For a lot of companies, their sales department is the engine keeping the whole organization running. Whether you’re a Forbes 500 company, or a small startup just getting by, a strong sales team can make the difference between barely making it to the end of the year, and thriving, even in a period of economic downturn.
That’s why learning how to build a sales department the right way is extremely important. I’m not Grant Cardone, or any type of expert in the art of sales, but I know a thing or two about building a sales department, so I want to share my experience with you today.
This article will cover, in general lines, everything you need before you can confidently say “my sales department is running smoothly”.
Building and Detailing A Product
Sales agents need a good product to close as many deals as possible, so that should be your first order of business. Examine your product, try to draft as much information about it as possible, starting with its features all the way up to its market reception so far.
And if you find flaws… don’t be afraid to change your product, even if you’ve already launched. Helping a sales department do as little objection control as possible during the sales process directly translates to more revenue in the long run.
A good way to analyze your product is by using the SWOT formula. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a well known mechanism of analysis, and here’s how you use it:
- Strengths are the things your product excels at – the benefits intrinsic of your product
- Weaknesses are the intrinsic downsides of your product
- Opportunities are the external factors that can help your product sell better under specific circumstances
- Threats are the external factors that can drive sales down, if they’re not overcome
Strengths should be your number one focus in sales brochures and feature run downs. Weaknesses are the thing your sales agents need to prepare for, whenever they’re pointed out during a sales call. Opportunities should be taken into account and focused on as soon as possible, and Threats should be overcome with a smart sales strategy.
Besides a SWOT analysis, you can also think outside the box when analyzing your product. Regardless of what you do, at the end of this research process you should have:
- A clear list of features, benefits, USPs (Unique Selling Propositions), as well as possible objections, like price point or lack of features
- A sales brochure
- A sales script, which can be as strict or as orientative as you want
Procedures, Sales Funnel And Commissions
After you have your product all analyzed, it’s important to also focus on setting some ground rules for your sales department. First, make sure you have clear procedures in place, detailing what employees (or contractors – more about that in my article on outsourcing team members) should do on a day to day basis:
- Where to find leads
- How to contact them
- How many times to follow up
And other such details.
After you set procedures in place, make sure you have a clear sales funnel for your department to follow. You can set this up using the AIDA model (Attract, Interest, Decision, Action), or just by detailing the steps you’d expect potential customers to go through. This can look like:
Website visit -> First Email -> First Call -> Follow up email -> Contract
After you have a clear sales funnel, calculate what salary and commissions you can afford to offer your sales department. It’s not really complicated, there’s no complex math involved, all you need to do is subtract as much as you can out of your profit/product, all while analyzing the average commission in your niche.
Hire Sales Agents
Once you have a clear picture of how your sales department should operate, it’s time to fill the office seats with sales agents. You can use any type of job board, or even go by recommendation, but in the case of sales agents specifically, I recommend you do some extra vetting during the hiring process.
Sales are driven by numbers. While having a practice sales call with candidates can prove insightful, it’s even better to analyze their track record and see if they were able to drive sales in their previous positions by simply looking at the numbers. You can even contact previous employers if that makes you feel more at ease.
Regardless of what you do, remember that once your sales agents are working full time in your office, your job is not done yet.
Measuring And Optimizing Sales Processes
After you have a fully operational sales department – whether that’s one freelancer, or 5 employees working full time in your office – it’s time to track how well they’re doing and optimize any sales processes.
My biggest advice here – listen to your sales agents. While numbers can be extremely helpful, and you should definitely track them, your sales agents get a feel for the market with every single call, and their suggestions for improvement can often prove more valuable than anything you think will help a sales department.
Lastly, if you don’t have the time, or skills to manage a sales team, do consider hiring a sales manager to oversee this activity – it can free up a lot of time for you to focus on growing your company even further.
Learning how to build a sales department shouldn’t stop with this article. I did my best to give you a comprehensive overview of the process, but there’s still a lot you can look into, like creating the best sales brochure, analyzing performance, and the like.
For starters, you’ll need to:
- Build a good product
- Have clear procedures in place
- Hire capable sales agents
- Optimize your sales processes
But from there on out, it’s up to you.
I’m curious to learn – how would you build your sales department? Have you done so in the past? Let me know in the comments below!