Log a little couch time with Animal Planet, and you will observe that many of nature's superlative hunters opt to seek prey in packs rather than go it alone. Though sales may be a career direction for many a lone wolf, there's much evidence to prove that selling en masse, or team selling, may have great benefits for the salesperson, team and company overall. The method comes to life when a cross-functional group is created to service the diverse needs of prospects and clients. Team composition may be as simple as a sales rep and a support person. Or representatives from sales, customer service, IT, finance, operations and management may all have roles. This all-hands-on-deck approach helps elucidate who's responsible for what and gives clients a soothing sense that all the niggling details have a home.
Companies using team selling reap rewards when several disciplines work collaboratively toward fulfilling common goals: closing the sale, keeping the client, or winning the client back. Ancillary benefits of the approach include a shorter selling cycle, a happier customer, and unity within the company. According to Jill Griffin, author of Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How to Keep It (Jossey-Bass), team selling "helps establish multiple relationships and contacts between the account and vendor." Because so many people are nurturing the account, there are fewer chances for the relationship to turn sour.
For customer comfort, name one person, likely the salesperson or in-house account manager, as the primary contact. Schedule weekly meetings to get issues addressed. In building and maintaining a team, look out for the dreaded management-by-committee curse. To avoid creating more layers, policies and red tape (an aggravation for employees and customers), make sure team roles and hierarchy are well defined. Steve Waterhouse, president of The Waterhouse Group, a sales consulting firm in Scarborough, Maine, agrees preparation is a must, cautioning that "when a group of people first gathers, you have a gang, not a team."
To encourage players to see the upside of a partnership-driven team, set up a compensation plan that rewards all participants for a successful implementation or landed sale. You can achieve this by creating both individual and team goals-stars are rewarded for their efforts, and they win again when the team thrives.
Larry Chonko, Holloway professor of marketing at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, offers several ways a cross-functional team can be a boon to entrepreneurs:
- Enhances organizational integration: Members with different backgrounds talk to each other about what they do, how and why they do it, and how it can provide value to the customer.
- Spans organizational boundaries: Each team member retains his or her expertise but develops a functional literacy in other areas.
- Provides better customer value: Sales teams allow for pooled intelligence.
- Keeps reps agile: The expertise of a selling team allows salespeople to thrive in a continuously changing, unpredictable business environment.
Kimberly l. McCall is president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. (www.marketingangel.com), a business communications firm in Durham, Maine.