Building a sum even greater than its parts: Why it’s essential to create a cohesive sales team

By Colleen Francis

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” Henry Ford, one of the great industrialists of the 20th century, said that about the importance of teamwork and of how it applies to businesses of all sizes.

Today’s economy is more diverse and more fiercely competitive than ever before, and yet Ford’s insights still ring true today. Whether you are leading a small sales team, managing a large sales department, or are part of a group of sales professionals, your personal success is going to hinge on building an ambitious, motivated team that can work together towards a common objective. 

Even where sales targets are met individually, they are meant to be assigned to all members of a team. A team that meets and exceeds its combined targets is far more valuable than one where only a few succeed and the rest fail.

Work together for sales and against the corrosive effects of disunity. Infighting or squabbles with other departments isn’t just bad for morale, it also leads to lost business. Here at Engage Selling, we once worked with a company that had lost a quarter of a million dollar account because the sales and the engineering teams didn’t trust each other enough to communicate properly.

That’s a tough loss for any company. Worse still, it’s entirely preventable.

Ensure your group keeps meeting and exceeding their sales targets. Implement the following five tips on creating a cohesive sales team.

Choose people whose team skills even the balance.  When hiring sales professionals, be sure to look for people who demonstrate more than just a healthy competitive streak. They need to show they have team-oriented skills, too. These are not contradictory qualities. All proven sales people have the motivation and the tools to succeed on their own, but the truly exceptional ones are able to help others on their team succeed as well.

Open the communication channels in-house. Ensure you are communicating cross-departmentally on a regular basis. Bring in your engineering teams, your implementation teams, and your customer service teams so you can have meetings that inform each group about what the others are doing in the common pursuit of serving the customer.

Eliminate ambiguity. Within your sales team, ensure everyone is clear about their sales territory and about how they are being paid. Sales teams can quickly become dysfunctional when staff are expected to perform well while dealing with unanswered questions (e.g., “Is that my lead or yours?” and “Do I get paid for this service I’m providing?”). Fill in the gray areas. Create well-defined territory agreements and compensation agreements.

Don’t compete against your own team. If you are a sales leader, make sure you are not selling directly to the customer. Some of the most dysfunctional sales teams I have coached got that way because the sales leader was competing directly against their own sales team. Your job is not to sell directly: it’s to help each sales person close more business.

Celebrate success. Dysfunctional sales teams stay that way because all they hear is bad news or negative feedback. Granted, a sales person’s commission is a fine motivator on an individual level, but what I am talking about here is what you can do to show that money isn’t the only reward for hard work. Good sales professionals leave organizations when they feel they’re not being recognized. So celebrate big wins. Ensure that every team member feels like they are contributing. Ask for their opinions. Celebrate when a new hire wins a new customer. If customer service or engineering has also helped in that win, make sure you include them in the congratulations as well.

A happy, motivated sales team that knows how it is going to be paid and communicates throughout the organization is the team that’s going to help you meet and exceed your sales goals…year after year.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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