How B2B Startups Can Build a Successful Sales Team with Accountability and Coaching

Author: 
Joe Curtis

In the fall of 2014, Unishippers Global Logistics, LLC, the nation’s first and one of the largest small package and freight resellers, launched a new subsidiary named Launch Logistics and I was named the President and Chief Sales Officer. The subsidiary was created to expand the franchise company’s salesforce and customer service expertise, thereby prompting further growth and hands-on learning that will benefit the entire franchise system. From the outset, I knew that building a high-performing and energetic B2B sales team was critical to the company’s overall success. I quickly defined these four keys that I knew would lead to greatest sales success:

#1 – Hire the right people and have an open mind. In today’s competitive economy, hiring the right people is more critical than ever. This is especially true for a startup that can’t afford to lose time and money because of bad hiring choices. Having an open-minded hiring approach is key to achieving success within our model. Because our success comes from following an established and specific sales process, candidates with little to no prior sales training are often more adaptable and therefore better able to thrive within our system and accept the requisite coaching and mentoring. Our company’s close proximity to college campuses and a willingness to hire part-time sales consultants has been invaluable in recruiting motivated, but green talent.

#2 – Make sales training sticky and never stop coaching. My strategy for building a strong training and coaching program was to hire a seasoned transportation sales manager to serve as the anchor to our team of part-time and full-time shipping consultants. A key element of our hands-on training approach involves Velcro training. A new sales representative is “velcroed” (or stuck) to a manager or veteran sales representative to ensure they establish good habits and receive necessary and timely feedback from the very start. This helps start the sales person off on the best possible footing and quickly identifies coaching opportunities or concerns with the candidate before bad habits can be developed.

The coaching process doesn’t stop there. Every week our sales reps are evaluated through a “preview & review” procedure. This procedure gives our management the tools they need to properly evaluate a sales rep’s performance and provide constructive feedback on a weekly basis. Each Friday the sales manager will connect with the rep to review the past week’s activities and “preview” their next week of appointments. Together, they evaluate the upcoming week using these three criteria:

  • Is the rep meeting the minimum requirement for scheduled appointments for the following week? A full-time rep is required to schedule 14 appointments and half that many is expected for a part-time rep.
  • What is the objective of the appointment or the identified opportunity?
  • Are they meeting with the correct decision-maker?

During the following week, we have a series of metrics and rewards to motivate our reps to meet the stated objectives set in the preview/review meeting. Then, the fourth coaching component is covered in the “review” stage. During the review, management covers all appointments for that week with the rep. Together they determine whether the rep met his or her appointment objective discussed during the last week’s preview meeting and was able to walk away from that appointment with a defined next step. If a rep doesn’t achieve that crucial next step with a customer, the time spent on that appointment has been wasted.

#3 – Make accountability fun. Based on my experience as VP of Sales at DHL and at our parent company, Unishippers, I knew I needed to create an entirely new environment at Launch Logistics that would encourage fun and friendly competition and accountability from our team every day. When accountability is implemented in the correct way, a sales rep will strive to make every day their best performance day. Additionally, the culture of accountability, while still promoting fun, is hugely important and is a key contributor to the company’s success.

Making accountability fun doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, a bell is rung every time a rep meets one of the key three steps in the sales process: once for an appointment, twice for set-up and three times for customer activation. This way, everyone is aware of another rep’s accomplishments. In addition, every sales rep’s daily and weekly sales metrics are displayed on large boards in the office and a video screen also displays the team’s and company’s daily metrics. Because of these simple, yet effective and motivating practices, the sales floor of Launch Logistics is always in a constant state of activity and high energy.

#4 – Compensate, Compensate, Compensate. Last but not least, compensation is critical to creating a strong and effective sale culture. In addition to our modest base salary and commission, our sales representatives have the opportunity to earn weekly and monthly bonuses based on smaller, yet important, achievements that lead to overall success. Launch Logistics really brings out the competitive nature of our reps and positively influences the desire to perform.

Finding the opportunity to coach our team along the onboarding and training process until they are confident and productive sales reps has made us able to remove the underperformers and reward our team for every accomplishment along the road to customer acquisition and retention.

Joe Curtis has over 20 years of experience in B2B sales. He has served at the VP of sales at Unishippers since 2008 and President of Launch Logistics since 2014. Prior to that he was the VP of Sales and Marketing for DHL. Based in Salt Lake City, Launch Logistics currently has 21 sales reps on their team. For more information, contact joe.curtis@unishippers.com