Avoid These 7 Mistakes When Building a Sales Team

January 11, 2022 | Read: 19 minutes

Commusoft blog cover background

Whether you have a department of one or a team of ten, building a sales team for your field service business is challenging. After all, on average, 57% of sales representatives miss their quota every year. So how can you ensure you’re in the 43% that’s on target? 

To start, you’ll need to avoid these 7 mistakes: 

Top performing sales reps tend to be people who have the drive, tools, and team that enable them go above and beyond. If you’re making any of these mistakes, though, you may be building a sales team that is not set up for success. 

After all, sales is a major component of your field services business. It’s one of the main departments for driving revenue and creating strong, long-lasting customer relationships. Without it, and without a high performing team, you may be missing out on major opportunities for company growth.

The good news? It’s never too late to shift course and get back on track! We’ll cover everything you need to know on how to build a world class sales team. 

The home sales service guide banner CTA

1. Are you building a sales team without a plan?

When you hire a sales team, it’s easy to say you’re simply hiring them to sell your products. The reality, however, is not so simple. Whether it’s boilers, air conditioning units, or even security cameras–you need a plan in place for how your reps will sell. 

It’s important to have a sales process in place before you even hire your first rep. Otherwise, instead of hitting the ground running, they’re most likely going to fumble and fall along the way–and at no fault of their own. 

So, what does a successful field service sales process look like? 

a. Generate leads

First, you’ll need to attract high quality leads. This means knowing who your target customers are and identifying the best way to reach out to them. 

For example, maybe you’ll have your sales team go door to door prospecting. This is very common for window cleaning companies and pool maintenance, but less so for plumbing or HVAC. Additionally, you might have them reach out to current customers for referrals. If you need some inspiration, check out these tips on generating leads

b. Assign the right leads to the right reps

If your company focuses more on inbound leads vs outbound leads (meaning you don’t prospect your customers) then you need to be deliberate about how you’re assigning opportunities. 

If you have one very experienced sales rep that’s been with your company for five years and a less experienced one who has been with you for only a couple of months, you should not be distributing leads equally between them. Instead, higher value opportunities should be given to your more experienced salesperson. 

Why? Because they have a higher chance of closing the deal. By assigning lower value opportunities to your less experienced rep, you’re allowing them to ramp up and learn the sales process. This way, they can still gain valuable experience without risking big revenue. 

c. Create a sales sequence

Once you have a list of leads and have appropriately assigned them, you’ll need to create an outreach sequence for your reps to follow. How long should a prospect stay in the pipeline for? And how many touchpoints (meaning emails, calls, or visits) should each lead have before being taken off of the list? 

Without a solid process like this in place, building a sales team that’s successful is near impossible. Top performing sales reps are the ones who have structure and consistency. If you don’t establish this foundation for them from the get-go, it will be difficult to successfully build on it.  

d. Have a set list of qualifying questions

No matter how great your salespeople are, they cannot “wing it.” 

Building a sales team

As Jake Dunlap, CEO at Skaled Consulting, says, “There is a massive difference between a random conversation and a structured conversation… You should be prepared with questions and guide the conversation from beginning to end.” 

In order to make a sale, your reps will need to gather specific information. We’re talking about things like budget, authority, and timeline. Of course, no sales call should ever be an interrogation or a flurry of question after question.

Rather, the aim is to have a short list of questions reps need to ask. That way they have a structure to the conversation vs letting the lead drive the discussion. What makes these qualifying questions is that they also help you understand if the lead is a good fit. Maybe your prices are out of their budget or they need a wider range of service than you can provide. Therefore, further calls would be a waste of your sales team’s time and theirs. 

e. Know your value

If a prospect asks your rep why they should choose your field service business over another, and your salesperson doesn’t have an answer, that’s a problem. When building a sales team, it’s important to ensure they know what makes your company different from the rest. 

Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to sell your services. Evaluate your business and determine what makes you stand out, then communicate that to your team. If you can give them value propositions with concrete numbers that’s even better! Be as specific and detailed as possible. 

For example: “Our prices are a bit higher than the competition, but we offer same-day appointments and we have a 80% first-appointment fix rate, which is higher than the local average.”

If you’re missing any of these in your sales process, be sure to add them. You can’t build a high performing sales team without having a plan in place for them to follow. Another common mistake field services businesses make when building a sales team is…

2. Not knowing the characteristics of high performing sales teams and individuals

a. Characteristics of high performing individuals

Hiring a sales team is hard, there’s no two ways about it. And while there is a lot to consider before you hire, one of the most important things is being able to identify the difference between an “okay” sales rep and a “great” sales rep. 

For example, an “okay” salesperson might listen to the lead explain their problem and then immediately offer their own services as the solution. A “great” salesperson, on the other hand, will listen to the lead’s problem and then ask why. Why is that happening? Why is it an issue? And why do you need to resolve this problem right now? 

Top performing sales reps are consultative. They’re highly engaged and relationship driven. It’s not just about making the sale to them, because the best sellers know the most profit comes from creating relationships. 

Just because a person can talk about themselves well in an interview doesn’t necessarily mean they can communicate with leads as successfully. Focus on candidates who ask questions and actively listen to your responses. If they make the interviewing process feel like a conversation, chances are they’ll be a great asset to your team. Pay special attention to those who ask you questions! 

b. How to build a world class sales team

Once you hire great salespeople, it’s important to also know the characteristics of high performing sales teams. Afterall, the environment your reps sell in and their relationships with one another can have a big impact on their performances. 

When building a sales team, it is important that your reps are competitive with one another. They should want to be the best salesperson you have and demonstrate a strong drive to win. With that said, it’s equally important that healthy competition is encouraged. 

While top performing sales reps should be recognized for their work and achievements, it shouldn’t come at the expense of demotivating other team members. One way to avoid this is by setting team challenges. When the team meets the goal collectively, reward them all–regardless of the individual outcomes.  

Setting these types of competitions helps reps to think as a collective: How are we going to achieve this vs How am I going to achieve this? At the end of the day, all of your sales representatives’ goals should be aligned. 

3. Not offering a commission structure that motivates reps

If you know sales, you know that money is a major driving factor for most reps. So, if your commission plan isn’t up to par, building a sales team that is motivated will be difficult. 

And this goes both ways–offering too much commission can have equally negative effects as offering too little. Remember, a characteristic of high performing sales teams is that they feel continually challenged. If you’re setting the bar to earn commission too low, their motivation to sell may dwindle. 

Afterall, if they can meet their quota within the first two weeks of the month, they may not feel as driven to perform at such a high level for the last two weeks of the month. Of course, this doesn’t mean setting unachievable targets for your team to hit, either.

According to HVACR Business, a compensation plan should be designed to drive sales while encouraging reps to produce at increasing rates by incentivizing performance. This requires creating a concrete commission structure that is both fair and generous. If you don’t have a formal plan in place, we recommend creating one. And if you do, but your team doesn’t seem motivated by it, it may be time for a change. 

For example, you can offer higher commission for self-generated outbound leads that become customers. Your reps spent additional time prospecting and nurturing those leads, so their efforts should be rewarded at a higher rate. 

Or you can consider offering different commission levels for different products and services. If your salesperson sells a product for $500, they should get paid more in commission than they would for selling a $200 product. 

Ultimately, when building a sales team, it’s essential to ensure they’re motivated to sell. And offering a challenging but rewarding commission plan is a great way to build a high performing sales team. 

4. Building a sales team without providing (continued) training

Building a sales team

Just like you need to have a sales process before you hire a sales team, you also need to have a training plan ready to go. Throwing your reps into the deep end without any training is a mistake you’ll definitely want to avoid. If you’re wondering how to build a word class sales team, it starts with providing continued learning opportunities. 

