• Mike Taylor

Building a Sales Team greater than the sum of its parts ....

On most weekday mornings I am out of the house by 5-30am – fuelled by strong coffee - and on my way to Ely. I get up early because I love rowing, and my morning destination is Cambridge University Boat Club - a monument to dedication and hard work on the banks of the Great Ouse about 15 miles north of Cambridge.

I am there to coach – specifically the female crews training to race against Oxford. My role is to find and implement ways to make the boat go faster. Sometimes this is through spotting a tiny change that an individual athlete can make to maximise the way that her energy creates boat speed. On other occasions we will work as a crew on improving our collective balance, timing and cohesion to move across the water faster. It is a process of constant improvement.

Coaches pick the crews for races and – of equal significance – choose an order for them to sit in. The stroke at the stern of the boat sets the stroke rate, and we always look for someone who is stubborn and fiercely competitive. Immediately behind her at seven we need someone with great awareness of the rhythm of the boat, and the race experience to suggest to the cox what calls to make. In the middle of the boat, in what is sometimes disparagingly called the “engine room”, we look for athletes with great consistency and strength. At the front of the boat, the pair in the bows hit the wind and waves first and need to have immaculate technique and incredible boat feel. As with any sports team selection, the aim is that the sum is greater than the individual parts.

If you are looking to build and develop your Sales Team, there are many parallels. I often get asked by companies for tips on identifying and attracting Sales talent (in fact I probably get asked about recruitment more than anything else!), or advice on effective Sales targets to maximise individual productivity. Less often am I asked about building a Sales Team where the sum is greater than its individual parts – but client companies may be missing something here.

Having different skills, experience, and personalities within a Sales Team is essential for any company to maximise its commercial potential. At a very simple level, customers usually buy from people they like – so it is useful to have some choice when allocating accounts to individuals. Some salespeople are very good at winning new business, while others are better at developing long-term relationships – and it makes sense to have both within your Sales team. Salespeople are naturally competitive (something you will want to harness), but the best salespeople are also quick to learn new techniques from their teammates.

If you watched the University Boat Race last weekend, you will have seen both of the Cambridge crews triumph, and I like to think that I might have played a small part in this success. In my professional life, I have built up several effective sales operations from scratch, and I like to think that I played a fundamental part in that success. If you would like some advice or support on recruiting, developing, targeting, and mentoring a Sales Team to be greater than the sum of its individual parts then please get in touch.

Any day from about 5-30 …..

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