In any sales organisation, it is the people that matter. After all, people buy from people.
But you can't just hire salespeople and expect them to crush it. You have to have a structure and process in place to help them succeed. This is why building a sales team striving towards a common goal is so important. It provides a structure that supports people to become better versions of themselves:
The sales manager supports the team leaders and the team members. The team leader supports the team members. The team members support each other. Each role is supportive and each role is vital for targets to be hit. Let's dive into each looking at the benefits they bring to the sales organization.
The team member is the player
Goal: The goal of the Team Member is to sell. They are the people tasked with closing deals, bringing in revenue, and building relationships with prospects and customers.
Number per team: 5-8. You want to keep teams small to aid support and collaboration.
What they do: Sell, and learn to sell better.
Everything else in your sales organization—the processes and the structures, the leaders and the managers—is geared towards them achieving this goal.
In an Agile sales team, these salespeople are exactly the same as salespeople in a regular sales organization, with two important differences:
They are part of a team. Each Team Member will have their own quota, but they are not acting individually. The emphasis is put on helping out your fellow salesperson and pushing for the team quota for the end of the month.
They manage their own pipeline. In some sales organizations reps might build their own pipeline, but in others it is a top-down constraint. In Agile sales, a Team Member is responsible for their own pipeline, with help from the team, and their own backlog.
The other responsibility they have is to communicate and learn. Because this is a team endeavor, someone keeping problems to themselves and not trying to fix issues is causing problems for the whole team. Team Members need to be comfortable saying where they are struggling. That is the only way the next two vital roles can help them, and the team, succeed.
The sales team lead is the captain
Goal: The goal of the Sales Team Lead is cadence. They are the engine room of the team, driving them through the month and keeping everyone focused on where the burndown chart ends.
Number per team: 1
What they do: Stand as a model for the rest of the sales team and drive the team forward each month.
They do the former in two ways:
As an individual. A Sales Team Lead is a great salesperson. The person you want in this role is one who is already excelling at delivering both performance and results.
As a team member. They naturally help others. A Sales Team Lead might already be the de facto head of the team, always looking to help others and willing to give advice.
They drive the team forward both implicitly by being the best and a target to match in the team, and explicitly by focusing on cadence and teamwork.
This is a challenging role. They are the leader in the field. This means they have their own pipeline to contend with every month, their own prospects and customers to move along and keep happy. But they also have to keep in mind every other deal that is happening in the team. As we saw above, each salesperson is responsible for building their own pipeline, but the Sales Team Lead is invested in the success of everyone. Here is how they do it:
They run meetings. In an Agile sales teams, the sales standups and retrospectives are led by the Sales Team Lead. At the beginning and end of every sprint, they have to get everyone on the same page. They are also the focus of an impromptu conversations or meeting that happen in the team.
They offer guidance and advice. The team leader is not a manager, so their job isn't to mentor Team Members in their long-term development. But because they are working side-by-side with reps each day, they are naturally the best-placed people to help with specific advice. If a salesperson is having trouble closing a deal, it is the Sales Team Lead who will walk them through it. If a rep needs help with a pitch, it is the Sales Team Lead that will sit down with them.
They increase teamwork. An effective Sales Team Lead won't just offer guidance themselves, they will loop others into the conversation to increase collaboration. If a rep is having trouble closing, the Sales Team Lead can look at the account and with their wider knowledge of what the team is working on, call upon another Team Member who has recently had a similar customer to show how they solved it.
The work listed above shows the main problem with this role: burnout. Sales Team Leads are managing their own full pipeline and running meetings and have to help others and know everything about the team's deals. It is a lot of work. Sales managers have to keep an eye on Sales Team Leads to make sure they are not overstretched and taking on more than they can handle. They are your best salespeople, so you don't want to burn them out.
The sales manager is the coach
Goal: The goal of the Sales Manager is growth. They want to grow the business by growing people.
Number per team: 1 per 2-3 teams.
What they do: Teach people to be better.
The Sales Manager is the person directly accountable for the revenue of the team. They increase this revenue purely through their influence on the team rather than directly contributing to closing deals themselves. They are not a player/coach—they are just a coach.
In some sales teams, the manager might deal with the whales or keep their eye in with a few deals here and there. This is a terrible idea, for two reasons:
It takes money from salespeople. If you see your manager closing a big deal that you were in line for in your round robin, that's going to hurt. Sales teams require close collaboration and this will only hurt collaboration.
It takes time from the Sales Manager. The Sales Manager's greatest asset is time. It allows them to be available for the team in a way the Sales Team Lead can't be due to their own pipeline commitments.
As the line manager, the Sales Manager is also the person directly responsible for the welfare and growth of the people on their teams. Growing salespeople is where the Sales Manager needs to be able to spend their time.
Continuing the example from above, let's say there is a Team Member that is having trouble closing deals. The Sales Team Lead helped them through one cycle, but the problem occurred in the next Sprint. At this point, the Sales Team Lead can call on the Sales Manager to help. This relieves the burden for the Sales Team Lead who can go back to their own pipeline and has freed time for them to give advice to the other Team Members.
The Sales Manager can sit down with the rep and help them be better. They could develop a tailored training plan just for that rep and that problem. Because they have time, they can sit with them on calls, on multiple days, going over the minutiae of the problem. As they might work across multiple teams, any solutions are easily shared across the organization.
On any day, a Sales Manager could be:
- Working with one rep helping them to prioritize their pipeline;
- Another helping them write cold emails;
- Another helping them price a quote, and
- Another closing a deal
They have superior knowledge of sales, the process, and the product. With the time free away from deals, they can use this knowledge to increase team performance across the board.
The team together
Let's go back to that original team structure diagram, now filled in with how everyone supports each other:
- Team Members collaborate among themselves and push ideas up to the Sales Team Lead.
- The Sales Team Lead collaborates with the team and offers one-on-one advice for specific problems. If these are unresolved, they are kicked up to the Sales Manager.
- The Sales Manager offers concentrated help to each Team Member to develop them as salespeople.
If you want people to buy from your people, your people have to be the best people. You can only become the best in any sphere of life from learning from your peers and those better than you. This is what the Agile sales structure and roles provide—a superior learning experience. When you have that, you have the foundation for a team that constantly improves, constantly grows, and constantly brings in revenue.