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This is the fourth article in the series:  What is your competitive edge? No, really! What is your competitive edge? To read article #3, “Profiling is OK, when it comes to Target Accounts”, please click here.

What is your competitive edge? No really! What is your competitive edge?

Sounds like a simple question, and when asked, most answer pretty quickly and predictably.

If it is your goal to excel in a competitive market, continuous attention to systems, methods, and processes that offer a competitive edge is essential. These methods and processes must be things you and your team can focus on and control internally. External factors such as the economy, industry softness and such are uncontrollable and are therefore not part of this conversation.

The Competitive Edge topic this month is Team Selling.

A quick question to begin the discussion: Do you believe that your company is focused on and has effectively promoted team selling? Most will probably answer with a quick “yes I think so.” If I asked myself this question 20 years ago, when I was managing an Industrial sales team, I would have said yes as well. Now, with years of study, analysis and, selling experience, I know that the answer should have been a resounding “no” our company was not truly focused on effective team selling.

Here was the scenario, I would typically go to the outside sales team with:

  • What is going on in your territory?
  • What does your forecast look like this month?
  • What are you seeing with regard to our competitors?
  • Are there any service issues or problem client situations?

I would completely by-pass asking these questions of the inside sales team, customer service personnel or the service department. Why shouldn’t they be involved in participating in these discussions? 

Your inside sales and customer service teams probably talk to your customers 20 times more than your outside sales team does.

Why then do we not routinely solicit their input? It seems that most companies don’t think of them as part of the sales team. I was certainly guilty of this in the beginning of my sales management career. Bringing the entire team into the mix is a cultural change that is essential to truly pursue effective Team Selling. Sharing and leveraging all available critical business intelligence is required to gain and maintain that elusive competitive edge

So, the definition for Team Selling is simply the process of sharing and leveraging knowledge within your company with everyone who touches the customer.

Have you put in place systems and processes to easily foster the sharing and leveraging of knowledge within your company? Look at all the customer facing touch points within your company and the communication of critical information between those touch points. Is it comprehensive, consistent and effective? This effort must start at the top and become part of the company culture, through and through. It needs to be part of the daily routine. Changing long standing company culture can be a daunting task but it can be done with focus and strong management commitment. I was involved with a company that changed its culture to a true Team Selling approach and witnessed a huge pay off. The commitment to true Team Selling resulted in deeper penetration into each account with more of our products and services which equated to up selling, cross selling and significantly increased sales in an amazingly short timeframe.

I am not going to tell you this was easy. It is the nature of outside sales people to hold their cards close to the vest. Management must step in, lead by example and show the power of “Sharing and Leveraging” information. Start with a “teaming” approach with outside and inside sales people pursuing specific customers together. This forces them to communicate on a daily basis. Also consider team bonus plans based on growth of accounts for which they are chained at the ankles. We set a baseline and rewarded teams for shared account growth. Everyone. Including the Company won.

Outside and inside sales are the obvious areas to start with, but there are more team opportunities within your company.

Here is an exercise that can help highlight the areas of team selling opportunity in your company:

 

Fill in the form above and review the systems, processes and procedures in place to provide easy documented communication between the teams. 

As mentioned, outside to inside sales in the obvious one, but what about?

  • Accounting with Outside and Insides Sales (customer payment issues, etc.)
  • Marketing with Outside and Inside Sales (promotions, campaigns, competition, etc.)
  • Management with Outside Sales (account history)

Management certainly has a treasure trove of history of accounts from their years of selling that can be shared or leveraged with the current outside sales team.

The team selling opportunity that I find to be most over looked is:

  • Service with outside sales

The service team can and does get more information from the customer than the outside sales person almost all the time. Make sure these two teams are communicating at all times. Put in place systems and processes too quickly and easily share and leverage information between them. Have service and outside sales meet on a regular bases to strategize on target accounts (last month’s article) where the service person can help penetrate the account by sharing valuable inside customer information.

Here are a list of the actions that facilitate sharing and leveraging information:

  • Emails
  • Inside sales or customer service phone calls
  • Sales visits
  • Service calls
  • Quote follow up (reasons won or lost)
  • Complaints and expediting calls (opportunity to turn a negative into a positive)
  • Collection calls

Just like the daily news, communication doesn’t have to only be focused on the negative. Share and leverage positive information like customer success stories and application/problem solving successes. Take this information to other like companies. Example your team solved a problem with ABC Company, take that message to other ABC company locations or other companies like ABC.

Sharing and Leveraging information does not only have to be internal!

The Takeaway: Go through the process described above with your team. Determine all the areas where your company can share and leverage information. Put in place systems, processes and procedures to facilitate this team selling approach. Give your company a yet another competitive edge.

Be on the lookout for next month’s Competitive Edge article: KPI’s for ROI: Sales KPI’s

Brian Gardner, Founder and Lead Evangelist at SalesProcess360.

Brian Gardner is the Founder of SalesProcess360, a coaching, consulting, and speaking company focused on helping industrial sales companies gain a competitive edge. Gardner has been involved in industrial sales for over 30 years. In fact: he was born into it. His father owned an industrial sales rep/distributor company serving the Gulf Coast in the chemical, refinery, and oil & gas industries, and after a brief stint at Texas Instruments, Gardner returned to the family business in inside sales. After 15 years of working through the ranks, Gardner served as VP of Sales until 1999, when he co-founded an industrial sales focused CRM software company called Selltis. Gardner recently started SalesProcess360 to take his passion for sales process improvements to the industrial sales world. To learn more, or to contact Gardner, please visit www.salesprocess360.com.

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