Drop that “lone wolf” mentality. You’ll win more sales with the pack.
Team selling – working with two or more people from any unit within your organization – wins business.
With team selling, you’re 200% more likely to close deals, according to Gong.io research. And get this: The entire team doesn’t have to convene at every step in the sales journey. Just one group meeting with prospects boosts the chances your team will win.
Don’t think of team selling as strictly a sales and marketing function either. Yes, you want to involve sales leadership on bigger or complex deals. And yes, you need marketing to support sales efforts.
But it in some deals, it might make sense for your team to include an in-house attorney who can relate to your big prospect’s legal team. For another deal, you might need an engineer on the team to bang out technical details. In another deal, the customer success executive might be the key.
Team selling can be the most flexible tool in winning more big deals.
“You need to marshal all of the assets of your organization and put them on your selling team to make it work,” says Brian Sullivan, Vice President of Sandler Enterprise Selling. “You have to show the depth and breadth of your organization.”
Why team selling makes sense
Team selling isn’t right for every situation. Buyers with smaller needs might be overwhelmed by a team approach. Other buyers might be more interested in an efficient transaction than a deep relationship.
But team selling makes sense for these four reasons:
The competition is team selling
Good salespeople can sell and service an account alone. But if the competition shows up with a team of people who want to help, the single salesperson won’t look like he or she cares as much.
Customers expect it
Enterprise customers practically expect a team to work on their accounts. They have big needs, make large or long-term purchases and have a team of decision-makers. They need to know there are several people and layers of resources they can rely on before they consider buying.
Customers need it
Many buyers want to reduce the number of suppliers, so they expect their critical few to do more for them. Some even make “dedicated sales team” a condition in their RFP.
Salespeople can focus on strengths
In many cases, team selling is the most effective approach because salespeople can focus on what they do best – aligning needs, negotiating, building relationships – and get other experts involved to handle other important aspects. Let attorneys handle legalities, CFOs handle finances, engineers handle logistics, etc.
When team selling works
Knowing when to implement team selling is as critical to winning more sales as your fundamental selling skills. You’ll waste resources if you team sell to accounts that don’t need it. You’ll waste time if you don’t team sell when accounts truly need that approach.
“When we team sell with our biggest and most important customers, they feel like we care about them and we’ve invested in them,” says Colleen Francis, author of Nonstop Sales Boom. “When sellers open up the opportunity and allow for their managers or leaders or other experts in the organization … to come with them on those sales call, it sends a signal that the entire company is supportive of this opportunity, that the entire company is willing to ensure that the buyer and their team is successful, and when you do that, you increases the likelihood of the sale.”
Here are six times when you want to use team selling.
Complex sales include some or all of these actions:
- account planning
- account penetration strategy
- implementation across different locations
- regulatory requirements
- in-depth legal issues, and/or
- cross-functional issues.
When deals are that multi-faceted or multi-layered, they’re better handled by a team (usually spearheaded by the salesperson who has the most frequent and intimate communication with buyers).
It’s the big one
Pull together a selling team when your target is an account five or more times larger than you’re used to pursuing. Don’t go it alone: Get management – who might have already sold to clients this size – involved early to uncover obstacles and identify the best resources to tap to win the substantially bigger account.
Every salesperson struggles with a sale from time to time. But when a salesperson hits a roadblock with a deal – a stop, not just a stall – it’s probably a good time to call a team of colleagues or leaders. Fellow salespeople might have insight or experience that can open the opportunity.
Adding a trusted colleague to a call or getting another person involved with the proposal or presentation can help unlock the door.
You want to add leverage
Many sales will move forward if you give buyers access to the C-level. Prospects will feel like they’re getting special treatment or a better deal when an executive attends meetings, shares valuable information and offers to be a resource.
Some salespeople even partner with colleagues from different functions who can help prospects in unique ways – for instance, a software developer who can be available to help with on-boarding or an operations manager who can give guidance on changing logistics.
You want to speed up the sale
When salespeople want to close a deal sooner than their prospect does, team selling can help expedite the sale without setting an artificial deadline or putting too much pressure on a prospect with a laissez-faire attitude.
You can bring in a colleague or leader who has expertise in an area where the prospect has mentioned a concern. For instance, if they’ve talked about security issues, involve your IT people. If they’ve brought up support levels, introduce them to customer success, tech and service pros.
Help reluctant prospects see a team, and they’ll be quicker to sign.
Prospect has gone dark
Salespeople who repeatedly call and send follow-up email to prospects who’ve gone dark usually get the same response: none. Introduce the CEO or another executive to the sales “team,” and you increase the chances the inactive prospect will regain interest.
