Professional service sales – leveraging the power of the team

Sales teams in professional service firms

Team selling does not guarantee sales success. As a matter of fact, teams are frequently misused and ineffective. On the other hand, some organizations have cracked the code and consistently leverage the power of team selling.

This can be a particularly important competitive advantage in the professional service sale. For many companies, selling as a sales team simply means two people going on a call.  In professional services, there are field-based engineering and technical support staff, or implementation managers that are on-site and have unique perspectives about the customer.

In addition, professional service firms often have project teams in different divisions working with the same company, department or agency. In the past often one person did not voluntarily introduce a colleague from another division to “their client”.

In a professional service firm two reasons drive the push for team selling across divisions.  First, professional services firms are realizing they are “leaving money on the table” if they don’t leverage relationships across divisions in the same company, hospital, or other organization.  Second, while professional services staffers may consider their products as separate silos, many buyers do not. They look at their total spend with a professional services firm and want to leverage the volume.

So, in general how can professional service firms get a little bit better at team selling?  Let’s take a look at some characteristics of successful sales teams:

  • They have a compelling clear vision of the firm’s total capabilities.
  • Everyone believes there is benefit to the firm – and to them personally for working as a team.
  • Because they perceive the potential benefits as significant, they invest their time and effort.
  • Each team member is clear about their role and the expectations.
  • They recognize attitude is critical to success – one team member’s attitude can spread like a wildfire when others are exposed to it.

Underpinning these characteristics is the role sales management plays. While some individual teaming sales activities will occur inside any professional sales organization, for a corporate-wide initiative to succeed, senior management must be at the forefront: introducing the idea, reviewing the financial incentives, modeling behavior, and providing the staff with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.  And right behind them, middle and front-line sales managers must support the idea and help their salespeople succeed as they participate in sales teams.

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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