Many sales organizations are moving toward Team Selling but aren't implementing it well. For example, consider these three common pitfalls: 1) You cannot simply put together a group of people and call them a sales team, but need instead to invest the effort and skill to build a successful team; 2) Compensation is not aligned with a team approach, which means that you get what you pay for, not what you expect; and, 3) Many salespeople are used to operating as a "lone wolf" and don't naturally work well on teams.
How to Avoid Common Pitfalls
You can address the above three pitfalls, and others, by purposely addressing these considerations:
- For which accounts should team selling be used? Team selling requires that a lot of resources - people, time, communication, and so on - be utilized. Not every account justifies the use of a sales team. Make sure that the expected ROI for an account makes it worthwhile.
- Who should be on the sales team? After you've decided which accounts should be serviced by a sales team, next you need to consider the expertise and qualifications of the team members. This sounds obvious but it varies for each account and your objectives. For example, are you trying to protect business at a key account? Or win new prospective accounts? Or negotiate a large contract? Different skill sets are required for each of these examples.
- Who should lead the sales team? For client interaction, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, and email and other written communication, the salesperson should usually be positioned as the leader. Otherwise, you diminish the salesperson's value from the customer's perspective. However, for internal communication - such as strategy and planning sessions - you may wish to assign someone else to lead the internal meetings.
- Are the goals and roles of the sales team clear to everyone? If you are leading the team, don't assume that everyone is aligned on the goals and their respective roles. This needs to be discussed and agreed to when the sales team is formed.
If you're interested in learning more tips about Team Selling, read one of our other blogs titled "Key Questions to Consider When Implementing Team Selling" or click on Team Selling workshop.
Key account management often includes team selling. How do you decide if team selling is appropriate for a key account? If the answer is "yes" to any of the three factors listed below, then you should consider using team selling with your key accounts.
Factor #1: Your competitor is using "team selling" at this key account.
When done well a team will always outperform a single individual, no matter how skilled or talented that individual is. If you find out that one of your competitors is selling and servicing a key account with a team, you might wish to respond accordingly. This would be a reactive reason to use team selling, but what other alternative do you have? If you remain with the status quo, you give the advantage to your competitor.
Factor #2: The key account requests or expects that "team selling" be used here.
Many key accounts have reduced the number of suppliers or vendors to a 'critical few', and they expect the remaining suppliers to do more for them. The customer may demand that a sales team be dedicated to them as a condition for being selected as one of the suppliers. If the customer requests that a sales team be used, this would be a customer-driven reason to use team selling.
Factor #3: You decide to take the initiative to establish "team selling" with key accounts.
Instead of being reactive or customer-driven, as described above, why not take the initiative? Quite often, key accounts require that your sales person work intensively with cross-functional groups at the account. It is not surprising that a single salesperson would have difficulty handling this complexity as well as a sales team could. Team selling could mean the critical difference between retaining and growing your business with key accounts. This would be a strategic reason to use team selling.
How Can You Implement Team Selling?
Questions to Consider
The decision as to whether or not to use team selling forces you to ask and answer some difficult questions such as:
- For which key accounts should team selling be used?
- Who should be on the team?
- Who should lead the team?
- What support do you need from upper management?
Every aspect of your sales process and sales systems needs to be examined if team selling is to succeed. To implement team selling means that hiring, training, compensation, organizational structure, and other factors need to be addressed.
The Most Common Mistake
So what are the differences between successful sales teams and teams that fail? There are many factors, but in our experience, the most crucial one can be summarized by this short sentence: A group is not a team. You cannot form a sales team by simply throwing together a haphazard group of people and calling them a team. A successful sales team is a small number of people, with complementary skills, who have been selected and trained to accomplish certain objectives at a critical account.
Teamwork is the quintessential contradiction in a society geared toward individual achievement."
-- Marv Weisbord
Willy Loman is dead. Gone are the days when a shoeshine and a smile were all that a successful salesperson needed. The nature of a sale has become increasingly complicated with longer sales cycles, more complex product and service delivery expectations, and multiple stakeholders involved in both sides of the transaction. Customers have changed from the single-point contact to multiple buyers within diversified companies and in international locations. As such, the skill of "closing the sale” has been replaced by the ability to build relationships and move the sale forward. The complexity of many sales situations are not accomplished well by a single salesperson and typically require the skills of a sales team.
