Sell as a team – plan as a team

Let’s assume you are about to make a team sales call.  Before the team makes the sales call there are three important things to do: Pre-Call Plan, Rehearse, and Determine Who is Doing What.  Let’s look more closely at each one.

Plan.  Pre-call planning is always important, but in team selling it is particularly important.  The risk is not leveraging the potential power of all the members of the team.  Or worse, the team members end up tripping over each other. Have no doubt this lack of teamwork will be visible to the customer.

Leaving pre-call planning to the last minute is not a good idea. While it can be difficult for a sales team to get together physically for pre-call planning, technology offers many means of virtual collaboration from conference calls and e-mail to video conferencing and sales force automation software.

Rehearse key calls. In major sales, all calls are not of equal importance.  On high-priority team calls, top performers not only complete a pre-call plan; they take the next step; they rehearse the call with their colleagues.  Yes, it takes time but this is one of those cases where time is well spent. A small difference in how a specific segment of the call is conducted can make a huge difference in the outcome.

Determine who is doing what. Have you ever been on a team sales call like this one?

The salesperson asks a question, like: When did you feel like you were outgrowing your current software system? The Customer responds with “About six months ago.”

Before the salesperson can continue with this line of questioning, their colleague – a technical specialist – asks a question about the number of transactions processed each day. After the Customer responds with a guess of 5,000-7,500, the salesperson acknowledges the answer and then goes back to ask another question about understanding the business reasons behind why the Customer was outgrowing the system and what the Customer thought their future requirements would be.

But even before the Customer can answer, the technical person asked yet another technical question. The salesperson tries taking control of the call but this back and forth struggle happens two or three times before he finally succeeds.

If an observer was sitting across the desk from the Customer and observing this all play out, it would resembled a ping pong match with the Customer moving his attention from the salesperson to the technical specialist and back as the topic changed.

This piece of theater is not a pretty picture.  Unfortunately, most of us have had this experience at one time or another.  The sales players get frustrated and the customer gets confused. And, the final result is clearly less than a successful sales call.

To prevent this unfortunate outcome there’s another step to take before a sales call when team selling is involved – coordinate the call.

First, let’s take a look at what effective coordination does not look like.  “You take the opening and I’ll close,” or “You take the tech part and I’ll take the sales part,” or even, “You take the first half of the call and I’ll take the rest.” While these may be easy splits for the salesperson, they are not meaningful for the customer. They have little to do with the customer’s concerns and needs. And this is not what we mean by coordinating the sales call.

How do you plan so the call is coordinated and well managed? The simplest approach is to appoint a Call Manager to navigate the sales call. The salesperson should usually assume this Call Manager role. The Call Manager opens the call, manages the agenda, brings other people into the conversation and closes the sales call by summarizing the meeting and proposing next steps.  The more people you bring to the call, the more important call management becomes.

One final idea – Call Managers are not just orchestrating the sales call. Call Managers may play a substantive role during the sales call.  But once there are three or four people participating in a sales call, it is most effective if the person playing the call manager role takes on limited additional responsibilities during the call.

As the saying, goes if you are going to play as a team – plan as a team.

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©2013 Sales Momentum, LLC 

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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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One Response to Sell as a team – plan as a team

  1. Mark Harris says:

    Well, the idea of working as a team is great in managing a sales call. Different people should be entitled to do different works. Some of the above mentioned points are indeed facts in the marketing field. All you have to do to is just focus on them. That’s all!

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