Ten laws for successful sales teams – A STC Classic

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Selling in teams does not guarantee success. As a matter of fact, sales teams are frequently misused and ineffective. On the other hand, some organizations have cracked the code and consistently use them successfully.

Let’s take a look at the ten laws behind successful sales teams.

1. Have A Shared Purpose. Successful sales teams have a compelling, clear vision of their purpose that is shared by everyone on the team. A shared purpose provides direction for the sales team’s performance. Without it team members often will pursue their own agendas, either by intent or through confusion.

In addition to agreement about the team’s direction, a shared purpose exists when every member of the sales  team:

• Understands the benefits of working as a team to achieve the task.

• Believes the task is relevant to their company and to themselves.

• Believes the task is significant enough to be worth investing their effort.

• Believes the team can achieve the task.

2. Delineate Roles Clearly. Each team member must be absolutely clear about his or her role as well as the roles of the other team members. Just like an orchestra or sports team, sales teams must acknowledge that each team member can add a unique contribution to the team.

3. Value All Roles. A corollary to the Second Law is: every role contributes to sales team success and every role required for success is represented.

Because each role is linked to success, the team member playing that role must have the required skill set. Sales team members who don’t add unique value nor carry their own weight slow down the team.

4. Recognize Team Leadership. Inadequate sales team leadership makes the short list as one of the causes of ineffective teams. Without a leader, all teams can lose their way. The difference between two sales teams of equal talent usually lies in the quality of their leadership.

5. Watch Attitudes. Talent alone doesn’t guarantee team success. Attitude is an important ingredient. Positive attitudes can lead to a sales team performing at its peak; bad attitudes can rip a team apart. Attitudes determine the team environment – one team member’s attitude can spread like a wildfire when others are exposed to it. The lesson? Sales teams can’t afford to ignore bad attitudes. If there’s an attitude problem, it should be identified and addressed early on.

6. Institute Effective Processes. No NFL team goes onto the field without a playbook. No orchestra performs without score sheets. Yet, in business, sales teams often are created with no processes in place to tackle their tasks. Under these conditions, teams tend to struggle, making poor decisions, or making no decisions, or making decisions by edict – led by the loudest voice. Successful sales teams adopt or create their own team processes. And, they constantly evaluate the effectiveness of these processes, asking: How are we doing? How can we do it better?

7. Monitor the Scoreboard. A cornerstone for success in sales is the ability to formulate and adjust strategy. Although the potential for a sales team to achieve this goal should be higher than for an individual, it is often not the case. One way to enhance a team’s ability to make effective strategic adjustments is to create a scoreboard. A sales team’s collective knowledge, plus insights gained from customers and intelligence from internal champions can help sales teams develop a scoreboard that provides a snapshot of a team’s standing at any given time. Sales teams can’t adjust their sales strategy unless they put in place a systematic approach for collecting and using the information base available to the team.

8. Leverage Team Diversity. Diverse skills, experiences, and knowledge can yield smarter, more effective teams who capably tackle issues and generate creative solutions.

Unfortunately, team diversity also can generate conflicts and communication breakdowns – especially in complex sales environments. In these situations, sales team members must accept and respect the others on the team; otherwise, the team can easily become derailed.

9. Build Cohesion and Trust. There’s an old adage about teams: Either they’re pulling together or they’re pulling apart. Without cohesion, team members don’t believe they can count on each other. Teams like these can’t possibly achieve their shared purpose.

Trust is not something that automatically happens – the sales team needs to work at building it, as opposed to assuming it’s there at the start, or that is will simply evolve over time.

10. Foster Effective Communications. Precise, clear, quick communication is critical to every team’s success. Effective sales teams minimize misunderstandings and confusion by using straight talk. And they encourage sharing points of view by avoiding phrases like: “won’t work,” “not feasible,” “unrealistic,” “not reasonable,” “can’t,” “don’t rock the boat,” and “don’t fix what isn’t broke.”

Selling in sales teams is a challenge facing many sales forces. While many companies realize the potential power of sales teams – from leveraging their brand to maximizing face-to-face selling time by their salespeople – too many sales teams aren’t effective. While there are many reasons for this, including some salespeople preferring to operate as lone wolves or the sales compensation plan not supporting it, sometimes the solution is simpler – sales people don’t know what it takes for sales teams to be successful. This article provides a starting point – ten laws for sales team success.

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©2011 Sales Horizons™, LLC

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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