Prospects are often impressed that their business is important enough for an executive to reach out. Caveat: The executive needs to be committed to being involved in the sale as it moves forward. Prospects won’t sign on for artificial or short-term executive-level attention.
Make team selling work
Not every team selling situation will be the same, but this framework can help create a cohesive approach to meetings that involve team selling.
1. Leverage the right people
Invite people who bring something valuable to the table and prospects – not just a name or rank. You want to include people who offer expertise beyond yours, experience that aligns with prospects’ experience and/or knowledge that enhances the meeting.
A big name or title helps, but you want them to also be a resource for prospects.
2. Pick your timing
Salespeople don’t need the entire team involved in every contact with buyers. In fact, you can probably carry the heavy weight. As a rule of thumb, consider these combinations.
- Prospecting: sales development reps
- Discovery: service or technical rep
- Demo: engineer, manager, technician
- Presentation: manager, fellow salesperson, VP
- Closing: executive, customer success manager
The key: Include the team member who can help deliver the most relevant message and answer the prospects’ questions most effectively.
3. Know your roles
Even in team selling, salespeople almost always need to take the lead role. The lead will want to establish the goal of the meeting, plus team members’ and prospects’ expectations. You’ll also want to set an agenda that keeps the sale going forward while respecting prospects’ time.
Team members in supporting roles will want to take questions related to their expertise, listen for opportunities to add value and be an extra set of ears to uncover prospect needs.
4. Go in prepared, rehearsed
Most salespeople wouldn’t walk into a meeting without preparing and rehearsing. It’s almost more important to prepare and rehearse before a team meeting because you don’t want to talk over or in contradiction to each other.
Decide who will deliver and respond to which parts of the presentation and how long you’ll talk and listen. Salespeople will want to brief their teammates on the personalities involved in the meeting, company dynamics and subjects to avoid or emphasize.
Before the meeting, give teammates an update on the account, prospects’ LinkedIn profiles, company website, CRM notes, meeting goals and agenda.
5. Meet with purpose
Introduce team members and the reasons you’ve included them in the meeting. Highlight their expertise and the types of questions they can best answer and issues they can resolve.
Then move through the agenda, allowing flexibility to meet prospect’s objections and requests.
“Over the course of a long pursuit, you have the opportunity … to give them a clear vision of what you’d be like to work with as a partner after you’ve won the business.” Sullivan says.
6. Review and follow up
Get perspective from your teammates on what went well and poorly. Figure out the next steps. Create a follow-up email for everyone involved in the team sale and the prospect.
That way, prospects continue to get the sense there’s a team working for them, and if they have follow-up questions, they’re connected to anyone or everyone who can answer those.
Pitfalls to avoid when team selling
With any great sales strategy, there are risks of failure. Here are five pitfalls you want to avoid when team selling.
It’s a group, not a team
If you just put together a group that looks good on paper, you’ll likely waste resources, frustrate members and lose prospects.
Team selling is much more than throwing together a group and calling it a team because it’ll look good to prospects. You want to create teams that consist of complementary roles and people who share a common goal.
Team members communicate differently
Salespeople who work with customers all the time tend to have a more direct communication approach than colleagues who work mostly behind the scenes. That difference can interfere with communication within the group and to customers.
So you want to establish how and when you’ll communicate with teammates. Plus, you’ll want to establish the tone you’ll use within the group and, more importantly, with buyers.
Team members don’t communicate enough
Lack of communication can doom the success of a team and its sale early. Some salespeople who have a team still work like a lone wolf. They don’t think to clue teammates in on what they’ve learned about or plan to do with buyers. Or other team members in different roles don’t share knowledge that could help move the deal to a close.
You want to set a schedule and expectation for updates within the group, plus pre- and post-meeting huddles to determine what’s next.
Team members aren’t accountable
Just like any other work team, some selling teams fail because people weren’t held accountable: Bob thought Lisa would do that. Karen didn’t know she was supposed to finish this for George by today. No one followed up after the presentation.
The best way to create accountability: Establish who does what, and by when, every time the group meets, plans or executes.
A common goal and reward wasn’t established
Teams must be working toward the same goal, and understand the reward for reaching it, all the time. Sure, the goal might always be to close the deal, but agreed-upon shorter-term goals that move the team toward the ultimate goal will keep everyone on track.
Finally, everyone involved in team selling needs to have skin in the game. Every organization is different, so the way team members are compensated and congratulated will vary, as well.