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12 Steps for Building a Top-Performing Sales Team

How do you assemble a sales team that converts your marketing investments to tangible business growth? This guide has the answers.

Over 60% of salespeople agree that selling is more challenging than it was 5 years ago. Due to the difficulties in the sales landscape today, it is essential that your sales team is prepared to combat these challenges. A correctly assembled sales team will identify qualified leads, close deals, and maintain customer loyalty. They will do so in perfect harmony with minimal friction.

Considering that, recruiting the wrong person for your sales team would harm current customers and team function. Even worse, a wrong hire can ultimately lead to a decrease in overall revenue

This post will outline everything you need to know to build a high-performing sales team and avoiding the wrong hire. Follow closely; this is where winning begins.

1.    Have a Clear Hiring Strategy

“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: it’s the starting point.” — Henry Mintzberg.

Multiple examples of mismatched mergers (think: Skype and eBay), poor products, and ill-advised corporate decisions happen every day in business. The common thread? Bad planning.

As cliche as it may sound (you must have heard this a hundred times), a good plan is an excellent first step to sales team building. Build that plan/map by first asking your hiring team questions like:

  • What are our revenue targets?
  • What type of customers are we targeting?
  • What kind of culture do we want to create in our sales team? Aggressive and competitive or collaborative and relationship-oriented?
  • What does sales success mean to us?
  • What’s our sale’s organizational structure looking like?

The answers to these questions, whatever they are, will point you in the right direction. For example, if you plan to expand your business to a new location, more focus should be on hiring an agile sales team. One that adapts to new situations with little support.

A staple for an agile sales team is members with strong professional networks. They can use their connections to shorten the adjustment period that comes with business expansion.

See how far we’ve come by answering one strategy question. Clarity comes in motion. Answering strategy questions gives you a clear vision of the skillset your winning sales team must embody.

2.    Create the Perfect Team Blend

High-performing sales teams aren’t perfect, but they’re better at improving than underperforming teams. When one person works the phone, the other contributes by nurturing leads on other channels, helping the company rake in leads on all fronts.

Differences in knowledge, perspective, and personality might be responsible for that. Business psychologists call it cognitive diversity.

When solving sales problems, homogeneous teams can’t solve sales problems as quickly as diverse teams.

There are no set ways to build a cognitively diverse team, as much relies on your ability to read people. Still, you can’t go wrong with the right questions/tests.

Propose a tricky sales situation in an interview, and see how well your potential sales force responds. If the answers are different yet effective, pat yourself on the back. Your all-star team is shaping up.

3.    Have a ‘Non-negotiables’ List

“A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” — Thomas Reid

Specific ‘core’ qualities or personal traits exist in every player on a winning sales team.

We’re not team wreckers, but you should take a sales team member lacking a core attribute seriously, even if a pink slip is required. See it as a weakness capable of plunging your sales performance into oblivion (Okay, maybe not oblivion.)

Through years of sales recruiting research, we have come to identify these five attributes as non-negotiables for every member of a strong sales team:

  • Company culture fit
  • Willingness to learn and grow
  • Adaptiveness
  • Cautious with promises
  • Communicative & Collaborative

4.  Prioritize a Great Organizational Structure

High-performing sales teams say their organizational structure is above average or excellent. Which makes perfect sense because the structure of a sales team has an impact on its success.

Before we say why, remember that the most popular sales organizational structure includes — geographical sales structure, product, and service line, industry and vertical structure, and account-based selling.

A sales rep used to selling software to tech-savvy people in a specific region will presumably struggle if hired to take on a role that means selling hardware nationwide.

Allow your company’s size and range of products dictate your sales structure and size. If your company is big enough, hire more people and select a rep to handle a specific location or product line. Work with a small team and delineate roles appropriately if your company is small.

Build your structure to bolster your strengths, take the sting out of your weaknesses, and watch your sales group sell.

5.    Clearly Communicate Goals

Understanding company expectations is essential for boosting sales performance. It’s not enough to set SMART goals for your sales team; expressive communication must follow to get any concrete result.

You may, for example, hang a whiteboard (or create a digital one) detailing what success means to your sales team. Is it generating and qualifying new leads? Is it conducting initial outreach to prospects? Or following up on them? Is it better alignment with the sales and marketing department?

Write the details on your whiteboard and keep it visible. This way, nobody will mistakenly think they’re hitting the target when they’re not even on the playing field.

6.   Keep Things Competitive

Your sales team, no matter how effective, needs new energy to keep converting. It is human nature to get complacent, after all. The easy fix would be to throw money at the problem by shelling out bigger commissions, but that may not change anything.

A better option would be to hire new salespeople, especially if you’re launching a new product or servicing a new industry. Let the new members collaborate with the old, injecting fresh ideas and pure energy to create a boiling pot of hot convertible leads.

