The heart of any successful business is a successful sales force. You can have the best innovation, technology, product, marketing, operations and customer services, but if you do not have an excellent sales force, all the rest quickly becomes overhead. While every sales force organization is different, there are certain key elements that different the average sales teams – no matter how small or how big – from the excellent ones.TrainingThe best sales forces spend considerable time training new people. They must know more about the product they are selling than anyone in the organization. They must be able to answer any question. And training is not just up front for the new people. Training is on-going. No just with new products and offers, but in sales skills, all aspects of your company and about the competition (more on that later). Training is essential to sales excellence.TerritoryThere is no one right answer to how sales forces should be organized and what territory model works best. By industry? By geography? By account? The bigger the company, the more complex the territory models are. The model that seems to work best is that small and medium sized accounts are split on a geographic basis. Then the largest (or named) accounts are on a national or even global basis. In that the largest accounts require the most “hand holding” and have the longest sales cycles, it does not make sense to align these accounts geographically.Sales force retentionThis point is a bit of chicken and egg. Successful sales people should be compensated in such a way that they will next want to move on or quit what they are doing for a company. Low turnover of the top sales people is essential. But low turnover is essential for all accounts. Most sales are based on relationships and knowledge of the product or offer. New sales people may not have the relationships or the knowledge of the company’s specific products and offers. Clearly, poor performer must go. But the successful sales people – and even those who are not at the top but achieve their quotas are essential to retain.Face timeThe value of a sales person is on the phone or face to face with customers. The more time a sales person is doing paperwork or involved in back office processes not related to either training or customers is sales time wasted. Sales people need to spend the great majority of their time either interacting with a potential customer, a current customer or in training to have sales excellence.Easy to do businessIt is amazing how companies make it nearly impossible for sales people to do their jobs. To achieve sales excellence, a company must develop processes that make it as easy for sales people to turn their relationship into a sales through a contract and then for that to be fulfilled through an efficient order process. The more paperwork the sales person has to do, the less effective they will be. Additionally, the more support the sales person has to provide back into the company on behalf of the customer for the contract or order fulfillment, the less time they are spending generating more sales and revenue. Think about the value of the sales people in your organization and how they are actually spending their time.Sales-centric modelBusinesses that do all they can across the organization to support the success of the sales people generate more revenue and grow. Whether it is R&D, product management, marketing or customer service, all functions should be aware that nothing is more important that to make the sales team successful. And this should be tied into their individual and team objectives too.LeadershipThere is an old adage about the best sales people not making the best sales managers. This is often true. But the fact is that the first choice for sales management should be people who have been effective in sales. This may not be the number one sales person. But having the combination of sales experience plus leadership and management skills are combinations that are critical for sales team success.Business intelligenceWhether it exists in marketing or elsewhere in a company, someone should be responsible for business intelligence. Just as in the military and the government there is need to keep an eye on the enemy and know everything you can about them, the same holds true in business. This function needs to know and provide the sales force and management with the latest on: top competitors strategy and tactics including products, technology, marketing and pricing, big wins, big losses and any other facts that can be useful in building and winning sales.CompensationSales compensation needs to be at least competitive for the industry and geography the company operates in. Most sales people are on a combination of base salary and commission. The best sales people want a higher percentage of commission. The more successful they are the more they can earn. A couple of points on this. Sales people should be on at least 50% commission. There should be no cap on what they can earn based on their quotas. Finally, find a sales compensation plan that works and stick with it. Changing the sales compensation plan every year will only guarantee confusion and discontent among the sales force.Sales excellence is often thought to be as much of an art as a science. This may be true. But successful sales people need specific support and infrastructure to be successful. Following the points outlined above, combined with smart and aggressive sales people will insure sales excellence in any business or organization.