I remember my first proper sales job really well. I worked at a publishing company on various titles selling advertising space. The company was irreverent, creative, and professional and I absolutely loved going to work there.
I loved it because everyone in the sales team was a really good laugh. Intelligent, insulting and well targeted banter was always the order of the day as was going to the pub down the road in Fulham pretty much every night after work.
But it wasn't all fun and games. Once the post morning-coffee banter died down in the mornings or at lunchtime the serious business of selling ad-space took over. There were sales boards around the room and it was really motivating being able to write numbers up on the board for all to see.
We were a very focused team. We were led incredibly well by a guy I still rate as one of my greatest mentors (now there's an idea for a blog-piece!). In fact at that company I was also very inspired by the guy that owned the business. He was a true gent. Tough and very driven but great fun and easy to work hard for.
The former chap I mentioned (who was the MD) used to come and join us on the sales floor and sell ad space when things were getting tight towards the end of each month and I always used to think that was brilliant. In fact it's something I make a point of doing here at retriever as often as I can.
So, back to the matter at hand - why did that sales team work so well together. Well...I have a few theories. Firstly we were all grafters. There were no passengers in that team. We all wanted to make money just as much as we wanted to have fun. But crucially we all wanted the business as a whole to do well.
Secondly, we were all in a room together. The creative teams were in a separate building and that made a big difference. I'm a great believer that sales people should be kept together and not mixed with other teams, especially when it's phone-based selling.
My experience of the team here at Retriever has been really interesting in that respect. When we grew pretty fast in 2011/2012 we had to use two buildings to accommodate the sales team and it was a disaster. Instead of having one tight sales team I was left with two moping half teams that looked like they'd had a limb cut off.
As you'd expect - I quickly crammed them into one building again and shipped data and research down the road who were very happy not to be hassled every five minutes and enjoyed the solitude.
So lesson number one - keep your sales team together.
Lesson number two relates to environment. I'm not talking about helium balloons and pictures of David Brent I'm just talking about the literal environment that sales people sit in. I count us extremely lucky to run Retriever from a diversified farm in a beautiful part of Wiltshire but with easy access to London. I encourage people to take lunch, go for a walk, do something fun, whatever but the point is we have the facility around us for this to happen.
Ok we're not surrounded by trendy cafes and wholefood supermarkets but we can step outside, look across the fields, go for a run, play with the alpacas or feed the horses and that is all highly conducive to reducing stress levels which means the team is better prepared for their work. (Which they love, but it's tough).
Lesson number three is the most important one by far and that comes down to the boss...
Employing the right people for your company to compliment your team is fundamental to building a successful team. There's a real skill in discerning the right from the wrong because the differences can be very subtle.
I've interviewed a huge amount of people at Retriever. At times I've recruited people that were by no means the most qualified but I just knew they had the right attitude and relationship building skills for the business. Sure, I've got it wrong a couple of times but I'm incredibly proud of the team I've put together here.
So these are my thoughts on creating a strong, collegiate and happy sales team. I've mentioned luck a few times here but on reflection I don't think it is... For me, at least, I guess it's about being sure and going with your gut. Do the same.