And when it comes to training a field service sales rep, it’s more than just teaching them about your products and services. While they should have the foundations down, they’ll also need to be able to overcome objections, be confident in providing excellent customer service, and be proficient in your sales system.  

a. Teaching objection handling is vital when building a sales team

In a perfect world, no one would ever have an objection to your well thought out sales pitch. But unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. No matter how great your products and services are, someone, somewhere, will object. 

That’s why it’s essential to teach your sales reps how to handle push back. Otherwise, they may simply give in to the objection, or worse, become defensive. Remember, top performing sales reps are the ones who are consultative. And this skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone, which is why it’s so important to role play and practice these scenarios. 

As sales guru Josh Braun puts it, “Don’t overcome an objection, but understand it.” It’s not about steamrolling a customer into agreeing with you–that’s far from making them feel heard, or happy with the sale. Instead, teach your sales reps to listen to the objection, understand it, and provide a solution. And even if that solution isn’t your services, that’s okay!  

It’s better to maintain a relationship than burn a bridge, which is why…

b. Top performing sales reps excel in providing great customer service

Are we starting to sound like a broken record over here? 

It’s true though, reps who can successfully manage and maintain client relationships tend to be the most successful. Why? Because if they can turn a lead into a customer, and a repeat one at that, they are more likely to spend more with your business–300% more to be exact. 

This means that forming one great customer relationship can result in a lot (and we mean a lot) of revenue for your business. Plus, customers who are loyal to your company are more likely to recommend your services to friends–which means additional business at no extra cost to you. 

What we’re really trying to say here, is that it is crucial to train your sales team in great customer service. They shouldn’t aim to just make the sale, but rather to provide an experience so great, prospects genuinely want to work with your business over any other. 

A part of building a world class sales team is training them on best practices like these. 

c. How to build a sales team that’s confident in their sales software

In this day and age, it can be all too easy to assume new hires will instantly understand the software you use. However, navigating these tools doesn’t come as easy to everyone, and it’s especially important to ensure you train your team on them. 

If you don’t, you’re only making their sales process more difficult–and potentially creating a headache for yourself. A team that doesn’t log detailed sales notes in their CRM or a common sales doc, or move a lead through the pipeline, will not have an efficient sales cycle. 

In fact, leads can get lost in the funnel–meaning lost opportunities for your reps and business. Before reps dive in, be sure they’re properly trained and confident in the tools and processes they’re using. 

Of course, a big part of this is ensuring that they have access to the right tools for the job. Which is why you should avoid…

5. Investing in the wrong tools for your sales team

When building a sales team, it’s important to provide them with the right resources that will set them up for success. Again, the goal is to help them sell more, not to make selling more difficult. 

Building a sales team

Of course, what a field service team needs to excel will vary from business to business. Some may need a lead generating platform, others a strong customer database, and maybe even a proposal building software. It’s all dependent on how your reps sell.

A common mistake, however, is only investing in tools that management needs. While it is important to use software that gives insights into how your reps are doing, they won’t benefit from it in their day to day. You may be able to see how long they were on the phone for, or how many emails they sent, but that won’t help anyone close a deal. 

And if you’re at a loss for what your team needs, the best approach is to simply ask them. Maybe they feel that your database doesn’t allow them to track leads as effectively as they would like to. Or maybe they can’t create automated tasks, and feel like they’re spending too much of their time on admin vs selling.  

If you’re building a sales team, it most likely means your company is growing. And that’s a great thing! But that also means you’re most likely outgrowing the tools you started with. Being open to change and focusing on how you can best support your team will help everyone become more successful in the long run. 

6. Not using data driven metrics to build a high performing sales team

A major reason only 57% of sales representatives hit their quota is because teams don’t analyze the data. Afterall, if you don’t evaluate what’s working and what’s not, you’re bound to keep repeating the same mistakes. 

