Winning at Competitive Sports and Team Selling – Know Your Role


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In complex B2B sales, there are often teams involved on both sides of the table. The customer has a group of people all playing different roles in executing aspects of their buying process. While finding the ultimate decision maker is key, understanding the roles of the other players and winning their hearts and minds is often equally important.

On the sales side, teams are also involved. Depending on the size of your company and the nature of your products, the size of the team may be large or small, but seldom is just one person doing all the work for the deal.

In these situations, I’ve seen a lot of opportunity for improvement in productivity and effectiveness. The two major areas of opportunity are (a) role-definition and (b) preparedness.

Role-definition – Some of the typical roles on sales teams are account executive, sales engineer, product expert, industry specialist, etc. While that provides some definition of role, we need to take it further. Just like great coaches create game plans, the team leader needs to do the same for complex sales opportunities.

A great coach may take a player, like Magic Johnson in the 80’s, and ask him to take on a special assignment for a game (playing center in the playoffs when Kareem was hurt), because they have determined that is what it takes to win.

On sales teams, you need to define the role of your team members in the context of the customer, their “buying team” and buying process. Then, you may find that your sales engineer is responsible for owning the technology relationship with the “expert” at the customer and getting the technical win; instead of just being there to do a demo and answer questions. The industry specialist focuses on working with the subject matter experts to align their specific business needs with your industry capabilities. And so on. (Dave Brock has written a great post about the role of the sales manager in fostering effective collaboration. Yet again, Dave and I see things in a similar light.)

By doing this, you will be selling they way your customers want to buy, and make that complex committee driven purchase more manageable.

Preparedness – I probably should have listed this first, because you really can’t align roles if you are not fully prepared. But there are two aspects to being prepared.

Step 1 is to really dig deep into your customer’s buying team, working with your sponsor to understand the role of each player on the team. Most customers will be happy to volunteer this information (and if they won’t you should probably question how much effort you put into the opportunity).

Armed with that information, you can now assemble your team and align roles, leading to step 2.

Step 2 is to make sure that everyone on the team is prepared. The “I can give you 1 meeting” from an industry specialist who comes in and does a standard industry pitch doesn’t cut it. You need the team to understand the opportunity, the buying team, their role in getting the win, and the activities of the other team members, particularly the ones that impact their efforts. Having technologies that enable collaboration and information sharing is critical for this to work.

The next time you embark on a complex sales effort, think about applying this to team selling (if you aren’t doing it already). Approach it like a must-win game, assemble your team, align resources to win specific stages of the buying process, and make sure everyone is prepared. I’m confident that you’ll have a more productive sales effort and a more motivated team working with you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


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