There is no ‘I’ in team Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

Here’s a secret to building a productive sales team, from a man who’s been doing it for almost 25 years:

“I look for teammates who work together to hit singles and doubles consistently and bat .300 rather than recruit a superstar who may hit a lot of home runs but who wreaks havoc in the clubhouse,” said Jack Coury, senior vice president of Grubb & Ellis Detroit’s Industrial Group. “In business, like in sports, team chemistry is paramount.”

Smart Business talked to Coury about how he’s built a high-performing sales team, Grubb & Ellis’ team of industrial brokers who work Macomb County.

Is there a secret to selecting salespeople?

The first step is to formulate a vision of what the team should be. Realize this is a long-term process, not a short-term fix. In a relationship-based business like ours, the vision affects everything, and the team will take time to build.

A potential recruit needs to share the vision and must be a team player. Admittedly, it is time-consuming to get the right people and fill all available spots. Here is where patience is a virtue. Undoubtedly, because of what you are trying to create, like-minded individuals searching for a change will inevitably gravitate to you as the team develops.

Although salespeople conform to the environment they are in, human nature also plays its part. Everyone has basic values about what is right and wrong, what to do and what not to do. While the Golden Rule in treating others how you want to be treated is a good benchmark, behavior can change dramatically when money is on the line. Pursue people with good core ethics who are client-focused. They must be willing to combine efforts and share information to create a synergy where the team is better than the sum of the individuals on their own.

Here is a good example of how team-work can function. Last year, more than 85 percent of the 69 commissionable transactions I was involved in included one or more other team members. While this is rather unique in many sales organizations, in our business, it’s something that works well.

The one personality type you don’t want is the loner. These individuals place their own interests first, which causes continual problems with the team and leads to communication breakdown. For this concept to be successful, team members must understand that what is good for the team will ultimately be good for the individual. If the pie gets larger because of the group’s success, the team sees the virtue in that, and everyone gets their piece of the action.

What is the team leader’s responsibility?

Again, it is imperative that everyone share the vision. The priority of the team leader is to keep the group focused on the fundamentals and stay committed to that vision on a regular basis. Of equal importance is the knowledge that the team leader should give nothing less of himself than he asks of the team. The management style of ‘do what I say, not as I do’ just doesn’t work in today’s environment. Subsequently, the leader will be someone that others respect and whose opinion is valued.

How important is the financial package?

A prospective salesperson won’t move just for money, but money is definitely a motivating factor. Even if a candidate is in the same business, moving from one company to another is a challenging transition. Any organization must offer a competitive compensation package in line with current industry standards. The company’s reputation is also a factor — having a brand name that is recognizable helps open doors, giving its salespeople an edge.

The camaraderie and team aspect are also crucial components. As you get more established in your career, you want to surround yourself with good people. Work needs to be fun and fulfilling as well as productive.

How do you handle the team-building process?

It’s important to have open, constant communication among the team members. Scheduled meetings can sometimes get tedious, but they help to keep everybody focused. A productive part of those meetings is the opportunity to collectively discuss any issues in the market, present specific situations and brainstorm to come up with resolutions and different approaches that might solve a problem.

It is also important not only to focus on business but to promote an atmosphere where the team gets along with one another on a personal level. Attending functions outside of the professional arena [i.e. casual dinner, sporting events, etc.] helps the team become a quasi-family whereby team members pick one another up when necessary — because they know it will be reciprocated.

JACK COURY, SIOR, is a senior vice president in Grubb & Ellis Detroit’s Industrial Group. Reach him at (248) 372-2276 or