By Colleen Francis, Engage Selling

Many early stage companies face a difficult struggle with their sales teams that can truly affect their ability to achieve long-term success. Building an effective, high-performing sales team as an early stage company can be a tremendous challenge that can cripple your ability to grow.

At Engage Selling Solutions, we have seen a number of these mistakes in action. By being aware of the pitfalls and how you can avoid them or work around them, you’ll be better-equipped to build an effective sales team.

Not Building a Targeted Pipeline
Your first concern is usually about revenue, and that worry gets turned on the sales team. Building a targeted pipeline of the right clients is essential in gaining traction—and therefore revenue—within the market. Go back to prospecting and ask: Who are we targeting? What is our message? What’s the value proposition? Who are the right buyers? And how many leads do we need to have in the pipeline in order to ensure success?

AS an early stage company your pipeline needs to be targeted towards real opportunities for the product or service. The sales team needs to understand the market and go after the specific customers who will close quickly and provide good case studies, which will provide entry into larger opportunities.

Not Understanding the Business Case
The purpose of any company is to provide a product or service that solves a problem for its clients. All too often, early-stage companies hire salespeople with great track records at other companies who don’t yet understand the company’s business case. People are ultimately converted to customers based on the business value you’re providing to them, so your sales team needs to be well-versed in that.

Not Hiring Hunters
Founders can often become very excited over the concept of a salesperson with a great resume and experience with multi-million dollar opportunities and large deals. But that experience might not be the right fit for an early stage or startup company , where sales reps really need to be great hunters. They have to love building pipelines and creating something from nothing, which may not be a great fit for an experienced sales rep from a large corporate environment.

Losing Focus
Early stage companies can require that employees wear many hats, and that means that a sales manager can get caught up in a million different tasks or experimenting with the compensation program as part of the spirit of an early-stage company. A manager needs to be focused on his or her team and consistent and confident in the compensation plan in order to lead effectively. Ensure that the compensation plans that are in place are allowing the entire team—from management to reps—to work towards the same goals so that there isn’t any issue with them working together to hit their targets.

Allowing a Sales Manager to Sell
Because early stage companies are often run on a smaller, leaner staff, it may be the case that the sales manager is direct selling. If that’s the case, the first goal for the manager should be to replace him or herself. Sales teams require focused, full-time management and reps need a manager that does not feel like competition. The idea that a sales manager might be selling in a territory with the best leads or accounts, or is stepping in to close deals and getting a commission, the sales team can become combative or defensive.

By learning from the costly sales mistakes that early stage companies often make, we all can build a team that will move your company forward, increasing revenue with the right kind of client, building on new opportunities, and creating a harmonious work environment for the team.

Author's Bio: 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

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