I have been discussing various aspects of team selling in other articles. This article is about selecting the team.
There are clear advantages to team selling: bringing in expertise, balancing the numbers, matching client levels and types, pro viding a learning ground for juniors, and increasing resources since two (or more) heads are better than one. Additionally, team selling can shift some of the pressure off you and demonstrate to your client the depth of your company.
However, there are risks in team selling. During the sales presentation, everyone on the team (junior associates, colleagues, specialists, and seniors) will be under scrutiny. Almost nothing can be more damaging to your sale than letting your team show lack of unity. Clients will not only be evaluating you, they will also be judging each team member.
So, if you are selling with a team, in order to reap the benefits and avoid the perils, demonstrate teamwork. And this takes work. Since nearly everything gets done informally in most organizations, you need to build an internal network to ensure the support you need when you need it. By establishing a positive, personal (not email-based) network across divisional lines throughout your organization and in your own department before you need your colleagues, you will be positioned to mobilize resources to achieve and get the support you need.
First and foremost, there should be one team leader ultimately responsible for “calling the shots.” One salesperson describing how his firm won an important contract said the real challenge came from inside his organization, not outside. Initially, the product specialist refused to participate if the sales generalist— a buffoon, is his opinion— participated. The team leader finally said, “I’ve worked hard for this and I’m calling the shots. I know what we need and we need both of you. I’ll talk with him but I need your support. I’ve been there in the past for you!” This unified team won the deal.
One pressing problem organizations face is deciding who should and who should not participate on the team. Too often political and territorial considerations interfere with assembling the best team. Teams with too many players or the wrong players are at a disadvantage. How many should be on your team should be determined by what skills are needed.
- What resources and skill you need on the team?
- Who is on the client team? What skills/people do you need to match the client?
- Whom do you think is best qualified to make the sale?
You don’t want to overwhelm your clients by sheer numbers or make them feel you are ganging up on them. A group of three clients is apt to feel overwhelmed if seven of you descend — unless each of you is essential to the deal. In addition to this, if you include unnecessary people on your team, you could inadvertently communicate to the client you are insecure.
Do not allow internal pressures to weaken the team you ultimately put together. Some say that you should not worry about hurt feelings in picking your team. But you should be able to avoid this by having a good reason for each person included on the team. Make sure those who don’t “make the cut” understand it is nothing personal. You need to find ways to convince all involved parties what is best for a particular presentation.
Coordinating your team on the plane, in the cab, or in the elevator simply is not good enough today. As a team you need to agree on a strategy, concur on your objective, and define functions and roles. Everyone—generalists, specialists, seniors, associates, operations people, and anyone else you need to include — needs to know what is going on and what will be expected of him or her.
Once you organize who will lead and who will be on team, involve them early to help you formulate your proposal. Decide before you head out to the meeting, well before, actually,
- Who will lead?
- Who will make introductions?
- Who will open?
- Who will present technical information?
- Who will handle the broad issues or political questions?
- Who will discuss pricing?
- Who will close?
- Who will take notes? (This is not the lead presenter’s responsibility, but may well be a good role for a junior associate otherwise there just to observe.)
- How and when will you signal or correct one another?
- Where will team members sit/stand?
- Who will write the follow-up letter?
If the meeting is to be held at your site, plan:
- Who will schedule the conference room?
- Who will make sure all players know what, where, and when?
- For out-of-town clients who want to come to your home office— what entertainment—dinner, theatre, sports events— should be planned? With whom? When?
Carefully pick a team designed to augment and strengthen what you personally can offer. Give everyone a role of some sort, so it does not seem you are trying to overwhelm the client with sheer numbers. Find out whom the client will have present, and match them with the appropriate members of your company. Remember that your team represents your company to the same degree that you represent your company.