Top 10 Tips to Building a Great Sales Organization

Businesses can’t compete for the long term without a strong sales organization. Yet all too often, owners don’t understand how to build one or invest the effort to do so. Predictably, revenue stalls or a sales team is retained that can’t position your products and services effectively, denying the company its full potential.

The statistics are startling: 60% of small businesses don’t have sales plans with quotas for individual sales reps, 80% don’t have an effective CRM tool, and 90% don’t have a compensation plan that incentivizes sought-after behaviors (2018 Sales Xceleration Survey of Small Businesses).

These are not the characteristics of growth-oriented, people-accountable, process-driven companies! Luckily, it is never too late to establish a professional sales foundation.

Where to Focus Your Sales Organization

When building, or “renovating,” a sales organization, there are 10 top areas to focus on.

1.Create sales plans and share them within the company. Detail where and how you want to sell, the best practices of your sales process, and who the buyer is. You don’t need to write a book; five pages is plenty to design a map for everyone to follow.

2. Develop a company sales process. Chart how you successfully pursued your top five business wins to determine which sales processes proved most effective. What worked? What didn’t? Document it and make sure everyone follows the plan daily.

3. Hold weekly sales meetings. Even if you only have one or two salespeople, schedule the time in your calendar to understand how they operate and how they are focused. Ensure everyone is following the right course and offer them a forum for feedback; encourage them to tell you what is working and what isn’t.

4. Build compensation plans that incentivize the right behaviors. Your current Comp Plan is the map your salesperson follows to fulfill his or her income targets. Successful comp plans explain what you want, detail what that means, and pay only for performance.

Bonus Tip: Build comp plans that directly aligned with your revenue and product plan to ensure a win-win for both the sales rep and the company.

5. Install the right CRM – not the best CRM. Salesforce states that without a CRM, 79% of leads fail yet only 50% of companies with 10 employees have one. During your search for the “ideal” CRM, don’t pay attention to marketing. Instead, identify the visibility and processes your company needs today.

Too many small businesses buy CRMs that can get them to the moon, but they really only need to know their prospects and organize their customers, and document how they interact with them. Avoid the frustration that comes from overbuying – you can always increase complexity later.

6. Find the right sales training: During job interviews, sales candidates often note the professional sales training they have received. But what they were taught may not be right for your business – if they remember the concepts at all.

Instead, identify what sales training you want them to have and schedule it. Not only will you improve effectiveness, but their commitment to your company will grow exponentially. Today, good salespeople have a 1% unemployment rate, so you can’t afford for them to leave.

7. Schedule regular performance reviews. Sit with your salespeople monthly and at the end of the year to review both activity and performance. Don’t be one of the 80% of companies that fail to schedule a structured review with their sales personnel. It just takes 30-60 minutes.

Bonus tip:  Conducting regular performance reviews not only increases your understanding of their true activity and value, but it is a strong driver towards employee commitment.

8. Forecast your sales pipeline. Most small companies miss their revenue targets by as much as 50%! Use the functionality of a CRM to build sales forecasting, helping you estimate within 10%, hopefully 5%, of actual revenue. Research suggests that companies with accurate sales forecasts are more likely to hit revenue goals AND grow year-over-year revenue.

Bonus tip:  Forecasting also provides the prism for your business to align its costs with expected revenue and in turn, you better understand the future and the resources needed to maximize it.

9. Identify the right sales seats. Too often, business owners have growth expectations that are not aligned with the structure or capabilities of their sales team. Identify your right structure of outside vs. inside sales reps, or the “Hunters” vs. “Farmers”, then distribute your resources by their responsibility to attack accounts, territories, products or industries.

Bonus tip: Company owners should never try to personally manage more than three salespeople.

10. Create clearly defined sales metrics. Build a small sales dashboard that displays a few metrics, including leads, opportunities, customer visits or contacts, and contracts signed. Set targets that match your company goals, so everyone knows what success looks like.

Bonus tip:  Post the sales dashboard in your most visible location in the office.

The Foundation to Sustained Growth

Without a strong sales foundation your company can’t experience sustained revenue growth, and your good salespeople will keep walking out the door. Take the time to draft your sales plan. Implement the right structure and process. Then hire, train and compensate the right people. When everyone is directed and held accountable, your company can become what I call “sales-driven.”

Michael Wills is the founder of Top Line Solutions based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He specializes in Outsourced Sales Leadership and is focused on revenue growth resulting from best-in-class sales organization and execution for small and medium-sized businesses. Michael can be reached at