ABC: Old Mantra, New Twist
The ‘ABC: Always be Closing’ mantra has been drilled into the minds of sales teams. In Glengarry Glen Ross, Blake passionately proclaimed that more closing equals higher commission, and if you can’t close, “hit the bricks, pal!”
However, a lot has changed in the business world since 1992, and a different kind of sales strategy has emerged – one that can help you close more deals AND benefit your organization as a whole: ABC...Always Be Collaborating.
“Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
The Buying Evolution
The evolution of buying has made it harder for sales teams to do their job in a silo. The B2B world has experienced a shift in the way buyers engage with vendors. Gone are the days of simple, fast, and transactional sales!
Now, sales teams deal with more complex sales cycles and, to close, they have to get buy-in from numerous stakeholders. According to CEB, 5.4 is the average number of participants, representing different roles and priorities that are involved in a purchase decision.
This trend translates directly into how the RFP process has evolved: multiple buying groups now submit requirements to assess and select the best vendor. As a result, sales teams have to do more than just build a business case for the immediate users; they also have to satisfy the IT team, security or compliance team, management team, and procurement team – each with their own priorities.
The way companies sell should reflect this change in the buying journey. To address all the requirements of the many stakeholders involved in purchasing, vendors need to bring in corresponding parties into the sales cycle. For example, to satisfy the buyer’s security requirements, the sales professional should bring in their internal security & compliance team to help answer the customer’s questions and address concerns.
Salesforce’s "State of Sales" report highlights this, showing that 68% of B2B sales teams see collaboration as being instrumental to their success. The report also indicates, “60% of sales professionals say that collaborative selling has increased productivity by more than 25%, and more than half (52%) say it has done the same for increasing pipeline.”
From Old ABC to New ABC: Creating a Culture of Collaboration
Start with People
Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. However, traditional team layouts – those based on roles – often push teams to work in silos, leading to disengagement.
On the contrary, mixed team structures can help increase collaboration. Gallup, in their State of the American Workplace report, highlighted the rising number of matrixed teams, “The prevalence of matrixed teams isn’t surprising. Organizations have come under pressure to be more responsive to customer needs and a quickly evolving marketplace.” According to their research, 34% of employees on highly matrixed teams “strongly agree that being on different teams helps them collaborate more effectively with coworkers.”
However, the report notes that employees on highly matrixed teams are less likely than those on traditional teams to have role clarity. This is why organizational alignment is so important.
A simple Google Search for “marketing and sales alignment” (we call it “Smarketing” at Loopio) brings up over 17 million results! But what about alignment with the rest of the organization?
“When employees understand their overall role in business, 91% will work toward its success. But when they don’t, that figure drops sharply to 23%.”
Alignment starts with an understanding of how every role in the organization adds value to the customer’s purchasing experience. Even though sales teams are on the front lines, every department plays a part in contributing to this experience. And if selling means providing value to the customer, then everybody in an organization is, in fact, selling!
This holds true at Loopio. When we receive an RFP, we pull in subject matter experts (SMEs) from different teams to provide accurate and up-to-date responses. For example, we pull in our Technology team for any security and compliance questions and our Customer Success team for questions on implementation and roll-outs. Who better to answer the questions than the experts themselves! Our sales team knows they can rely on other teams to help them sell.
Continue with Compensation and Rewards
Compensation drives behavior. While a lot of sales professionals receive commission and bonuses solely for closing deals, most other teams in the organizations receive fixed salaries. This type of compensation structure does little to encourage cooperation between different teams.
According to a study published in HBR, “When it comes to hires, promotions, and nonfinancial recognition, past performance is two or three times more likely than a track record of collaboration to be rewarded with a promotion.”
Since employees are mainly rewarded for their own accomplishments, it is only natural for them to focus on their own goals, as opposed to the team or company goals. The reality is that most employees won’t collaborate if there is nothing in it for them.
To foster collaboration, executives can offer profit-sharing or stock options and team-based rewards. These types of incentives align all employees on the growth of the business. An article in Chief Executive Magazine notes the rise of team-based incentives across organizations. It goes on to say, “The changes come as business leaders acknowledge that sales is a team effort [...] involving multiple functions such as lead generation, proposal writing, technical support and account management."
There are different incentive types that can drive collaborative behavior; some will work better than others for your organization.
Global teams, remote work options, increasingly millennial workforce – how do you collaborate effectively considering all these factors? With the help of technology.
Technology plays a crucial role in enabling collaboration. There’s a reason why Slack has experienced such tremendous growth – it has allowed companies to take collaboration to the next level by allowing easier communication across different teams and devices. Platforms, such as Slack, help busy sales teams that are on the go stay engaged and connected to other teams.
Technology enables easier communication and collaboration. Every team in an organization has unique expertise and knowledge. Without technology to help connect it all, it’s just fragmented information scattered throughout the organization.
With technology, you can create a repository of company knowledge so that sales teams can find necessary information quickly and efficiently and leverage it in their interactions with customers. When information is easily accessible, you spend less time hunting down information and more time providing quick and accurate responses to various customer requests. Having a single and accessible platform where teams can share and maintain documents and information is a big step towards effective collaboration.
We use Loopio as a repository of knowledge and a ‘single source of truth’. We all contribute to maintaining it so that our sales team always has access to the most up-to-date information.
With increasingly complex sales cycles, the success of the sales teams rests on their ability to collaborate effectively with other employees. As a sales person, you know how to sell your company’s products or services, but you still need other teams’ expertise to successfully address the wide range of customer concerns that is becoming typical for the procurement process.
To achieve collaboration, executives need to:
- seek alignment with other departments
- rethink compensation and incentive structures
- find technology solutions that foster collaboration and knowledge sharing
“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”