One of the challenges with having a sales team is building the right sales culture. Years ago, I was on a sales team — and there was an opportunity I was working on, with the goal of getting a particular deal closed. There were some questions from the prospect I was speaking to that I couldn’t answer. I knew there was another member of the sales team who had more expertise in the particular area in which the prospect was interested. So, I reached out to my team member and asked her to speak with the prospect directly, to answer their questions and close the deal.
My expectation was that, once their questions were answered, the prospect would enroll and become a client. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the prospect got back in touch with me to let me know she’d talked with my team member, but still had questions, and what were the next steps?
That’s when I realized that my teammate was reluctant to move things forward and close the deal. Because of the culture of the company, she seemed to be more concerned about her sales commissions than she was about serving the client!
Scenarios like these must be nipped in the bud — there is too much at stake. So, I talked to the company leadership, got the answers I needed to move things forward, and closed the deal. Then I made sure we did whatever we needed to do on the back end to onboard this new client as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Unfortunately, this sort of scenario is all too familiar to sales teams across the board. Whether it’s foot dragging, competition or outright sabotage on a sales team, no one wins. So, when you’re in charge of leading a sales team, what do you do?
Let’s be real: Many salespeople are drawn to the field because of a shared trait — we are competitive.
Still, there is power in taking a more collaborative sales approach. And a sales team with the capacity to work together moving sales forward is worth its weight in gold.
Here are some questions to get you started:
How would you characterize the sales culture of your team? Is it cutthroat competition between individual contributors, or is there evidence of real cooperation and teamwork?
What incentives and habits have you put in place to foster team cohesion?
What else could you do to build, develop, encourage and reward collaboration among members of your sales team?
As you contemplate the culture of your sales team, consider all the ways in which you can bolster unity. Sometimes it’s a cluster of salespeople working together. Maybe it’s a group of two. I’ve also seen cases where a group of three works really well. One of the reasons these working “pods” can work so well is it draws on the strengths, experiences and personalities of several people. By mixing genders or cultures in a single working group, you establish a team whose different experiences and insights can be leveraged in your sales process and sales conversations. Which helps fill in the gaps to reach even more prospects more effectively — together.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with competition. I am down for competition. I love competition. I’m a very competitive person. But there are times when competition ends up hindering your sales goals — because people are so focused on what’s in it for them that their own self-interest is at odds with what’s best for the company.
In cases like these, where competition rules the roost, ultimately your clients lose out. They see something they want, but the sales culture rewards egos, commissions and bonus checks instead of deep listening and real customer service.
There’s an old proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go farther, go together.” This is true for sales teams. Dude, you really are all on the same team. And the name of the game is serving prospects and clients in meaningful ways that make their lives better, while generating revenue for the company. To do otherwise is to forget service and make sales all about you. Which it never should be.
Dr. Nadia Brown is the founder of The Doyenne Agency, a global sales and sales training firm serving service-based businesses.