Sales is a Team Sport
Most sales training is focused on one lone salesperson giving a sales pitch to one lone customer. There is lip service given to more than that, but 99% of sales training is focused on that scenario. The Lone Ranger…
And not only is that no longer the reality for much of sales especially in selling to businesses; but it also ignores another fundamental truth for 99% of sales for 99% of businesses: That you do not make the sale alone, but that the company is part of the sales process. The larger the company that you work for, as well as the more complex the sale is, the more you need a team behind you, and besides you as well, in order to make the sale. You might be the only one called the salesperson or sales rep, but without your team, the product would not exist, it would not be engineered correctly, it would not be marketed, and for technical products (and as we move more and more into the information age, more and more products are software and hardware, and have a technical aspect to them intrinsically) the support and updates for the product are a key part of the sale, and are critical to repeat business and referrals from the customer.
For me this has been true for most of the last 20 years (as I have been selling technology of one sort or another for most of my career) but it became even more dramatically important as I moved into working for a Fortune 100 technology company with 70,000 employees and $25 Billion in Annual Sales. My first manager in that company, said this over and over: “Selling is a Team Sport.” It took a while for it to really sink in, but over time I realized that this was a critical truth and one that many people get wrong. He also told me “In smaller companies, maybe 70% of the selling is external, and 30% of your selling is internal. But working in a big company, only about 30% of your selling is external, and up to 70% of your selling is INTERNAL.” Again, it took a while for that to sink in, but it was true for me and my ability to become a master at SELLING INTERNALLY became a critical foundation for my overall success. It was one of the most important things in my becoming one of the top reps at the company consistently.
What does “Selling Internally” and “Selling is a Team Sport” mean? One thing it means is that the job is not done when you sell to the customer – rather that even after a sale is made to the customer, you need to coordinate all the company resources, and sell them on the idea, get them excited and aligned with the idea, of expediting the order, of prepping them well and taking care of the delivery people, so they give excellent services to the customer as they product is installed, which increases the customer satisfaction and increases future business and future referrals. This is all selling that has to be done internally. And also months or years after the sale, if there is a problem with the product or service, that is still partly your job, as you help the support team respond in a timely fashion, and if they are missing any information to quickly get them the information they need. You are not just a sales person but also the orchestrator of all resources before during and after the sale. And you have to always be selling to internal teams at your company. You need to communicate well and influence people internally to make sure they give 100% to the external customer.
Also, before the sale happens, especially for complex sales, or at big companies, you almost always need help from your team, which could include engineers, product marketing, support, operations and order processing, and accounting, and you will need some of their help behind the scenes, but you may also need some of their help coming along with you to customer meetings in person or on conference calls with the prospect. What I learned in my first year at the Fortune 100 company, is that these people do not work only for you. They work for lots of people. Making demands doesn’t work very well when they don’t work directly for you or only for you. (As I am sure you realize barking commands doesn’t usually work very well even if you are their boss and they work for you.) In this context Selling is Team Sport takes on a new meaning: In order to win a sales campaign you essentially need to assemble an ad hoc TEAM. You are the team leader or team cheerleader (or maybe both.) You need to sell people on being on your team. You need to respect people and enroll them on the idea of helping you on this sales campaign. It is probably already part of their official job description, pre-sales engineers are supposed to help with the technical parts of the sale, marketing people are tasked to help with marketing and product line buzz, and your senior executives know they are expected to meet the prospect and their senior executives… But you still need to enroll them, sell them on the idea, and use all your selling skills as you would for an external prospect. The truth is in today’s complex world, you probably could not make the sale without their help, so may sure that you acknowledge their help. You will need to do so to get them actively engaged. Why should they help your sales campaign and not some other sales rep’s campaign? You need to help answer that question for them. Depending on their needs the answer may be different. You need to be stoking their ego where appropriate. And if they need the numbers, you need to sell them on the value of the sales to the corporation, and what the RETURN ON INVESTMENT is to them for their time spent helping you with the sale. AND very important, at the end of every sales win (as well as every loss) you need to give everyone a big THANK YOU! You should give it both privately, but especially PUBLICALLY. People love public acknowledgement. Make sure they feel good for being on your team. And make sure their peers know they did a great job. AND make sure that their bosses and managers also know they did a good job.
One key is making an internal perception that you have a winning team and that people LIKE being on your teams. That way in the future people will always want to join your team and give their best for you. This is the essence of being a leader. And to be successful as a salesperson today, this is an essential skill.