Herding Cats? NO, Sales Teams Are Dog Packs

The road to hiring solid business-development leaders can be littered with misjudgments and potentially costly mistakes. However, while it might appear that creating a winning sales team is more art than science, it absolutely is possible to establish a methodology that leads to success.

Who Sells the Sellers?
WolvesOne of my favorite communities for salespeople and business development is Sales Gravy, which I discovered in the early 2000’s. Jeb Blount, the founder, is a career sales leader who understands the mindset of the seller and who early on recognized the need to connect online. The informal community that he built is now complete with forums, a strong presence on social media, and a steady growth plan. I was introduced to Sales Gravy purely by chance during the period of time I was running a realty brokerage and mortgage firm. While listening to podcasts, I found myself wishing that more guidance existed with regard to driving real estate sales. While Jeb’s podcast was not specific to that industry, it was very much applicable – both then and now. He succinctly discussed sales, the rigors of keeping up with both product knowledge and the marketplace, and, most important, he addressed the need for regular outbound prospecting to achieve sales success.

The ‘Aha’ Moment
If you google “better sales and [ANY INDUSTRY],” you will see that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options being offered that all but guarantee better sales growth. Everything from more online advertising, to specialized software, to sales training, are all available for a modest investment – but not one of them is a magic bullet. In fact, there is a great article on SalesHQ (part of the Monster.com brand for job hunters) that details the Top 5 Fastest Growing Sales Jobs. It’s interesting because while the industries vary greatly (Realty, Insurance, Retail, Technology, Wholesalers), the key practices recommended to help a good seller grow into being a great one are identical across the board:

  1. Keep Up With Your CRM
  2. Know Your Inventory
  3. Do Your Dials

Getting Good Sales Talent
“Want good sellers working for you? Pay ’em right.” This was the advice I received a decade ago from Lori Chmura, the second-generation owner and director of the Middleton Real Estate Academy. At the time I was attending classes there in broker ownership and contract law for my real estate broker licensing, Middleton was the highest-rated and most respected school for real estate licensing in Michigan. It really can be simple. Salespeople are good at sales because they are both outgoing and driven by financial reward. Selling is a career choice that rewards regular, intelligent, prospecting activity with opportunities to begin, and close, sales that pay. “Your raise starts when you do,” as one of my early sales mentors once told me.

Advice to the Pack Leaders
It’s not uncommon to hear people outside of the selling profession gripe about salespeople. Oft-heard complaints include: “So cheesy” and “impossible to deal with.” To grossly simplify, what lies at the heart of the matter is the difference between cats and dogs. Pet owners know that cats will always behave like cats: somewhat aloof and ultimately independent. They are trainable, but to a very limited degree. Dogs are the opposite. Like salespeople, they are always hungry for more, they are motivated by pecking order, and they are highly trainable when it comes to following the “boss.” When chaos rules and no lead orders are handed down, or when there are issues with regard to rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, the dogs are unhappy – and, more to the point, cease to function as a cohesive pack. However, when expectations are clearly set and enforced, and pack members understand that meeting these goals – or, better yet, exceeding them – will result in reward, the pack can be managed and will excel. If we can train Huskies to run the Iditarod, we can train the individuals on a sales team to follow the leader, assuming the leader leads. This will keep salespeople from being “cheesy” or “impossible” and will transform them into highly productive winners.

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Filed under Business History, Sales & Selling

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