I have built and led sales teams at both startups and mature organizations, sold telecom hardware, enterprise software, and professional services in over 60 countries around the world. And I have interviewed hundreds of sales reps, managed dozens of successful reps, and learned that top performers come in many different forms.
But, while I love to see individual reps busting their quota, building a cohesive, productive team is my ultimate and most rewarding goal.
I’m currently at Uberflip, a startup building a beautiful content marketing SaaS platform. We have a young, dynamic, collaborative sales team that works hard, produces results, and plays some pretty competitive ping pong matches.
Here are five key strategies that have helped us build a sales team that kicks SaaS.
1. Be clear on the ultimate goal of the sales process.
Several times every day, I walk past our Culture Wall: 400 square feet of creative wisdom that define our values and corporate outlook. While I consistently see these values demonstrated across our organization, I feel that our sales team lives by one tenet especially – every day, at every stage of the sales process: “Our customers’ success is our success.”
Every call with a potential customer starts with deep discovery and a genuine desire to understand their priorities, goals and content marketing strategies. Only when we have a solid understanding of how and where our platform fits do we move on to a contextual discussion of what Uberflip can do to address customer priorities and pain points, such as simplifying content management or generating more leads with their content.
After our sales development and solutions experts have done their excellent work, our customer success team takes over to provide onboarding, coaching and regular check-in sessions to ensure the customer’s new content hub is performing well and delivering results. As I often say, focus on the customer and the results will follow.
My team gets it, lives it, and reaps the benefits.
2. Know your customer.
To paraphrase Sun Tzu: ”If you know your customers, you will not be imperilled in a hundred sales opportunities. If you do not know your customers, you will be imperilled in every opportunity.”
My team knows that their success depends on being able to relate to their customers. Uberflip provides a content marketing automation platform that empowers marketers so our Sales team strives to become marketing experts, which means they need to understand a marketer’s objectives and their environment.
As Jamie Barnett points out in her blog post, The Marketing Stack, today’s marketers use a lot of tools. So while we are naturally experts about our own product, we recognize that we need to understand the full marketing ecosystem, how we integrate with it and how our solution complements other tools and enables marketers to realize more value from the whole than the sum of its parts.
But as those who keep up with the tech space know, it ain’t easy. It takes real desire and hustle to go beyond your own product to provide effective guidance and become a trusted resource for your prospect. More on that later.
3. Be your customer.
Everyone on our sales team is focused on rapidly expanding our base of successful customers, which now numbers close to 2,000. But while they remain laser focused on this goal, they stay close to our target market by investing some of their time to live the life of a content marketer, one of our primary buyer personas.
There is far too much good content to give credit to everyone, but some of my recent favourites include:
- Closing with Content by Jon, our Sales Lead.
- Behind the Scenes of Social Selling by Michael, one of our Account Development Reps.
- 7 Essential Tools to Help You Succeed in Sales Today by Adam, from our Business Development team.
- 3 Steps to Creating a Content Playbook for the Sales Process by Sam, our Customer Success Lead, on the Salesforce blog.
As I described above, we succeed by truly understanding our customers. And by adopting the feeling that we’re all marketers, it helps us live at least a few moments in their shoes.
4. Hire character.
I think I’m a pretty good sales coach, but I’ve always found it challenging to coach character.
H.U.S.T.L.E. is our core value at Uberflip and it embodies many components. We clearly define it, but after hanging around our office for a while, it’s the type of thing you quickly recognize, like a hockey sniper’s quick release or a top point guard’s crossover dribble.
I see it in each of our sales team members as they not only learn, consume content and actively seek feedback independently, but also thrive on the team concept by always sharing tips, skills, and best practices.
We meet frequently for team development, brainstorming sessions or lunch-and-learns. We’re nimble, agile and react quickly to keep up with our customers and stay well ahead of the competition. Like any good sports team, heart, character and hustle drives both individual and team success. Decide what you want on your team, then find it and set it loose.
5. Recognize that culture trumps generational stereotypes.
I’m sure you have read blogs and articles describing the challenges of managing the mercurial millennial generation, many of which leave the reader with a less than favorable impression.
A recent example of the stereotype: a recruiter approached me about a role but, knowing my early-to-work habit and passionate business focus, warned me that the millennial staff might make me want to shoot myself (probably not the best sales pitch I’ve heard).
While I’m sure there are organizations that experience sub-optimal results from their millennials, our Gen Y team thrives on our culture. They show up early with a big smile, work hard, play hard, love to learn and are a pleasure to work with. So in my mind, it’s a simple equation: Hire great people and create the right culture for them to succeed.
Always look forward and plan for growth
My main goal is to deliver meaningful revenue growth every single month, which is especially important in a SaaS company. We’re driving efficiency and increasing sales velocity as we continue to refine and improve our sales process, but aggressively building our sales team is a key part of our strategy.
As most marketers know, “content is king.” And as you can see in this Infographic compiled from the MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute’s content marketing industry survey, measuring content effectiveness is the #1 initiative content marketers plan to work on in 2015. As such, we’re seeing exploding demand and phenomenal interest in our content marketing solution.