How to build a stellar sales team that will grow your business exponentially
Having scaled its B2B sales team from 4 to 24 in under 18 months, DueDil's VP of sales Darren Lewis advises on hiring processes and staff management
Business-to-business (B2B) companies live or die by the success of their sales teams.
And for B2B start-ups in particular, getting sales right is crucial as without this piece of the puzzle revenues can never take off and scaling is impossible.
In November 2014 I joined DueDil, a business intelligence start-up, to lead its sales division. A substantial audience was already using DueDil but mostly on a freemium basis; at the time the company had never seriously pursued enterprise customers and had a sales team of just four people.
The challenges were daunting. Not only did we need to change the business model and move much of our valuable content behind a paid license but we also had to convince a new audience of corporate customers that our service was worth paying for. To do this, we needed a much larger sales team.
Fast-forward to May 2016, and the difference is stark. DueDil now has 24 salespeople, and will have 40 by the end of 2016. Not only are we hitting our sales targets, but we are experiencing record months and quarters, and bringing on bigger and bigger logos and contracts.
So, how did we do it?
When you’re growing a sales team quickly, it’s key to get the right people in. There’s no point bringing in 10 people in if five don’t work out – this wastes time and resources, resets your relationships with potential customers, spreads bad news to potential recruits, and destroys morale within the team.
“Invest time in your hiring process; build a team geared towards a common goal”
Instead, take the time to ensure you’re bringing in quality. At DueDil, we have an exact hiring process that focuses on the core competencies we’ve identified:
- Intelligence (including emotional intelligence)
- Being goal-oriented
- A team player
We break the interview process into three stages. First, we test the individual’s basic competency and fit. Then, each candidate goes through a one-to-one with the hiring manager, focused on competency-based questions. Finally, they undergo a role play session based on day-to-day duties with a strong emphasis on research, intelligence, and being able to think on their feet.
Because we’ve invested time in our hiring process, I’m confident that we’ve built a team that understands our product, is enthused about selling it, and knows how to connect with our potential customers.
And by getting this piece right, we have built a collaborative team geared towards a common goal.
Using data sensibly
We’re fortunate at DueDil in that our own product is one of the best lead generation tools on the market today. By combining comprehensive sources of company information, our users can find out more about any business, helping them find not just new customers, but the right customers.
Ironically, our expertise at building a platform to easily consume new data sets also hindered us. Because we knew we had built one of the best data intelligence tools, we assumed we could also easily construct, in-house, the other parts of the marketing funnel requiring data, like lead automation and scoring. This wasn’t the case.
“The lesson has been learned – outsourcing non-core functions can be hugely beneficial”
Our data-handling strengths didn’t translate to building the best solutions that helped us accurately evaluate our potential customers’ interest. As a result, we wasted time and effort trying to fix glitches in our own systems that could have been more profitably spent elsewhere.
Ultimately, we solved the problem by bringing in experts to fix it, and we now have the systems in place that we need. But the lesson has been learned – outsourcing non-core functions can be hugely beneficial. Don’t do everything yourself.
Managing the team as it grows
With a talented and maturing sales team in place, it’s tempting to think that we’re in a healthy spot. But the next 12 months are always the most important for any company with ambitions to scale. We have bigger targets to hit, new markets to conquer, and more staff to hire.
With that in mind, it’s important not to neglect the companies we’ve already brought on board. We need to maintain a strong connection with our users so they become even better customers. So we’re growing our account management team to nurture existing relationships and help our customers engage with us more.
“Success or failure comes down to whether we can continue to build a team that can get the job done”
We also need to carefully manage the team as it grows. We’re constantly examining how we train existing staff and identify those within the team capable of taking on increased responsibilities. By promoting from within, the salesperson knows the product, marketplace, competition, pitch, culture and company, so their time to become productive is greatly reduced.
Ultimately, we need to both sell our product and demonstrate to investors that our customers can’t get enough of it. Success or failure will therefore come down to whether we can continue to build a team that can get the job done.
Fortunately, we provide a solution that makes a difference to the user, and we have a sales team that loves to come to work each day and sell it. As long as that continues, I expect us to bring on more customers, more revenue, and more growth.
Darren Lewis will be speaking about how account-based selling is the future of sales at the Sales Innovation Expo on May 11-12, while DueDil will be at stand 1576.