Build a sales team the Peak way

Richard Potter from SaaS superstars Peak tells Sales Confidence how to (and possibly how not to) build a sales team.

Last month we staged our 4th Sales Confidence live event at the Salesforce Tower in London. 100 SaaS devotees gathered to hear 4 of London’s most knowledgeable founders and sales leaders share their secrets. If you couldn’t make it, we’re producing a series of articles covering all the talks, so you can still share in the knowledge.

Our second talk came from Richard Potter, CEO of Peak. Peak help companies become data and AI-driven. They’ve been very successful at it too, growing annual revenues to £1.3 million per year in just 17 months.

Richard shared with us the process he and his management team went through building a sales team at Peak. Some things they did well, others not so much. Here are 4 useful tips.

1 – Hire early

One thing Richard and his management team did really well at Peak was hire early. They knew that it takes time to hire, onboard, ramp up and bring in revenue. If you want to grow your revenues, ever, there’s never a bad time to start.

‘If you are thinking, ‘I don’t need to hire because I don’t need these people for a year’, then actually you do need to hire. Great salespeople have notice periods. Bad salespeople tend not to.’

2 – Be honest with your team

Another thing Peak did very well when they were building their sales team was being honest with them from the start. Joining Peak was never going to be like any other sales job, and this was made clear from the start.

‘We’re a scale-up. That means there’s no black or white. There’s no, ‘Here’s how you sell Peak. Go and do it. Make lots of money.’ There’s a lot of grey. The way we sell Peak has changed the more we’ve learned.’

‘We say to our teams coming in. ‘We need to you to be trailblazers, pathfinders.’ We need you to feed back to management about what’s working and what isn’t, so we can do something about it.’

‘It can be a cultural shock to people who are used to a rigid sales management structure.’

This is true when you join any new sales team at any startup or scale-up, you have to leave your preconceived ideas at the door and go with the flow.

3 – Get the founders involved

This is one thing Peak didn’t do very well, not at the start anyway. However, once they realised what was needed, they began to reap the rewards.

‘You need to realise the power of the founders in the sales process. The founders are the best salespeople in the company. If you’re a founder, don’t think when you’ve got a sales team you can sit behind your desk and count the money. In the enterprise space, the people you sell to are going to want to meet the people in charge.’

As well as getting acquainted with customers and attending meetings, founders need to be involved with concocting the sales story. Quite often at young companies, so much information is locked up in the founders’ heads, and they don’t realise. It all needs to come out.

4 – Experiment with hiring

When we’ve talked in previous Sales Confidence articles about hiring, we’ve talked about the benefits of having a clear picture in your mind of who you want to hire. When you know the attributes you’re looking for before you interview candidates, it’s easier to know if they meet your standards or not.

Peak, however, took a different approach, and the results speak for themselves.

‘We ran a bit of an experiment. For the 5 people in our sales team, we hired 5 very different individuals. We wanted to see what kind of people would work well when selling Peak. Some of them were standout performers versus the others. That helps us find the next wave of people to join the team.’

That’s not to say that the salespeople who were not as successful were cut loose, however. They were coached to be better.

When Peak built their sales team, there was some trial and error, and they went against the grain at certain points. However, they ended up in a very good place indeed, a repeatable, scalable sales process. Of course, simply building a team isn’t enough. A productive onboarding process is vital too. We’ll cover that in a future article.

Have you built a sales team from scratch before? What did you get right, and wrong? Did you do anything unconventional to push things along? We’d love to know. Let us know down in the comments.

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