A Team Sport
Simply stated, selling has become a team sport where there is a greater need for collaboration in many sales situations. Salespeople need to work in collaboration with peers, customers, management and other employees to achieve common sales goals. Key account management involves multiple employees assigned the full time job of servicing and selling to large customers. Task forces of sales, marketing, distribution and customer service are established to examine and improve service to external customers. Team selling is essential in situations where many non-sellers are involved in the process and require a shared perspective with the sales force to ensure appropriate action with customers. As the complexity and size of a sale increases, the number of decision-makers and influencers increases proportionally.
When to use a Team
The challenge is to know WHEN to use a team. If a sales team is used for every sales opportunity resources are probably being wasted. Not every large account justifies the formation of a sales team.
When appropriate, team selling should improve overall sales performance. The team selling approach is ideal for long-cycle, complex selling situations where such tasks as account planning, account penetration strategy, negotiation, and implementation require close and frequent coordination. Several conditions, such as those listed below demand a closely coordinated team approach toward selling:
- new product introduction
- necessity to sell to multiple and higher level decision-makers
- complex and specialty products, lengthy sale cycle
- national accounts with multiple locations
- cross-functional and multiple product selling situations
- customer expectations
- consultative selling situations
The Team Selling Process
In order to determine the appropriateness of beginning a team selling process, there are some basic prerequisites and cautions that sales executives and others should examine, which include:
- The organization must be willing to invest time and other resources to accomplish the objectives of a team selling effort.
- The entire sales team must be involved, and receptive to the idea of examining the current way of operating, and to making appropriate changes in the way it conducts sales activities.
- The sales team is empowered to make changes, and can recommend to the larger organization changes beyond the team itself.
The Biggest Obstacles to Successful Outcomes from Sales Teams
Two common obstacles prevent sales teams from being successful. Both obstacles involve team formation and management. First, the team formation needs careful planning and attention. You can’t simply throw a group of people together and call them a team and expect them to work together as a successful team. Often this results in wasted resources and frustrated salespeople. In a phrase: "A group is not a team”.
Second, many of the characteristics and attributes of successful salespeople are not congruent with successful teams. Salespeople are often described as highly self-motivated individuals with a strong sense of independence. A successful team needs people to work together to accomplish common goals which can be difficult for some salespeople.
Both of these obstacles can be overcome with a combination of sales training and management. STAR’s "Team Selling Workshop” teaches how to form, lead, and use teams successfully in your sales environment.
Please call us or visit our website to learn more about Team Selling.
"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” - Babe Ruth
Businesses today rely more and more on projects and tasks managed by teams, including the use of sales teams to manage and grow key accounts. Successful development and leadership of teams has become an increasingly important function. Teams are required to react quickly to frequent changes and demands, a far more difficult challenge for a team to react to then for an individual.
A Group Is Not a TeamYou cannot simply put a group of people together and call them a team. Successful team formation and development requires skills, selection of the right people, effort by the entire team, and effective leadership.
Top Five Reasons Why Some Teams FailWorking on teams can be both a positive and a negative experience. Successful teams share a common vision and respect for each other. This supportive team "culture” contributes to the success or failure of the team. At its best, there is no question that teamwork and collaboration can generate results that are superior to individual work.
On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than participating on a team that has been a waste of time and resources.
So what makes some teams fail? Teams fail as result of several reasons, notably:
1. Poor communication
2. A lack of team diversity
3. A lack of trust
4. Unclear or unestablished goals
5. A failure to manage the stages of team development
Team Diagnosis - Building a High Performance TeamUse the reasons that teams fail as a diagnostic tool to form and sustain a high performance team. For example:
How can we improve our ability to communicate with each other? This can include how decisions are made, ground rules for participation, and so on.
Does our team utilize diversity to its fullest potential? In other words, who should be on the team? What strengths does each team member bring to the team?
What is the level of trust? Perhaps more than any other factor, the presence or absence of trust can have enormous implications for the team as a whole. How can we establish or rebuild trust?
Are the goals and purpose of the team clear? Do we share common goals? Open and clear communication of goals and objectives, roles and responsibilities, procedures and systems will determine the success or failure of the team.
All teams progress through four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The "Storming Stage,” when conflict arises on the team, is a moment of truth. If conflict arises on the team, how will you resolve it as a team? Successful teams resolve conflict, whereas average teams suppress conflict or ignore it.
Where Do You Go From HerePlease visit us on the web to learn more about our Team Selling Workshop. We also offer Team Building Workshops if you are interested in building a multi-functional team, not just a sales team. If you have a question or want to discuss the subject of team development in more detail, please call or send us an email.