In a time when sales team performance strategies form the basis of an organization’s success, some of the fundamentals of team design are being neglected, impacting outcomes.
A sales team functions well with clear direction and integration. As organizations and sales teams within them grow and integrate with marketing and other departments, this becomes a more strenuous and testing task. Typically, integration between departments depends on the business model and sales strategy. Much documentation suggests B2B sales strategy involves less cross-departmental integration than a B2C sales strategy. The latter usually requires a strong link between sales and marketing to deliver a more flexible, customer-centric offering.
Image courtesy of David Wall via Flickr
9Lenses compared sales teams performance across several Fortune 500 companies over the past year. Benchmarked data suggests these large companies could benefit from better direction and internal integration. Common themes regarding sales performance to explore include Organizational Design and Direction, Silo Working, Strained Internal Relationships and Imbalanced Incentive Structures
Issue 1:Organizational Design and Direction
This starts with the hiring process and subsequent onboarding processes instilled by sales teams. Massive communication gaps can occur even at this early stage if the team’s message and direction is not known and understood by both the onboarding trainer and the trainee. A clear mission statement communicated throughout the organization and individual teams can mitigate this problem. Beyond that, a breakdown of future strategies (3 month, 6 month, 1 year, etc.) aligns direction as well as expectations. Some sales teams have suggested they have “different goals” within individual teams causing confusion and a subsequent lack of direction.
Direction is one thing, but nurturing the team to ensure continued execution is another. 9Lenses has found that sales teams can be over-managed but not well led—a common theme in larger organizations. Our recent findings have demonstrated the need for more focus on coaching new hires and on continuing regular coaching and mentorship throughout a sales employees tenure.
Issue 2:Working in Silos
Despite the fact that 9Lenses has crowd-sourced some of the largest organizations in the world, we have found that internal teams rarely communicate effectively between one another. This directly results in inadvertent silo working. We have even found some teams that are disincentivized to integrate and collaborate—unsurprisingly resulting in poor sales team performance.
Common root causes include lack of CRM usage. Teams have advised that tools such as Salesforce are not being uniformly used across the organization. Even when used, these tools are not optimized to share success stories and to track sales pipeline effectively. Often sales teams have pockets of expertise and knowledge which minimize collaboration. A sales person in a Fortune 50 company recently explained that “every cloud sales person is a silo” and they “never come together as a group to share ideas.” Duplication of work is a regular by-product of silo working. 9Lenses recently discovered that two groups within the same sales team unknowingly pursued the same task at the same time. Leveraging the right people within a team will reduce the sales pipeline and should ensure that work is no longer duplicated.
Issue 3:Strained Inter-Team Working Relationships
While not solely a sales team issue, poor integration across different teams often creates considerable bottleneck in sales pipelines. 9Lenses has found that poor marketing-sales and sales-delivery handoffs & communication often lead to this dilemma. Often, a misunderstanding of other teams’ roles coupled with confusion around communication and handoff are the root causes. A commonly suggested solution is to introduce inter-team players earlier in the sales pipeline. A recent engagement with a Fortune 50 company demonstrated that the sales-delivery handoff in particular was causing a massive issue. Sales team members explained that if the delivery team were brought into the pipeline earlier it would have expedited sales pursuits and maintained a strong customer relationship.
Issue 4:Imbalanced Incentive Structure
When asked about incentives, a sales employee at a Fortune 50 Company responded, “Keep fighting the internal battle.” This reaction stemmed from the imbalance of incentives offered to employees involved in a sales pursuit. It turned out that four different sales teams were involved at different stages. None of them communicated with one another, all of them had different incentives, and there was no internal promotion to collaborate. The end result in this particular sales pursuit was that three of the sales teams responsible for acquiring the customer and moving the process forward received no incentive. On the other hand, the fourth sales team who finally executed the deal was incentivized to complete it. Negative team morale and frustration among these teams resulted. Furthermore without solving this imbalance, future sales pursuits cannot be improved. Instead of making the same mistake, celebrate together as teams—don’t wait too long and be sure to include all involved in the sales pursuit with an equal share of the success.
The 9Lenses insights from various Fortune 500 engagements allowed for sales leaders to improve communication, working methods, and team morale. Sales teams need to integrate with other business units and communicate with other teams within the organization. It is essential to move away from the “me” and into the “we” model of thinking. This model has long-since been proposed, dating back to 1999 with such publications as the Cluetrain Manifesto as well as other preceding sales trends literature. As sales trends move forward and sales team performance grows more and more reliant on internal and external communication, through channels such as social media, always remember the fundamentals:teamwork, teamwork, teamwork!
[callout type=”left” title=”Learn about 9Lenses Sales Software Apps” message=”Improve Sales Force Effectiveness and Accelerate Revenue! ” button_text=”Learn More” href=”/sales-software-suite”]