Remember to monitor things so the competition doesn’t get toxic. That’s always a possibility considering how competitive salespeople get.

7.    Empower Your Team

Tools. Successful sales teams require them to compete.

A sales team without the right tools is like a protective dog without teeth. Also, if 91% of sales teams in large companies use tools to be more effective, you should empower your team to be able to compete.

Talk to your sales team, especially the sales manager, to find the best tools for CRM, sales intelligence, data analysis, and marketing.

Tools are not all about technology. Since happy salespeople are more productive by at least 20%, creating a conducive workplace should also be at the top of your empowerment strategy.

8.   Onboard, Train & Train

“Sellers are not born, they’re made.” — Anonymous

For new hires, spend enough time immersing them in your proven sales strategies. Their new energy is welcome, but direct it toward your methods so that they are improving your process, not reinventing it.

For your existing sales team, keep the training train running. Like Ryan Waler, CEO of Beyond Academy, says, ‘To progress your business to the next level, upskilling your sales team is vital.’

Recognize new trends, jack those trends, and keep your sales team on their toes.

For example, since AI has everyone feeling confident and nervous, train your sales team to understand the intricacies of AI. Let them be able to answer the most popular AI questions because you never know when that knowledge will be a deal closer.

Plus, if AI can help them do their jobs better (still a gray area), it’d be good for them to start early.

9. Encourage Interdepartmental Relationships

Internal relationships with other teams can be constructive. You don’t want your sales team operating in silos. You want them communicating with other departments, ensuring they have all the resources they need when they need them.

In a LinkedIn survey, 70% of the highest-performing sales team described marketing leads as ‘excellent.’ Meeting with their marketing teams helped them understand the buyer journey, persona, and how the brand identity connects the whole thing. The sales team, in turn, fed the marketing team with details of prospects’ concerns and observations.

The result? Higher revenue. Cross-functional collaboration is the only way to go.

10. Track Your Team’s Performance

Clarity on core metrics builds accountability. Accountability leads to better performance. The way to measure these metrics? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

KPIs are not sales targets; they’re better. They are metrics used to track how sales performance affects overall company growth. Some of the best KPIs for a sales team include:

  • Annual contract value
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Conversion rate
  • Referrals
  • Customer retention

With the correct data from KPIs, you can steer your team in the right direction. If certain sales reps are underperforming, learn why. Are their sales territories the problem? Is the sales strategy the problem?

Sometimes, the data is wrong or meaningless without the proper interpretation.

Separate the noise from the signal by communicating honestly with your sales team. Focus on building trust and asking the right questions, and watch how the data will follow your lead.

11.   Get it Right with the Pay Structure/Compensation Plan

Putting a competitive base salary on the table for your sales reps is a good idea if you already have a good sales team and want to keep them motivated. They’re more likely to be flexible and innovative when they don’t have targets on their backs. Literally.

But there are no perfect ideas, including competitive base salaries. If you’re a startup without access to steady capital, a straight commission plan will help you select members you can build an effective sales team around.

High-performers typically succeed with this structure initially, but it’s just not built to be stable. Eventually, your sales team will value stability above performance-based compensation.

The stitch is: When building a quality sales team, consider your growth phase and use a compensation plan suited to that phase advantageously.

12.  Receive and Share Feedback

“There are two things people want more than money…recognition and praise.” — Mary Kay Ash.

Building an effective sales team is an iterative process — you have to repeat the right decisions every time. There’s no better way to do this than through an honest, transparent feedback loop.

Listen to your sales team, understand their preferred tools, and observe their attitude toward your company culture. Actionable insights will naturally follow.

In the same vein, promptly inform them of everything that concerns them.

Are you changing sales goals, shifting from a competitive culture to a collaborative one, or downsizing the sales budget? Communicate.

People just really want to be seen, heard, and appreciated.


Effective sales teams exude excellence from top to bottom, from sales managers to customer service representatives. Make sure your new employees know the company goals, fit in with the company culture, and have the skills needed for top performance.

But it doesn’t stop there. Keep your sales team happy by training them, providing efficient tools, paying well, and engaging with responsive feedback. Don’t forget to rely on KPIs and other valuable metrics to track performance.

Start with the Right Hires

Building an effective sales team starts with recruiting the right people.

Focus on hiring talent with fresh energy, passion, and knowledge of the tools of the trade. Just as important, form a team of people who believe in your company goals, are cognitively diverse and are a good company culture fit.

If all that sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is — yet it must be done. That’s where Peak Sales Recruiting comes in.

With our extensive experience in sales recruiting, we excel at finding exceptional sales talent. We know the challenges of sales recruiting and have all the tips, tools, and tricks to solve them.

With Peak Sales Recruiting working for you, discovering skilled talent to meet aggressive revenue targets and outperform your competition should be a cakewalk.

Schedule a meeting with one of our direct representatives, and let’s hit the ground running on that all-star sales team project.


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