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Team Selling

There’s no “I” in Team, but there’s a “ME” in there!

You’ve heard the saying before that there is no “I” in team. And that’s true. A team is a collection of people working toward the same goal with the single objective of successfully reaching a satisfied conclusion. However, when you’re a sales rep there’s a slightly different spin on this little pearl of wisdom. Sometimes it’s a natural tendency to think more about “Me” than the team.

As a sales rep, you deal with a variety of people in a team-selling environment. In the early phases of selling when the opportunity is still new, you may deal with your inside sales or telemarketing people to help qualify the account. On the technical side you may engage the pre-sales systems engineer who works with the client’s technical people. As you negotiate the deal the contracts people can get involved. When you get the order you could deal with your order entry staff. And, when the sale is made the customer support team may be deployed. There may even be additional people and departments you work with depending on your company and selling process.

Nevertheless, when it comes right down to it, who gets the ‘ax’ when the revenue numbers aren’t achieved? Who gets fired when the territory doesn’t hit quota? Who gets kicked to the curb when the big deal goes to a competitor? The SALES REP!!

We understand the concept of team selling and always want to be a “team player”. That’s a good thing since you need your team to help close business. Without the team, you cannot succeed. Don’t ever forget it. However, this advice can hurt you if you lose focus on who has the most at stake. Sure, this sounds selfish and greedy. But guess what, you’re the one whose commission plan has 50% at risk. If you don’t make your quota, half your income is at stake. The order entry people still get paid. The contracts administrator still takes home the same amount they did last month. Seems everyone still gets paid the same whether YOU get the deal or not – except you!

But wait! Don’t you also get paid the “Big Bucks” when you hit your quota? Don’t you get the huge bonus and over-rides when you “blow out” your numbers? What about then? Well, that, my friend, is what sales is all about. You are in a high-risk position. If you sell, you’re a hero and make lots of money (theoretically speaking, that is). And if you fail, you make less. Sometimes lots less. But what about the team?

If YOU have everything on the line, then who cares about the team? They get paid the same and you take all the risk. So why be a team player. You can’t spell team without “M” and “E”. So what about “ME” you say. Why should I care about the team? When I hear this from sales reps, I feel like crying. Some even believe that their team is there to serve their purposes and if things go wrong or they lose the deal, the team can take the fall. Teamwork doesn’t mean, “Let’s spread the blame as widely as possible.” It’s not about blame. It’s about success.

So, why should you care about your team? Well, if you don’t know by now, it might be too late. You cannot do your job without your team. Period! End of story! Sure, they get paid the same, win or lose. But they help make you a success. As that desperate man named Jerry said to the beautiful lady in a famous motion picture, “You complete me.” That’s exactly what your team does – they COMPLETE you. Team players in a sales environment sometimes have to weave a delicate thread when trying to balance their priorities. How do you take care of the team’s interests and priorities while not neglecting your own?

This reminds me of when I was on the high school wrestling team. Unlike football, which was truly a team sport, wrestling is a bit duplicitous. First, you are on a team and the entire team can have a winning or losing match, and season. However, each wrestler has to go out there and defeat their opponent one-on-one. You are on the mat all by yourself (well, with your opponent, of course). Your team isn’t out there with you trying to pin the other guy. If you win, that’s great for you. But you can win and your team can still lose if there aren’t enough individual wrestlers on your team who win.

In high school wrestling, each individual wrestler gets points for winning. If you win by scoring more individual points than your opponent, then your team gets, say, three points. If you pin your opponent, your team gets, say, five points. So you can pin your opponent in 10 seconds flat and look like a hero. But if the rest of your team doesn’t have enough individual points, the team loses. Sure, you can move on to wrestle in the District or Regional Championships, as an individual. But you could be playing for a losing team. The best scenario I remember was having a personal success record and reaching the championship tournaments, while wrestling for a team with a winning season. Pride times two!

In sales, there is a big difference however. When the sales rep is out there on the mat with his or her opponent, the rest of the team is really out there too. The technical expert pitches in when needed. The contracts person does their part. Management helps where they can. And finally, if all goes well, the team overcomes diversity, the customer makes the best purchase decision for them, and everyone wins.

One way to ensure the team succeeds is to have a well-defined sales process. This entails laying out all the steps necessary to bring a sales lead from suspect to prospect to customer. The process should define who does what within each step, for how long they do it, how they hand off to the next responsible team player, if and when they get engaged again, and many more details that the entire team should understand and follow. The need for, and development of, sales processes is the subject of another article. In fact, books are written on this subject, not to mention the livelihood of many consultants dependent on them, including yours truly. But it is important to mention here as it relates to a team selling approach. No sense having a team if all the players are moving in different directions and cross-purposes.

So the next time you’re out there selling your head off, don’t forget you have a support team behind you whose sole purpose is to make the team, and you, succeed regardless of who gets paid what, or how you actually spell T.E.A.M.

Russ Lombardo