Is your sales pipeline not converting? Are prospects ghosting your AEs? Are deals falling just short of the finish line?
It’s easy to point fingers and say that one team or individual is to blame when a prospective customer leaves the sales funnel, but the reality is everyone in your sales organization has a role to play. To close deals, everyone on your sales team needs to communicate and work together.
Just as two minds are better than one, when your entire sales force combines to pool resources and create a strategy, your likelihood of converting hesitant prospects increases drastically—especially in an enterprise sales environment.
What is team selling?
Team selling refers to any situation in which a sales representative employs the help of another sales team member—or an employee from another team entirely—to handle a prospect’s objections and the deal closer to completion.
In other words, it’s communication and collaboration, either within your own sales team, or between departments.
Why is team selling relevant?
Team selling increases any sales organization’s chances of closing important deals for a few reasons.
- It broadens the scope of the sale. The more people who know about a particular key account, the more they can contribute if anything becomes stuck in motion. By multiplying the number of minds devoted to a given task, you’re accelerating the iterative process. No opportunity will go unmentioned, giving your team a competitive advantage.
- It adds legitimacy to your consultative selling process. Prospects want to know they’re being taken care of—this is important should they become a client. When you collaborate across teams, like product, marketing, and customer support, you create trust not just as a seller, but as a brand. This trust is what successful enterprise sales rely on when forming long-term relationships.
- It aligns team expectations internally. Key account management will require special attention during the sales cycle and beyond. It’s a good idea to prepare all aspects of your business that’ll be impacted by these clients. This includes Sales, Support, Onboarding, and in some cases, the Product and Engineering teams. A deal desk process is a great way to align these groups before pursuing or signing new customers.
Everyone has a role in team selling
On a sales team, everyone has something to contribute to help the deal progress. Naturally, each role has its primary function, but in many cases, team members can use their expertise to assist in areas of the funnel that aren’t directly related to their daily tasks. In this case, we’ll focus on what each role can do to help win deals that have become stalled in the sales cycle.
SDRs, BDRs, and team selling
SDRs, BDRs, and other frontline sales reps are the primary first contacts from your sales team. This means these employees are “door openers” for your organization. Their primary task is to start a meaningful conversation by whatever (reasonable) means necessary.
As a general rule, sales performance for an SDR is contingent upon their volume of work. How many cold sales calls can you make? How many emails can you send? How can you best play the “numbers game”?
But there will inevitably be times where prolonged, special attention is necessary. Perhaps there was a great fit, but entrypoint-number-one in the organization is ghosting your outreach. Or maybe a promising conversation was delayed for a few months, and now the relationship can be revisited with continued sales activities.
For an SDR, team selling involves leveraging other teammates and their connections/expertise to find a stable way into a conversation. Here, the best tool for easy-implementation is Linkedin. Second degree connections are important, so it’s a good idea to connect with a large number of your colleagues across all departments. As a sales professional, it can never hurt to build your network both within and outside your organization. Even weak connections can help start conversations and lead to bigger opportunities.
(Takeaway: As an SDR, you shouldn’t be so quick to reject requests to connect on Linkedin — send a quick and honest message to professionals you choose to connect with)
Take notes and be open
As frontline sales representatives, SDRs are in a unique position. They’ve done the preliminary research and experienced a prospect’s first impressions. As such, SDRs can greatly improve the chances of their prospective customers moving through the funnel by accurately conveying all the information they know onto the AE prior to a demo.
Detailed notes should be recorded in a CRM or lead tracking software, but a short, 10-15 minute meeting in-person also makes sure everyone is on the same page. For key accounts, many teams have the SDR join-in on the demo. This establishes a sense of continuity throughout the sales process and makes for a seamless SDR to AE handoff.
Account executives are the ultimate team sellers
Moving further up the sales hierarchy, Account Executives are in the best position to see every angle of a deal. They’re the quarterback, distributing information to both the prospect and other members of the sales team. They take a deal, directly from an SDR, and see it through to its completion. On many teams, AEs go beyond even that, and have a hand in account management through the first few months of service.
Because of this visibility, Account Executives are in the best position to make sure deals don’t become stalled at any phase of the buying process. Follow up is one of their main priorities, as well as determining what form that follow up will take. They must determine what a prospect needs, and in a team selling environment, connect prospective customers with the right knowledge-source to handle objections and win confidence.
How AEs can leverage team selling
Account managers can gain a competitive advantage and deliver a more coherent sales pitch by collaborating with other departments. Using other authoritative voices is a common sales technique in situations such as:
Worries about implementation and setup. Especially in software and enterprise sales models, customers may feel overwhelmed by the amount of change required after purchase. It helps to connect the prospect with a member of your onboarding or technical support team to get ahead of their concerns.
Nobody likes to be thrown off their workflow. Making these support-focused employees aware of any incoming prospects well in advance will go a long way in building cross-team morale.
