Build a Great (Not Just Good) Security Sales Team
by Gretchen Gordon
If you follow my blog posts on LinkedIn, you know I’ve been re–reading the book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. Continuing with the theme of how the book can apply to sales organizations, in particular security sales organizations, I am fascinated by the data around the 11 “good to great” companies Collins’ research team studied as they determined what made the great ones so great.
Hire for the Who and the Team
In chapter two (I’m reading the book slowly to really absorb all the detail this time), there is a focus on company leaders and the executive teams they built. The great companies hired the best they could hire and gave them the autonomy to succeed. They hired for the “who,” so to speak.
And rather than building an executive team of glorified assistants to prop up the star CEO who thought all the brains resided in his head, these companies built teams made up of great leaders in their own right.
The Sales Who
These same principles apply to building great sales organizations. First, make sure to hire the right “who.” The who of sales does not mean who we like, who fits our culture or who is from the industry necessarily. These are all nice things but not indicators of success.
The who of sales means hiring individuals with not only the competencies to do what is necessary to be successful in the specific sales role, but who will actually do what must be done. In other words, just having the skillset to do something doesn’t mean an individual has the mindset or willingness to do it.
Having the capacity to do something is different from taking action. This is where personality assessments muddy the water. Someone’s personality has little to do with effectiveness in sales. The assessments might be an indicator of the ability to operate in a certain way, but they do not equate to any datapoint that says a salesperson will when the rubber meets the road.
What About Now?
In the aftermath of the “Great Recession” back in 2009, we saw the exact same thing we are seeing now in the security industry: Companies riding the wave of a healthy, growing economy as they were going into this year, until the pandemic hit.
Many organizations are having killer years because of civil unrest; concern over the security of empty or partially filled buildings; and the like, but there are other influences out there that will have long-standing, potentially deep, negative effects on companies in the industry that don’t respond appropriately, such as increasing competition and decreasing capital resources.
Rethink Your Team Requirements
When the virus is under control and business gets back to “normal,” there will likely be even more competitors in various shapes and sizes. And who knows when capital will come back robustly to the industry? So, your company may be capital constrained for a while, which means you have to ultra-focus on having the right people in the right seats on the sales department “bus.” Sure, you might be in go-go times now, and think you have all the right people, but you may be kidding yourself if all you have are “account managers” who feed at the trough of current clients, rather than expanding your customer base. You must determine how to get true hunters on your team if you are going to thrive in the future.
We have witnessed too many companies go through the ebbs and flows of the economy and market conditions because they are loyal to employees who no longer possess the skills to support the needs of the company, rather than finding the “who” for the current role. To continue the analogy to the book a step further, you must take the wheel of your bus, in particular the sales department bus, and drive it where you need it to go. Do what’s best for your company and all company employees by rethinking your sales team requirements to compete now and into the future. Please avoid being sucked into complacency if times are good now. You may be damaging your company’s future.
…you must take the wheel of your bus, in particular the sales department bus, and drive it where you need it to go.
Hire a Team of Great Leaders
Building great teams of leaders rather than glorified assistants, as discussed in “Good to Great,” is also relevant for sales. Too frequently, we see leaders/sales managers who are excellent salespeople themselves but haven’t consciously built a team of independent salespeople who can succeed without intense oversight or help by the leader/manager to close business.
And guess what? Company growth is stymied by the bandwidth of the leader/manager. This happens for two reasons: Either the leader/manager doesn’t really know how to coach and hold salespeople accountable to the right behaviors, which is common if an owner oversees the sales department; or sometimes leaders/managers are more interested in their own success and accolades rather than that of their team and, in essence, the company’s success.
Tips for Greatness
- Hire based on what the individual needs to do for success in the role they need to fill.
- Hire the best you can hire specifically for the role, whether that be a seller, manager or leader.
- Identify the strengths and skills necessary of current team members to perform excellently in the current and future environment.
- Identify gaps and determine if they can be closed or if the person needs to perform a different role.
- Please don’t promote excellent sellers to managers just because that is the natural next step. Only promote sellers to manager if they have the appropriate make-up to lead the team.
We can help with a proven process for both hiring and team development. As an ESA Certified Partner, we offer a wide variety of help to ESA member companies at a discount. Just reach out to Gretchen Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.