Skip to main content

Quality Over Quantity: Developing A Sales Team That Counts

More is more. So, if you want big sales, you need a big sales team. It’s a simple equation and businesses who don’t know how this equation works lose sales at their peril. After all, you have to spend money to make money…


Except that it’s not that simple for several reasons. For starters, staff aren’t a one-off cost. They are a continued cost and a big commitment. What’s more, doubling the size of your sales team overnight means training more people than you have available to train them. That equation matters, too.

Simply put, most startups and SMEs don’t have the resources for a large sales team. Though, thankfully, it is possible to beat the maths. By focusing on quality rather than volume, businesses can grow sustainably while continuing to be a reliable service or product provider.


Get creative with goals

Sales goals are the most popular motivator for sales teams, but do they need to be? And do they need to be so uniform? Business journalist Mike Murphy pointed out how SMART goals can be stupid. By focusing on “achievable” and “realistic” goals, you’re not exactly telling your staff to reach for the stars. Rather, you’re telling them to reach an arbitrary figure by the next quarter. It might be easier to measure and quantify, but it’s not exactly inspiring.

Instead, consider letting your staff set the goals, or setting a goal which is more about ideas and company philosophy. If none of that works, get rid of goals altogether. The joy of a small team is that you can react to others in a way that big sales teams can’t. So do away with individual goals and targets and focus instead on rolling with the punches and motivating each other in whatever way works.


It’s not your sales team

Legally, it’s your business, your building, and your sales team. However, that sort of thinking will get you nowhere. If your team is small, the benefit of that is how much easier it is to have an open and honest conversation. Use this to your advantage. Allow best practice on selling techniques or customer interaction to bubble up from the team. Don’t tell your team what they should be doing; let them tell you.

Give your staff the chance to evolve their own sense of what their team is about. You can nudge them along, of course, but you might be amazed at the solutions a small team can come up with if they feel welcome to come up with those solutions. Whether it’s a new kind of posture-improving chair or technique, or an environmentally-friendly septic tank upgrade of some sort, or a type of mid-morning stretch to improve motivation, helping your employees to express their true personalities will motivate and bring out the best in them.


150 is the Magic Number

Take a look at your Facebook friends. You may have 300, 700, or over 1,000. However, you know full well that only a fraction of that number are your true friends. So, how many friends do you really have?

Now consider a business. When a company is made up of just 20 people, it’s a tight-knit microcosm of activity. Everyone’s job is important and everyone has a stake in whether or not the company succeeds.

What’s more, everyone is on first name terms with the CEO. Heck, you might even remember their birthday. How many employees would that company have to hire before it risked losing that casual and welcoming vibe?

For Robin Dunbar, the answer to both of those questions is simple: 150. It’s not a figure he plucked out of the air. It’s a number built off of the back of years of research and it’s a number which is so important that it bears his name.

Dunbar’s Number applies to both friendships and to startups and it refers to the number of meaningful relationships a person can have before some of those relationships get neglected.

It’s at the number 150 that startups should begin thinking about opening another branch of their business. Having two branches of 100 people means having two separate intimate atmospheres. Having one branch of 200 people is a working environment which begins to feel corporate and faceless.

In order to create the perfect sales team, the logic behind Dunbar’s Number needs to be heeded. Consider how many people you are bringing into your team. Is the team becoming stronger? Or is it becoming bigger for the sake of being bigger? Does this new team work better because multiple heads are better than one? Or is the bulky size of the team slowing down its ability to move quickly and react uniformly?


James Clarke is the owner of Biocell Water, a wastewater treatment company. Through his business, James provides home and other businesses with sustainable wastewater solutions.

Share this content

Leave a Reply

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 30,000 like-minded business professionals.
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists.
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators.
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi.
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section.