Death of the salesman

by in Sales


Not long ago, sales was a career designed for the individual. The iconic door-to-door salesman interacted with few others in his profession. Those days are behind us. Today, if you run an effective sales organizations, they likely operate according to a team mentality—similar to high-performing athletic teams. You help them collaborate readily and willingly. You strategize collectively on deal strategies and game plans. You share best practices. You encourage them to help their teammates when they are strapped for time. You celebrate one another’s successes.

More than ever before, there’s an unprecedented need for your teams to collaborate, to come together to nurture leads, to feed business intelligence into CRM systems, and to close deals. Rachel Clapp Miller, in her article “Five Things Your Salespeople Need After Learning A New Methodology,” sums the new world of sales up nicely: “Highly effective sales teams have something in common that merely adequate teams rarely possess: a high level of sharing among salespeople.”

Unfortunately, many sales teams have not transitioned with the times. They still exhibit non-collaborative behavior and remain very individual-centric. Sales reps hoard information and best practices and cringe at teammates’ wins. This type of environment and the underlying mentality should be avoided at all costs.

Here are three ways to start your sales organization on its journey to become more collaborative and team-oriented.

1. Leverage your CRM system

In lieu of injecting yet another added piece of technology into a salesperson’s day-to-day toolkit, first try to exploit the features already embedded in your CRM. Most CRM solutions today have built-in sharing features. Salesforce, for example, allows sales members to share documents, dashboards, and account notes across team members. These features allow collaboration to occur without needing to leave the CRM system.  Ideally, sales reps share best practices willingly and widely. If an account responds well to a particular marketing campaign or raises a particular objection or question with high frequency, this should be documented in the CRM. The “gold standard” is to get to a place where your CRM stores all relevant background and communication related to an account. When a new rep is on boarded and assigned to an unfamiliar account, the rep should be able to review this information, gain insight into the history of the account, and hone in on an informed action strategy moving forward.

2. Implement a collaboration chat tool

If you’re not using some sort of collaboration chat tool, start now! Several sales organizations rely on Chatter, a native Salesforce chat feature. Other organizations use collaboration tools specific to other CRMs. Yammer is a popular option and can be easily integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Open communication, up and down the chain of command, is critical to the success of a sales team.

A chat tool can be embedded in, or separate from, the company’s preferred CRM solution. Many organizations have implemented collaboration tools that are not integrated with their primary CRM system. Jive and Slack are perhaps the most prevalent examples. Regardless of your ultimate selection, your goal should be to adopt a tool that your team can use to communicate across the organization, brainstorm ideas, explore new sales opportunities, ask where to find sales and other material, request advice, celebrate wins, etc. Managers must be active on any collaboration tool. It is estimated that 70% of sales reps ultimately leave a company due to a poor relationship with their front line manager. A collaboration chat tool can do wonders in strengthening the connections between direct reports and managers.

3. Enact a fair compensation strategy

One of the most effective ways of covertly fostering collaboration is to establish a fair compensation policy. A 2014 study found that when employees feel a strong sense of “procedural justice,” they are more likely to collaborate. Effective compensation policies tend to reward team performance. A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that contests that offer rewards to multiple winners boost sales effort and performance more effectively than contests with winner-take-all prize structures.

To encourage collaboration, compensation plans should reward team performance and multiple high-performing sales reps, rather than only a handful. As well, compensation plans should be kept simple. It’s disconcerting that more than 90% of companies change their sales compensation plans annually. This complicates matters and makes compensation plans difficult to follow and understand.  Economists Bengt Holmstrom and Paul Migrom found that a formula of straight-line commissions (in which salespeople earn commissions at the same rate regardless of how much they sell) is generally the optimal way to pay reps. They argue that if sales compensation is too complicated, reps will find ways to “game it,” in turn increasing the likelihood of increased competition and decreased teamwork.

The best sales organizations operate as a collaborative team. The dynamics are such that they complete tasks and projects more quickly and the outcome is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Teamwork is an essential component of ensuring high-functional sales teams. By leveraging your CRM platform for collaboration, implementing an enterprise-grade supplemental or built-in collaborative chat tool, and having a well-structured compensation strategy, you can go a long way in jump-starting collaboration and minimizing casualties among your salespeople. No longer are salesmen’s lone wolves knocking on doors and never before has the need to address undermining, non-collaborative behavior been greater.



About The Author

Rebecca Hinds
Rebecca Hinds - View more articles

Rebecca Hinds graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a M.S. in Management Science and Engineering. In 2013, Rebecca co-founded Stratio, a semi-conductor company developing infrared sensors. The company was selected by the Kairos Society as one of the 50 most innovative student-run businesses in the world.