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What Eskimos Taught Me About Managing Sales Teams

A shelter carved out of the snow.

Eskimos are famous for having over 50 words for snow. And we’re not just talking about 50 synonyms for semi-frozen water. Each word is unique to the texture and formation of a particular type of snow. Knowing the difference is a matter of life and death. Some snow may be perfect for building igloos while others may cave in and crush your family.

Think about the education a young Eskimo gets while learning these various snow-terms. They’re not just learning words. They’re training to notice the different forms snow can take, as well as the applicable uses, and dangers of each.

There’s no room for ambiguity in igloo building… or in sales.

I find a clear contrast when working with average sales teams compared to fast-scaling organizations. Average sales teams have loose vocabulary and often, each salesperson does “what works for me.”

In other words, they only have one word for “snow,” and each sales rep has their own interpretation of what that means.

Almost all sales organizations have some form of operational standards. However, these guidelines are typically ignored and only loosely enforced by management.

The most effective sales teams have a unique language that only they speak. If a stranger walked into one of their sales meetings, they’d feel like an outsider at an Eskimo council. Top teams use a finite set of precise terms to describe their pipeline and where each prospect fits into it.

A prospect is not “a hot lead” or “closing any day now.” Instead you might hear phrases like “qualified with a decision timeframe” or “holding a revised contract and making a decision by Tuesday.”

A sale, is not just a sale to them. It is the culmination of a consistent process made up of a clearly defined stages—each with their own title.

Every sales rep can tell you what actions will move a prospect to the next stage. That’s a result of the training. Similar to the way young eskimos learn to decipher subtle shades of snow, new reps need training. They learn the scripts and process that drive sales at their company long before they start selling.

Communication is easier and more precise on teams with a shared vocabulary. Any team member hearing the stage of a potential deal immediately knows the next step to take. No time is wasted on figuring out which type of “snow” they’re dealing with.

Scalable Sales Teams Have One Operating System

For scalable sales teams, standards don’t just exist, they become religion. Training creates a shared knowledge base for the sales reps, and templates ensure a consistent experience for every prospect.

I call this combination of the team’s vocabulary, processes and templates their “operating system.” And, I find a strong operating system whenever I work with a scalable sales team.

A stark contrast to the companies that allow each rep to do “what works for them.”

When setup correctly, your CRM can naturally install a consistent operating system across your sales team. No matter how large or remote it may be. The CRM screens can use your team’s labels and sales stages so that reps are fully immersed in the vocabulary all day, every day.

You can then use the CRM data and eskimo-like vocabulary to keep your sales meetings tight and effective.

This is an imperative step if you want to scale—be it each salesperson’s volume or the number of sales reps at your company. Make sure you’ve defined the operating system and installed it into the tools and meetings your team will use. This shared operating system is the difference between building a scalable sales team and having a band of salespeople at your company.

What makes up a sales team’s operating system?

  • Vocabulary
  • Templates
  • Processes
  • Systems
  • Metrics / Scoreboards
  • Technology

When we work with companies to roll out a CRM to their sales team, we start by learning and documenting the operating system. From there, our goal is to integrate these systems and processes into the salesperson’s day as they manage their pipeline through the CRM.

Talk to us today about how to install a scalable operating system at your company.

Jeremy Pound
Written By Jeremy Pound

July 17 2017 in Blog, Strategic Advice, Tips + Tricks

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