Custom programming and engineering work. Team selling is usually most beneficial when a deal is large enough to merit extra work. Especially in software sales, there may be circumstances where a little custom programming can help win the deal. Have a member of the product team join in on a call to explain what’s possible in terms of modifications.
Pricing and other business-related concerns. By and large, sales representatives should try to avoid adjustments to price and special accommodations. However, by reaching out to your Managers and VPs, you can sometimes negotiate a temporary exception (20% off the first three months, for example).
AEs should be aware of all opportunities to persuade a hesitant prospect. They should keep in close touch with employees from other teams to recognize any opportunities when they arise.
Enlisting higher level employees when team selling
Managers, directors, and VPs have a more specialized role in a team selling scenario. For one, they’re in charge of making sure the whole process is working and everyone is communicating efficiently. These successful sales leaders must begin by asking the question: Are my employees enabled with all the tools necessary to move deals through the pipeline?
As an easy first step, managers need to schedule regular meetings with their sales reps. AEs and SDRs must be present to discuss pipeline opportunities and potential shortcomings. Even if these meetings take just 10-15 minutes, it’ll create a foundation for future collaboration.
Managers and directors can play a more active role in team selling. The title alone comes with a certain weight, and a vocal presence during the sales process will add authority and trust to the sales cycle. Their reassurances provide a sense of security to hesitant prospects, and they can grant exceptions and make custom plans when circumstances require it. (Again, this is usually a last resort scenario to get important deals over the finish line.)
VPs can directly influence sales
Depending on the size of a target account, there’s a good chance the key decision-maker is a director or VP-level employee. For strategic accounts, it could be appropriate for your sales VP to reach out and explain why a partnership makes sense from a long-term perspective.
Furthermore, prospects that fall out of your pipeline can be re-engaged in a constructive manner. If there’s a mutual Linkedin connection, a quick message can open a dialogue: “Hey, I saw you all were interested in [our product] but it didn’t work out. I’m wondering how you felt about your sales experience with us, is there anything you think our reps could’ve done better?”
If there is constructive criticism to be heard, this is a great source of feedback to incorporate into sales training. If the issue was a legitimate objection, the VP can take on a selling role and address these concerns, albeit tactfully.
Getting an assist from c-level
In all honesty, unless your company is very young or very small, it might not be feasible for c-level employees to help pursue individual accounts. These are the planners and master tacticians of your business, and monthly revenue targets sit on the very surface of their workload.
But there might be competitive deals that merit intervention. These include big-name customers, ideal-fit companies, and deals that have room for massive expansion.
What do two CEOs have to talk about with one another? Company vision, organizational strategy, long-term trends, industry insights. Similar to the VP conversation, C-Level executives can explain why a partnership between brands makes sense from a technological and positioning perspective.
Any outreach by a high-level employee should only be attempted if there’s already a fairly strong connection (1st or 2nd degree). Anything more removed, and you risk appearing unprofessional or disorganized.
Team selling checklist for beginners
If your team has, until this point, worked independently sans collaboration, here are a few proven ideas and strategies to enable team selling.
Create a pod system. Make direct communication within your organization more natural by creating smaller, more personal teams. These units can be spearheaded by one or two AEs, with SDRs, inbound sales reps, and even marketing ops contributing toward goals.
Furthermore, sales people shouldn’t feel like they’re competing against each other. Consider using pod-focused competition as a team building measure. Furthermore, management can set targets for the team as a whole, as well as individually for each sales person. This fosters teamwork and, in the end, creates better outcomes for your sales department.
Schedule regular, short meetings. If the thought of more meetings in the workday reduces you to an anxious puddle of flesh, worry not. A short 15-20 minute sync, once or twice a week between AEs and SDRs will ensure the details of key account management are communicated clearly. Additionally, sales managers should meet bi-weekly with SDRs to get a better idea of their needs and see if supplemental training or resources could benefit their workflows.
Establish a “Deal Desk.” The foundation of every sales team’s recurring revenue should be ideal fit companies that don’t veer significantly from the normal sales pipeline. However, some deals require special attention. Growing companies inevitably pursue big-name clients to increase the company profile and make inroads into new use cases. The deal desk is a recurring sync between managers, sales reps, and leaders from other teams to decide both if a deal is worth pursuing, and if so, how each team can supplement sales to make sure the prospect has a good experience.
Transparency encourages teamwork
Team selling helps sales teams, large and small, compete for and win more deals. It establishes a sense of trust and competency with prospects both during the sales cycle and beyond.
However, the fundamental first step is to create an environment where sales professionals are comfortable discussing obstacles with one another. Collaboration in sales needs to be thought of as a sign of a strong team, not individual shortcomings.
This type of transparency in the workplace starts with leadership. Targets should be attainable and accurate, and weekly meetings should be a place where mistakes are shared for the sake of improvement.
As far as team building exercises are concerned, this is a natural way to ensure organizational unity and build a successful team.