Presented by Dell for Entrepreneurs

The quality of your sales force has a direct, accumulating impact on your business as you grow. Check out this VB Live event for key strategies and best practices small- and mid-sized companies need to build a world-class sales organization from the start.

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What makes a world class sales organization? Of course it starts with your sales team, says Burt Powers, senior director for North America small business sales at Dell.

“There’s a lot of choices out there, especially in the small business market,” Powers says. “You want customers to choose you because of that actively fantastic experience you provide. It creates an ongoing relationship to help them grow and help your organization grow as well.”

So your company’s ability to grow directly depends on the strength, quality, and abilities of your each of your teams across the organization. And success there relies on how you build your sales culture from the bottom up, right from your first hire.

Finding the right candidates

The myopic mistake a lot of sales managers make out of the gate is looking for direct experience when they’re hunting down a team.

“We’re not necessarily pulling from folks that have it on their resume already,” Powers says. “What we do is identify those characteristics that translate the best.” Some that stand out is the ability to carry a conversation comfortably, engaging on both sides. Are you competitive, and like the idea of having goals and targets? Do you see those as an opportunity to achieve and overachieve against a goal? Are you constantly looking to learn? Do you position yourself as a product or subject matter expert?

And maybe most importantly, Power adds, is whether they think about the customer first, and the quality of the experience they’re providing. That means it’s important to find reps that are honest with their customers, because the foundational block for all interactions is trust, and acting in the best interest of the people you work with.

“Product knowledge is something we can teach,” he says. “Relationship building is what makes a good sales rep great.”

Transformative training strategies

From the start, your organization has to go all-in on mentoring and motivating reps. Training is never a one-and-done situation, Powers says.

“For us, this is a constant review,” he explains. “Do we have it right? Where do we need to evolve and update?”

His Dell sales reps go through three to four weeks of intensive classroom training, which includes opportunities to practice and to mentor, go out onto the sales floor, sit with agents that do the job daily, and observe it in action and ask questions.

After their initial training period, reps still get recursive training every week over a variety of topics — refreshers, new content, audits of sales skills and product knowledge, new tools, and strategies. These aren’t all powerpoints and quizzes — they involve hands-on demonstrations from external vendors, team Q+A sessions, and more.

The key to motivation

“Compensation is at the heart of sales makers,” Powers says. “I’m a sales maker even though I’m leading the organization, so I have a vested interest in this topic.”

When it comes to keeping their sales reps motivated and excited, getting the compensation piece right is at the top of the list, he explains. They stay on top of their agents’ concerns and questions, and rely on the stream of feedback they elicit from roundtables and surveys.

Powers prefers the quota system. When framing up a decision around setting up a quota, you have three key deciding factors: the employee, the customer, and the company.

The employee ideally sees it as attainable. The company sees it as responsible and proper given the expectations. And it’s sending reps after quotas in a way that doesn’t end up diminishing the customer experience. In other words, setting it so it’s not a target that’s encouraging ugly behavior, such as lying to push sales through faster.

When building a quota or working with a finance team to identify it, the first thing to do is look at your organization’s sales history for a baseline, and then the most current six- to 13-week period in order to identify how you’re trending. What’s the rate of improvement or challenge? What’s the most recent performance that we should replicate? Note if there are any significant events to account for, which won’t repeat themselves. For example, in retail, big seasonal buying is only a Q4 phenomenon.

Add market conditions and ongoing initiatives, programs, or investments that are expected to produce new results as the final important variables, have operations crunch the numbers for you, and set your quota and quota cycle from there.

Brand-new agents should have ramp quotas, building steadily from month one and based on very specific expectations that are all based on history to help determine if the new agent is on track, or you can adjust accordingly if they’re wobbling.

Setting up exciting incentives

Incentives and rewards are a huge component of successful motivation, but it’s difficult to calibrate the size and type and timeline of rewards that work best for your team.

“When the value of the reward gets higher and higher, you can sometimes unfortunately create environments where some people feel like they have to do something dishonest to achieve it,” Powers explains. “Our coaching and manager engagement with our sales agents focuses on teaching them the right way to do the job, in the best interests of their customers and their targets, and still hit the rewards they’re looking for.”

Commissions based on sales quotas have been the most successful arrangement across the board, because it keeps rep attention on meeting quotas, which is the key to growing and scaling their group.

But contests with individual monetary rewards and product giveaways add a spirit of fun and competition, and team contests help encourage and enforce bonds between salespeople when they’re motivated to hit a common goal. Burst contests with small temporary incentives to sell a new product or service can spark excitement .

But always stay sensitive to the size of the reward, so reps aren’t tempted to put their employment at risk to try to win it.

Your team, and how you reward and recognize them, makes all the difference to your company’s success. To learn more about the tools and strategies that keep them motivated at every level, encourage company-wide investment in your sales organization’s success and growth, and how to keep identifying what’s working and what’s not, and what makes all the difference, don’t miss this VB Live event!

Access on demand for free right here.

Watch this webinar and learn:

  • How to effectively hire and train a top sales force
  • What the smartest sales quotas look like, and how to set them
  • How to create and implement business management systems
  • What motivates sales teams, and how to take advantage
  • What an effective sales culture looks like and how to build one


  • Burt Powers, Senior Director of Dell Small Business Sales
  • Stewart Rogers, Analyst At Large, VentureBeat