One of my subscribers recently asked me for advice on getting salespeople to collaborate with each other to accelerate learning. I thought I’d share my recommendations here as its a a common problem companies encounter, especially when scaling a sales team.
For context, when scaling a sales team, you need to solve two problems:
Hiring salespeople. While this is not easy, with a good recruiting process (and enough venture capital) it’s a tractable problem.
Making salespeople successful. This is much harder because it requires figuring out what is working and replicating it across the team. You can do a lot of this with analytics and process but you need your salespeople to provide context for the data by sharing their knowledge in their own words, so that you can codify it in an actionable format. Otherwise you end up in a situation where 20% of your reps hit their goals, the other 80% flounder and you miss the overall number.
Here are the 4 things I’ve found help create a collaborative, learning culture in a sales team.
1. A sales leader who is a team player
If your sales leaders go around quoting lines from Glengarry GlenRoss, you are never going to create an environment where people want to help each other. My first boss in software sales loved to pit salespeople against each other to create competition and was always telling me how Mike had just closed a big deal and was doing better than me. I remember feeling shit until the sales ops manager accidentally let slip that I was in fact the top performing rep in the company, however I still quit a few months later because I no longer trusted my boss.
2. Clearly defined sales territories
If you take an “eat what you kill” approach and let your salespeople hunt wherever they like, they will look for any edge over their colleagues, withhold information and fight over leads. Giving each salesperson a clear territory in which to prospect addresses the problem head on because the fear of giving away your edge gets eliminated. Territories can be geographic regions or lists of specific companies in a region or industry — yes you will always get reps fighting over ownership of a juicy account but those fights will be rare exceptions if territories are clearly defined.
3. A standardized sales process
If all your reps follow their own process, it quickly becomes impossible to figure out what is going on in your pipeline. One rep will have deals seemingly stall in discovery only to suddenly move to closed won the following week, whereas another rep will have deals move quickly through discovery and demo to proposal only to sit there for weeks and turn into pipeline overhang. Creating a sales process with clearly defined stages and goals, in-stage actions, data collection and exit criteria for each stage, and managing the sales process through a set of metrics makes it easier to gather insights on where to improve and creates a common language for discussing how.
4. A regular forum for sharing wins
If every sales team meeting is focused on pipeline there is no opportunity for collaboration—in fact it’s the opposite, with salespeople coming in with a mindset to play defense. Creating a second sales team meeting focused on learning and using a section of it to review recent wins provides a forum for sharing. Creating a template review deals in the context of the sales process provides a framework for everyone to see what worked and what was learned at each stage of the process. Watching call recordings in a group is also a very effective way to do this.
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The call out about creating an environment where everyone is a team player is so pivotal. Pitting people against each other to "encourage" them sounds like a disaster. Great read!