Selling Has Become a Team Sport

Posted on 10/01/2007 in Team Selling

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  As such, the skill of "closing the sale” has been replaced by the ability to build relationships and move the sale forward.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.