It is important to recognize when individual sales reps may no longer have the necessary skills or expertise. Many industries have experienced growth, evolution, and specialization, which makes it more challenging for generalist sales reps to keep up and maintain their expertise. It is common for sales reps selling within an industry to have worked in that sector earlier in their career. But while the basics remain the same, the longer they’re on the outside looking in, they risk losing touch and expertise with the nuances that have emerged. Rather than putting these sales reps out to pasture, partner them with appropriate subject matter experts.
But perhaps a more common theme is that sales situations have become more complex, which often requires more resources, perspective, and attention than one sales rep can reasonably provide. Selling to financial services and institutions is certainly one example in which changes to the business, as well as external regulatory demands, require more expertise than ever before. Depending on what’s being sold and to whom, you can find examples of similarly more complex sales in just about any other industry.
One of the concerns we’ve observed from our clients is that teamwork is often misaligned. Perhaps you’re already selling in teams and have done so for some time. Well, what if the client’s business has changed? Or, the way they’re organized internally has shifted, yet you’ve failed to adapt to a model or team structure that matches.
Clients and prospects are likely to feel more comfortable with a seller that understands them and their business. If your configuration (or lack of) is markedly different from how they are organized, they might be wary of your ability to “get” their challenges and concerns and to provide an effective solution that supports and aligns with their business and doesn’t require them to bend over backwards to make it work.
The Solution: Developing Effective and Efficient Team Selling
As my colleague Michael Dalis noted in a recent post, leaders of winning sales teams are changing how their sales reps prepare for, execute, and follow through on client or partner interactions to address these challenges. They are also careful to realign with internal partners and sharpen their value propositions to take full advantage of their team-based approach to selling.
Building the right team is akin to a successful game of Jenga:
- You need a strong sales rep to lead the team and provide a good foundation.
- Add the right pieces to grow the sales team, but ensure balance along the way.
- If you add too many pieces, that top-heavy structure will give way and come crashing down. (Too many people is inefficient and a distraction.)
- Likewise, a structure with holes or gaps will also topple.
- The successful end result appears to the beholder (the buyer) to be a complete structure with a stable foundation with no gaps or excess.
You want to avoid your buyer thinking that your sales team is:
- Too big — Why is that guy here? He has contributed nothing to this process from what I can see. If this is how they operate, I don’t want to pay for bloated sales or service teams.
- Too small — That’s it?! Where’s the rest of the team? My business and needs are too complex for this paltry group. I expected their team to include more specialists who understand the nuances of my business. They obviously haven’t taken me or my business very seriously.
When building teams that match your buyers’ needs and expectations, be sure to adhere to some basic tenets, such as identifying a team leader, selecting complementary and not combative personalities, and ensuring that team members have met and hopefully worked out a rapport with each other in advance of meeting the clients. Have you ever watched one of those ensemble cast TV shows in which the team of detectives, lawyers, doctors, etc., are so close that they finish each other’s sentences and naturally pick up where the other left off without missing a beat? That’s what you want for your sales teams, not ones who have obviously never worked together or who have vastly differing opinions, styles, and goals.
Ask yourself whether it is more important for your buyers to adapt to how you are organized and sell or for your sales teams to adapt to your buyers. The answer should be a no-brainer. Regardless of the team’s composition and size, it should be aligned to the needs of the selling situation and the buyer.