While as a whole, the sales role has undergone major change in recent years, the way sales teams operate still has a long way to go.
The rise of sales operations and revenue optimization initiatives have made big differences, but far too many companies still have sales team cultures that don’t truly empower their reps to succeed collectively, and it’s compromising people’s ability to do their jobs effectively.
This past summer, when HubSpot asked over 1000 sales reps what was the most important team culture factor for them to succeed, 24% said trust between sales reps, and 20% said collaboration and knowledge sharing.
When times are good, the deals might flow freely even with less-than-ideal cultures, but it’s widely considered that 2023 will be a tough year for businesses. International organizations like the World Bank are predicting the global economy will stagnate. Bracing themselves for the downturn, we’re already seeing Big Tech announce huge layoffs, with Amazon predicting that austerity in the business ecosystem will continue through 2023.
In these challenging times, it becomes crucial to set up your sales team for success as best as possible. It’s time to pay closer attention to what it means that so many reps say greater collaboration and a stronger team atmosphere would make them better at closing sales.
What are the best ways to go about improving cross-team collaboration? Here are some steps for executive leaders to consider.
Get to the root issues
Sales leaders might not actively tell their staff not to collaborate, but many unintentionally make teamwork less likely. Often they want to encourage competitiveness between reps as a way of getting them to stay on their toes.
This spirals into reps not trusting each other and withholding information from one another, a decidedly outdated and counter-productive style of leadership. It’s not uncommon, though, and the best way to fix it is to talk about it directly with members of the team individually. Be clear that you aren’t there to judge them but to help the team work more effectively.
Try to find out where the key bottlenecks are and what information seems to not be as widely known as it should be. Simple observation is another key tool to use here, and just by paying more attention, you’ll start seeing where the culture is going wrong.
Blend individual and team-based KPIs
As the FIFA World Cup raged on in November and December, fans and commentators tracked not only the top goal-scorers but also the top assist-makers. Arguably, those who pass the ball to the player who kicks it into the net are the most valuable, and understandably, they tend to be the most popular figures within the team.
This same unselfish behavior should be encouraged within sales teams. Traditionally, reps don’t help each other to close deals, because they don’t benefit from it. Yet what if the same behavior that is lauded in football was also celebrated within sales teams? Suddenly, the psychology of each sales rep changes, as they know collaboration will bring them rewards and recognition too.
Simply changing KPIs isn’t enough, though, and it’s likely that the greatest change can come from simply making the team aware that collective innovation is desired by the management team. You’ll know you’re on the right track with your goal-setting when members of staff are taking the initiative to think of ways to improve the ways everyone on the team operates. This shows they truly care, and it will rub off on their colleagues.
Redesign sales processes
Having open discussions with teams about how to optimize workflows goes a long way, but if it’s going to move the needle, all this feedback collection and ideation must inform real changes to the processes themselves. It can be hard to adjust when you’ve had fixed standards for some time, but it’s critical for leaders to keep an open mind and run experiments.
Often, silos between sales reps and their teams form because of the technology they use. Too many operations are set up in a way that makes it difficult to share information. You’ll need modern sales technology to power your sales team, as you don’t want to design a perfect workflow and then realize the tools you use can’t support it. Using DealHub’s CPQ platform, you can automate quote approval processes, so that resentments over collaborative process friction doesn’t become an issue.
The best tools will automatically have some collaboration built in and make it easy to adapt to the needs of your team. Some sales teams are set up to maximize speed from an individual standpoint, but this approach can end up sacrificing team checkpoints too readily.
Reward cross-functional collaboration
Even in a high performing team, there’s always room for improvement in collaboration. You should make sure team-based KPIs are tracked effectively and tinkered when needed. It might take several iterations to find the right KPIs and processes to get the best results for sales teams.
After some time, bad habits can set in, and cross-functional collaboration can be taken for granted. One way to combat this is to recognize outstanding contributions by reps for the team. This could be taking the initiative to improve a sales process, or their colleagues recommending them.
Public appreciation can go a long way in helping sales reps to think outside the narrow refines of their own leads. Using a platform like Matter, you can set up a rewards program based on whatever performance metrics you like, and even push announcements to the entire team via Slack.
When times are hard, it’s all the more important for sales teams to come together and support each other. The greatest success comes when you avoid the dog-eat-dog mentality which plagues some enterprise sales teams.
It starts with being alert to what the problems are and reframing success for the reps. You’ll then need to actually update the processes and ensure everything is transparent through using a modern technology solution. This will then allow you to continue to track team-based KPIs effectively and reward those who are actively contributing to a healthy culture.
Sales reps understand the need for collaboration. It’s up to their leaders to give them the tools to thrive in 2023.