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What are the ingredients for a high performance sales team?

What are the ingredients for a high performance sales team?

What are the ingredients for a high performance sales team?

I look back with great fondness at a my spent at a well-known newspaper group.

It represents my closet experience of working in a high performance environment.

The best of times and the worst of times. No doubt that it was hard work and it definitely wasn’t always enjoyable but the collective results of the team were v good at a time when the internet was but a child.

I have often tried to work out the formula, secret or otherwise, and introduce it to those teams I have managed or to those clients we consult.

Legacy, the biographical work by James Kerr on the All-Blacks, leaves many clues to the formula worked on by Graham Henry and his team of coaches but sweeping sheds when you’re an All-Black has a greater impact than if you’re a joiner sweeping out a changing room in Junior league GAA.

It’s not for everyone.

What makes a high performance sales team?

An rivalled audience, ambitious and creative management team and an industry at its zenith, the conditions were perfect for growing revenue, sales and the introduction of new products.

The perfect canvas for a high performance sales team to capitalise on a strong market position in an economy buoyed by a Blairite government.

The sales team came from disparate backgrounds, far from multicultural but a balanced mix of male and female.

We worked hard and played very hard.

The day started at 9.00am – being late wasn’t tolerated.

90 minutes for lunch.

Big targets. Big (commensurate) bonuses.

Annual conferences – Miami, Barcelona, Barbados, Portugal, Spain.

Yes, that’s right 90 minutes for lunch. Why would you not allow a high performing team a decent lunch break. (How many of you reading give 30-45 minutes lunch to your team…with a stopwatch?)

Why such a poor reward for hard work?

As a high performance sales team we didn’t always get on with each other and no doubt there were little silos and clicks operating day to day but when it came to the pinch – closing a publication, driving yield and revenue or launching a new product we always hit our targets.

Through the lens of experience and the occasional high performance team framework it’s easy to see what the management team were doing – whatever magic sauce they were using, it obvious to me back then.

Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger explain it through their T7 model, internally:
– Thrust – our team had a common goal
– Trust – we had a bit more than ‘sufficient’ trust in each other
– Talent – we had the skills to do the job
– Teaming Skills – we functioned brilliantly as a team
– Task skills – we could each execute our individual assignments

and externally:
– Team Leader – we had very strong leadership who came from within the team
– Team support – we were never denied ANYTHING from the company that would have made us better

In his book, “Leading Teams: Setting the stage for great performances,” Richard Hackman outlines the 5 conditions that must be present in high performance teams -we made 4 of them.

– our team was a real team, we were interdependent on each other and there were few comings and goings. Recruitment was good and retention was better.
– we had a compelling direction of travel with clear goals and we were easily motivated by a  strong management.
– we worked in an enabling structure and culturally we were very well organised, positive and focused
– we had all the support we needed from the main board of the organisation…all the resources and information and if we were going to fail it wasn’t because we lacked or wanted for anything.
– we had access to good coaches and training though how often we took advantage of it, I’m not sure.

I can recall a zealous attention to detail from the management – they wrote their very own bespoke CRM programme in 1993.

Culturally, we all either fitted in or we left shortly afterwards.

It’s highly unlikely that such success would be easily replicated given the utopian conditions of trading back then, but as the saying goes, ‘success leaves clues’


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