On holidays, I like to give the people I care about experiences rather than objects. That’s why, this past Christmas, I decided to set up a dog sled adventure for my family. Not only did everyone have a blast, but I also ended up giving myself a fantastic metaphor I can now use to help clients build successful sales teams.
I am in no way a champion dog-sledder, and I don’t plan on racing in the Iditarod anytime soon. We were there for the ride, taking a backseat to the professionals. When I say professionals, I’m not just talking about the human musher who steers the sled. I’m talking about the dogs, too! Sure, I had assumed they were all talented animals, but I had no idea how good they were at their respective jobs.
A Successful Sled Team is Like a Well-Functioning Sales Team
During our journey through the snow, I couldn’t help but make the comparison in my head to a well-functioning sales team. On a successful sled team, dogs of various sizes, strengths, and experience levels are placed according to where they excel. The same should go for a sales team. Everyone has different proficiencies, and when you put them where their talents can shine the most, you can pull through to your destination even over tough wintry terrain.
Lead Dogs Set the Standards
The front line of the team is the lead dogs. They are not always the fastest or the strongest. Instead, they tend to be the most experienced and knowledgeable, having run in multiple positions on the team over the course of their careers. They know the cues, they know where they’re headed, and they know how to demonstrate that expertise to the dogs behind them.
In the same way, your superstar salesperson, the one with the highest numbers, isn’t usually the best choice for a sales manager. You need someone seasoned who knows the path and how to point your people in the right direction.
Point Dogs Are Adaptable
The second line of dogs are the swing dogs, or point dogs, who are essential for swinging and pointing the sled where it needs to go. They follow the lead dogs, tracing their steps and using their agility to keep the sled moving. As the second line of the team, they’re also the next up in line for possible leadership.
You’ve got people primed for sales leadership on your team, too. They’re full of ideas and good at inspiring the rest of the team to move forward. Encourage their growth and celebrate their skills, and they’ll be pivotal for keeping the team on track.
Wheel Dogs Are Powerhouses
Wheel dogs take up the back line. They’re the engines, using their strength and speed to get the sled, and the rest of the team, in motion. Their strength pushes the rest of the dogs to operate at their greatest capacity. High-grossing salespeople make ideal wheel dogs, driving the rest of the group and keeping them on their toes.
Team Dogs Maintain Momentum
Team dogs make up the center of the pack. They follow the first two lines to keep the sled moving, and they let themselves be pushed forward, and faster, by the wheel dogs behind them. Depending on the type of journey the sledders are taking, and depending on the dogs’ energy levels, team dogs can either be switched around on the team, or they can sit the race out.
Of course, the sales team members making up the middle of the pack are essential for the organization's health. They’re there to cooperate, to push themselves and others to do their best together.
Many leaders wish they could clone themselves or their highest-grossing salesperson, copying their successes in every area. That method doesn’t make for an effective sales team. The one thing sled dogs all hold in common is they know their role, and they play it to the best of their ability.
The highest-performing sales teams are made up of people with different skills, tailored to their best use.
The sales organizations I see with the biggest numbers, healthiest cultures, highest retention, and most positive outcomes are built like sled dog teams. Salespeople are allowed to thrive where they have natural talents and interests, whether they’re the ones developing and nurturing relationships with clients or enjoying the thrill of pursuing new business.
Individuals work well independently and as key team members of a high-performing revenue engine. Put them where they belong. They’ll carry you to the finish line every time, and you’ll enjoy the ride a whole lot more.
Learn More About Building a Successful Sales Team
A healthy relationship between sales and marketing is vital to an organization’s success. Dive deep into this effective strategy in a new book called Sales & Marketing Alignment.
If you'd like more insights on how you can improve your sales leadership, contact us. Or sign up for our newsletter for more valuable resources.