Your management team may have implemented a team selling model with great expectations for success. However, team selling doesn’t always live up to its potential.

To Team Or Not To Team?

Does this sound like your company? You sell consultative solutions. Your sales processes require cross-functional collaboration. Your clients are sophisticated buyers with many competitive options available.

If so, your management team may have implemented a team selling model with great expectations for success. However, team selling doesn’t always live up to its potential.

Why Can’t We Just Get Along?

It’s naïve to think that a sales pursuit team made up of the “right” people will automatically achieve high performance. Individual interests and work styles don’t generally mesh without effort, and skill, on everyone’s part.

As salespeople, we have different motivations than our colleagues from other functional areas.

We tend to have a greater sense of urgency, higher need for results satisfaction, and more comfort with risk-taking.

We rely on our optimism and tenacity to push through barriers and to convince ourselves that we will ultimately close the deal.

Often, we find ourselves having to sell inside our own companies.

Typically, our priority is to persuade the team to agree on a solution that will meet the clients’ needs AND recognize the most revenue as quickly as possible. That’s not how many of our colleagues are programmed.

What about your own experiences?

How many times has your desire to move quickly been squelched by someone else’s need to collect more information, or, to prematurely focus on potential implementation issues?

Have you ever struggled with consultants whose priorities were more about intellectual or philosophical engagement with the client than about closing the business?

Have you ever lost deals because product developers or consultants were more committed to their own beliefs about the criteria for the proposed solution than to the customers’ needs?

The good news is that high performing teams benefit from diverse perspectives and approaches.

Disparate points of view can be leveraged when team members have the interpersonal skills, processes, and tools to build alignment on the team’s goals and priorities.

It’s worth it to fully listen to each other and find ways to reconcile differences.

Who Leads a Sales Pursuit Team?

I’ve noticed that organizational culture drives the assignment of the team leader role. The role is more likely to go to a salesperson in a sales-driven culture.

When the culture is driven by the consulting or technical side of the business, the salesperson is less likely to lead the team.

In a collaborative culture, there may be a bias toward co-leadership by the salesperson and the business, or technical, consultant.

The over-arching goal for a sales pursuit team is to win the business.

The team leader should provide expertise in sales strategy and sales process. That’s why I believe that the salesperson should lead the team.

What Gets Rewarded?

Often, we don’t even know the compensation for each of our team members.

We make assumptions. Those of us in sales assume that our non-sales colleagues make comfortable salaries and don’t understand the stress of managing a variable income.

They assume that we focus on getting the sale so we can collect our commissions and move on to the next deal.

Compensation plans drive behaviors, and they can drive wedges among team members. It’s easy to see how stereotypes like the following emerge when we earn rewards for different objectives.

  • Salespeople will do anything to get the sale and leave it to the rest of the team to figure out how to deliver on their promises.
  • Technical people over-complicate things and just don’t care enough about business results.
  • Consultants do too much telling and too little selling.

Despite individual priorities and work styles, a compensation element for overall team results can unify team members’ goals and actions.

Team members should also be held accountable and compensated based on individual performance.

There’s a slogan that “there’s no ‘I’ in team.” However, “I” is in the center of wIn, and the goal of a sales pursuit team is to win the business.

That requires both shared responsibility and individual accountability from everyone on the team.

I’m not an expert on compensation plans, but the best ones I’ve experienced have incentivized everyone on the team for both teamwork and individual performance.

What is the Question?

It’s energizing to be on a high performing team that excels on results and has fun along the way.

The question isn’t whether or not to team. It’s whether you have set your team up for success.

About the author

Bell Zeidman

Bell Zeidman has enthusiastically ridden the sales roller coaster for thirty years. She has…

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