a superstar named Meredith Dowd to lead, further develop and strengthen our onboarding and ongoing enablement program. Under her leadership, we have added quite a bit of rigor, consistency and scale to BetterCloud’s sales excellence programs. 

We are dedicated to putting all the required enabling conditions in place to get and keep our teams on the leading edge of sales practices. We have a “best is the standard” sales culture. We celebrate firsts, personal bests, new sales records, wins and leadership performances in a big way. 

Our top performers have a strong yet friendly rivalry so they always keep their edges sharp. Consistent communication is a huge tenant of my scaling growth playbook. This includes weekly sales leaderboard update emails, extended team hangouts, ongoing town hall sessions and our top performers sharing their best-of-the-best practices. 

 

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