Five Things Sales Leaders Do to Create High-Performing Teams

sales leaders

By Julie Thomas

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be eligible for retirement every day for the next 13 years. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports, “…young workers are uninterested in sales – a field they perceive as risky and defined by competition.” Given the dynamics of the labor environment, what are sales leaders doing to get the best out of their team members?

When you’re building a sales team, you’re always on the lookout for people who have the right personality and team fit – combined with sales competency. Once you’ve secured them, you’ve got to retain them – coaching them, holding them accountable, and rewarding their successes.

Personally, I’ve hired, trained, and coached thousands of sales professionals at all levels. Working with sales leaders in both multi-national sales organizations and rapidly emerging firms for the past 20 years, these are five things leaders of high-performing teams consistently do.   

  1. Hire the right people. As Jim Collins said, “Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go.” 

    High-performing sales leaders hire individuals with the right attitude, right enthusiasm, and right work ethic. They look for people who love to learn and who can accurately self-assess and adjust. These are all innate traits. You can’t teach someone to be an optimist.It takes time to get the right mix and the right team members. A single bad attitude can spread like a virus among your team. So it’s worth the wait and due diligence to build a strong team.

  2. Close competency gaps. Whether you hire seasoned pros or train new hires on the organization’s sales methodology, have a plan for onboarding and continual reskilling. 

    Assess each individual and train them to close the gaps. “Fake it ’til you make it” is not how new team members should be operating. Instead, provide the right training, education, and coaching.To make training stick, be sure it’s easy to implement and fits within your existing processes. Offer a learning environment that’s engaging, relevant, and ongoing.

  3. Measure what matters. We’ve all heard that what gets measured gets done. Hold your sales representatives accountable to things that they care about. 

    Are you building a culture of continuous improvement? Do you have a team made up of people who continually stretch, learn, and grow? Those are the sales professionals you want. They’ll serve as shining examples for the new hires on your team.To recruit and retain the right people, create metrics that are meaningful at the individual, team, and organizational level. When all three are aligned, the team is high-performing and unstoppable.

  4. Recognize and celebrate people. Ken Blanchard said, “Catch people doing something right.” High-performing leaders recognize and praise more than they correct and beat up. 

    When you have to correct a team member, do it in a way that’s constructive and motivating rather than destructive and criticizing. Make sure your positive feedback outweighs the constructive by a 2-to-1 margin.Nobody’s perfect and no one likes to be called out when they make a mistake. With this in mind, praise in public; correct in private.

  5. Drive incremental performance. How can you get everybody on the team to do their jobs just a little better? Create an environment where coaching can be used to drive incremental improvement. 

    In baseball, the goal is to get the team playing better. How? By making each individual’s performance better. While every player has a distinct role on the field, success in one role doesn’t diminish the success of other roles.By increasing each person’s skills incrementally, the competencies of your entire team come together. With this coaching strategy in place, you are positioned to win the game.

But that’s not all. Balance these five actions with a management style that builds credibility, demonstrates flexibility, and displays empathy throughout your sales organization. All of this together makes for a proven path to creating a high-performing team.

thomas_julie_150x210Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a business consultant, coach, facilitator, speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time. She has led ValueSelling Associates to become an award-winning, competency- and process-based training provider that measurably improves sales performance in B2B sales organizations around the world. Visit

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