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Tips for running a successful sales team

Sandra Swanepoel, sales director at Sage VIP. Sandra Swanepoel, sales director at Sage VIP.

Any company that wants to run a successful sales team that delivers sustainable results needs to create an environment where employees feel positive, motivated, empowered and confident.

That's the word from Sandra Swanepoel, sales director at Sage VIP, who says that running a good sales team is about finding the right talent, nurturing it - and here's the hard part, retaining it.  Sage VIP, winner of multiple Deloitte 'Best Company to Work For' awards, therefore, places a heavy emphasis on providing a growth path for sales consultants to it recruits.

"It's important for salespeople to be driven and have an entrepreneurial spirit, yet we mustn't lose sight how important it is for them to fit into the company’s culture “she adds. "We look for that mixture of ambition, with an eagerness to embrace a culture of learning. Furthermore, our customer knowledge and business flair is what make our sales team world-class."

Swanepoel’s top four tips for running a great sales operation are as follows:

1. Choose the right people from the start

Over the past 20 years, Sage VIP has learnt what sort of person will fit into its business and who will struggle to adjust. It has created a set of formal assessments based on this experience that help it separate strong candidates from less promising ones early in the interviewing process. “Given the costs of training and the risks of sharing your intellectual property, you don’t want to only identify a culture mismatch after you have hired and trained someone.” Swanepoel says.

“We have a culture of caring for our customers, our colleagues and the community. So, I want people who can foster deep, lifelong relationships with customers and who are willing to work as if they are working for themselves,” she says.

2. Create a culture of learning

Salespeople want to feel that they have a career. They also want to develop in their positions and grow as people. “Our employees enjoy our culture of learning,” Swanepoel says. “We invest continuously in our employees’ growth and development. Many of them are interested in eventually moving into management or into other roles in the organisation. It's important to provide opportunities for them to mature as business people.” 

She adds: “We believe that formal and informal learning programmes have a major impact on commitment, performance and retention of sales staff. We spend a lot effort on training, coaching and mentoring."

3. Measure performance

Performance management is also important - and this goes beyond tracking how salespeople are performing against their sales targets. "We track many elements of our sales team's performance on dashboards - this gives us insight into where they are doing well and where they could improve," says Swanepoel. The measurement of performance is possibly the most important element of running a great sales operation.   

4. Recognition

Following on point 3, it is important to give lots of recognition to sales staff. Sage VIP gives public and personal recognition for the behaviours that exemplify its culture and values. Examples of such behaviours include going the extra mile to care for someone going through a difficult time, being innovative, providing amazing customer service, or over performing against targets. "We hold monthly one-on-ones between salespeople and their managers," says Swanepoel. "We believe direct feedback and positive recognition is invaluable to their career progression."

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