If you don’t have a software–or even a spreadsheet–to measure your teams numbers, then it’s going to be difficult to build a world class sales team. Just like any other competitor, top performing sales reps know their weaknesses and actively work to improve on them.

To avoid this mistake, it’s important to hold your salespeople accountable for their numbers. Then, continually analyze those numbers, adjust them where needed, and regularly measure the results. You’re sure to find trends and patterns–and that’s valuable information that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

For example, maybe you know that your reps need to close 5 deals per month to hit quota. But do you know how many opportunities they need to have in their pipeline at all times in order to meet that goal? 

If you do, then you can statistically map out their game plan for the month. Because at the end of the day, sales really is a number game. If a rep needs to close 5 deals per month, and you know that on average they close 20% of their deals, then you’ll know they need to have at least 25 opportunities in their pipeline at all times. 

Here are some more metrics to consider when building a sales team: 

  • How many touch points does it take for your reps to get in contact with a lead? 
  • How many meetings or consultations do they need to book to meet quota?
  • Does the amount of time a salesperson spends on the phone correlate with how likely that deal is to close? 

By tracking this kind of information, you’ll gain valuable insights into where your sales team can improve. For example, maybe you’ll find that you need to focus on better pipeline management with them. And by making small changes like this, you’ll find it can have a major impact on your team and their success. 

Of course, with all this said, it’s equally important to avoid micromanaging your team and their numbers. While being actively involved in the sales process is great, it shouldn’t be to the point where reps feel like their every move is being watched. Instead, encourage them to be accountable for their own metrics and emphasize the impact it has on their own success. 

7. Neglecting to celebrate wins when building a sales team

On that note, your salespeople are people–not just numbers on the board. So it’s essential to make them feel valued for their efforts and to celebrate the wins, big or small. Afterall, no one wants to work in an environment where it feels like they need to move mountains to get recognition. 

While metrics are a good thing, creating a fear-based approach to hitting targets is not. The truth is, even top performing sales reps may not always be able to meet their monthly quota, and that’s okay. There are a lot of factors to consider, like what’s happening in their personal lives, slow seasons in field service, or even something as unpredictable as a pandemic. 

If your team feels constant pressure, they most likely are going to struggle long term. So a great way to avoid burnout and stress is by celebrating their accomplishments. It can even be something as simple as shouting them out for sending an awesome email to a lead. 

As Steli Efti, CEO of Close, writes, “By celebrating the small stuff, you add importance to every win and add a positive spin to the ‘no’s.” By minimizing the losses and magnifying the wins, your team won’t fear failure–and that’s where the magic can happen in sales. 

Ultimately, being a salesperson is not an easy job. It comes with a lot of rejection and requires a fair amount of perseverance. In fact, a study found that two-thirds of reps reported that they were close to experiencing burnout. Therefore, if you’re not actively celebrating your team and recognizing their efforts, you’re likely risking keeping them at your business. 

That’s why when building a sales team, it is important to ensure they feel motivated and valued. Not only will reps be happier in their work environment, but they’ll also be happier when working with customers and selling. 

The takeaway

There is no doubt it takes a lot of work, patience, and determination to build a world class sales team. And it can be a long process too. You’ll need to hire a sales team, plan out your sales process, figure out a generous commission structure, provide the right tools and continual training, analyze your team’s wins and failures, all while celebrating their successes along the way. 

But that’s what building a sales team is all about. 

There are sure to be mistakes made along the way, and while you can’t avoid them all, you can do your best to prepare for them in advance. By laying a solid foundation for your team, and avoiding the errors on this list, you’re sure to already be one step ahead. 

The home sales service guide banner CTA

When I'm not researching industry trends and writing about business strategies, I spend time with friends and family, travelling, and searching for the world's best chocolate chip cookie.

Recommended For You

Join the Newsletter

The latest business insights and articles for trades businesses delivered to your email.