So you’ve just landed a job building or managing a sales team at a rapidly growing startup. Expectations are likely to be through the roof – after all, many startup investors expect growth rates of 5% per week. Yes, you read that right: per week.
What’s most interesting about that statistic is the whole “per week” thing: At a rapidly growing startup, your CEO isn’t going to check up on your team’s progress every quarter. They’re most likely going to check in with you weekly at the very least, if not daily. In fact, the CEO is probably inside your CRM looking at your pipeline right now.
Managing a startup sales team used to be about developing a detailed long-term strategic plan, building a team, executing on it, and along the way measuring progress toward that one goal. Hopefully, when you look back, everything will have worked! In the present environment, this approach isn’t feasible. Agile management has taken the software development community by storm, but it’s now spreading into other functions in companies, including sales and marketing. Progress is measured and metrics are collected more frequently to help refine the sales process and make it more predictable.
This short-term horizon will not only help you develop a more productive team, but also prepare you for those frequent questions from the CEO. You don’t need to have any sort of complex certification to be an “agile” sales team manager. There are three specific types of sales meetings that you can start having today that can set you and your team up for success:
Getting everyone together to have a meeting every single day? I know, you can already hear the groans from your team. But stand-ups are not typical sales meetings. A stand-up is a five-minute meeting, always mandatory and usually held at the beginning of the day, where all team members share what they’re working on for the day. It’s a way to keep informed about what every person is doing. If there’s any risk of discussion derailing what is supposed to be a daily status update, cover the item outside of the meeting to make sure to keep things efficient. Just don’t say you’re “taking it offline,” because people hate that.
Manager and Employee One-on-Ones
When the folks in HR start saying that “the annual performance review is dead,” you know it’s true. One-on-ones are the polar opposite of the annual performance review: they should take place weekly and last no longer than fifteen minutes. They’re designed to foster regular, more open, personal communication and further develop a relationship between a manager and employee. Rather than review your performance ranking against peers, or scoring your efforts on an arbitrary scale, the questions in one-on-ones are simpler:
- “What’s on your mind today?”
- “How are you feeling about your progress this past week?”
- “Is there any way that I can help you achieve your goals?”
One-on-ones should be supportive and communicative. Having them regularly improves trust between employee and managers. Keeping these communication channels more open, frequent and personable will make it easier to deliver instructions, feedback and opportunities for growth when necessary.
The weekly retrospective brings it all together. Each team member is made aware of other team members’ work through stand-ups, and the manager is in touch with each employee through weekly one-on-ones. The retrospective is a weekly meeting that doesn’t last longer than thirty minutes. These three questions are asked to the team as a whole:
- “What worked this week?”
- “What didn’t work this week?”
- “How can we improve next week?”
Initially, retrospectives may be a bit uncomfortable for employees not used to the concept of speaking their mind about issues on the team. Hopefully, your one-on-ones will prime them for the concept. But this is precisely the goal of the retrospective: to develop honest conclusions about how to improve the team’s performance through collaboration.
Creating a regular cadence of these three sales meetings will help you prepare your team for success in a startup world where culture is everything. It will also help you be more organized and prepared to answer questions from executive management. Finally, it will help elevate your leadership skills, and help you bring your team with you along the way.