Sales as a Team Sport

True or False? “When likening business to sports, successful selling is like marathon running. It takes time, training and talent, but not a lot of teamwork.”

False! When it comes to winning at sales, teamwork is one of the most essential ingredients.

In fact, if you wanted to look at sales in terms of a running race, it could far more accurately be compared to a cross-country meet. While the runners are out on the course applying their time, talent and training to their individual 5K, it takes an entire seven-member team with each member carrying his or her weight to get on the podium.  So much so, that even the sixth and seventh runners who don’t actually score points can still affect the team outcome by finishing in front of the score members of another team.

It’s much the same in sales. While there may be individual accomplishments along the road in terms of leads generated, appointments held, accounts penetrated and closed, etc., “winning” is not a single victory. Rather it is the sum total of a combined effort.

Why does it take a team to get there?

  1. Specialized sales roles lead to sustainable growth. As I wrote in Managing a Sales Territory: Lessons from Baseball, it is exceedingly rare for a lone sales rep to effectively tackle business development, excel at enterprise sales and effectively service and growing existing accounts. When the goal is consistent growth through new account acquisition and expansion within existing accounts, these functions should ideally be split among a team of specialists.
  2. Selling doesn’t stop with the sale. As I wrote in  “Owning Sales” in an Outsourced Sales Relationship, “it takes the entire company to deliver on client expectations.” This might start with sales, but for continued growth, it must spread throughout an entire organization – particularly when selling a recurring revenue product or service.
  3. Marketing Matters. Contrary to popular belief, sales and marketing are not islands that can work independently of one another and still achieve success. As I wrote in, The Stages of Marketing Engagement of the goal of your marketing is to generate leads and drive sales (and why wouldn’t it be) it’s extremely important to have sales and marketing on the same team.

When winning is defined as organizational growth and increased market share driven by sales force, not market force, the kind of structure and cohesiveness necessary to build a championship caliber sales organization is hard to come by. It starts from the top down with management that looks at selling as a team effort, is serious about sales and makes sure the right people, the processes and infrastructure are in place to get things done right.

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