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Innovative Team Selling, Eric Baron's Latest Book


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Sales teams have the potential to do great work.

Most sales teams do not devote enough energy to meeting dynamics and process awareness. The skills related to this are critical components of effective teamwork, collaboration and innovation, both internally and externally. Innovative Team Selling places the focus squarely on what will actually make team selling work within organizations large and small. It outlines how to help your teams master new skills in five specific categories: interpersonal, communication, presentation, problem solving, and facilitation. Author Eric Baron also explores the challenging issue of leveraging resources to develop innovative solutions for clients in order to compete effectively in a globalized economy.
•Offers actionable strategies and techniques to improve collaboration, innovation and team processes
•Demonstrates how to put the right members on the sales call, and how to leverage their expertise before, during and after the call
•Explores in depth how teams can work effectively on a day-day-day basis to outperform their competition
•Author Eric Baron is founder of The Baron Group and is a highly acclaimed public speaker and has spoken to hundreds of organizations, trade associations and industry groups throughout his career; he is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School where he teaches his very popular course, Entrepreneurial Selling Skills to second year MBAs

Innovative Team Selling shows you how to lead and participate in teams that work together effectively; strategize prior to the client meetings; make successful team sales calls; and debrief honestly to determine how to learn and grow from the experience.

Please visit to learn more about Eric Baron's Latest book, and download/purchase online Innovative Team Selling!

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Innovative Team Selling, Eric Baron's Latest Book

  1. 1. 3GFFIRS 04/12/2013 14:59:15 Page 1Praise for Innovative Team Selling“I have worked with Eric Baron for more than 25 years—as a colleague, as aclient of his, and as a co-consultant. The insights in this book are extremelyvaluable—in particular in the current world, where team selling of complexcustomer propositions becomes both more central and more challenging atthe same time. Bringing together an understanding of consultative selling,team dynamics, and leadership is a powerful combination that will helpmany teams to dramatically enhance their effectiveness. This book is apowerful tool for anyone who seeks to enhance the effectiveness of selling intoday’s environment.”—David A. Nadler, PhDVice ChairmanMarsh & McLennan Companies(Author of Champions of Change and Building Better Boards)“Fully leveraging sales resources is critical for businesses to succeed intoday’s dynamic, global economy. Eric Baron explains, in Innovative TeamSelling, how sales teams can collaborate to derive innovative solutions tohelp their clients solve their business problems.”—R. Glenn HubbardDean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Financeand EconomicsColumbia Business School“Individuals can obviously do great work, but high-performing teamsconsistently produce better results. Innovative Team Selling explores howsales teams can collaborate to develop innovative solutions for their clients.We’ve successfully worked with Eric Baron and his team to deliver theseconcepts to our client-facing professionals. I’d encourage any organizationthat believes in team selling to consider what Eric has to say.”—Karen PeetzPresidentBNY Mellon
  2. 2. 3GFFIRS 04/12/2013 14:59:15 Page 2“Eric Baron and his team have helped me dramatically change cultures atBankers Trust, Bank One, Citigroup, and AmSouth. Training sales teams tocollaborate, leverage each other’s expertise, and tap into their creativity willimpact any sales organization and help them perform beyond theirexpectations. It is in your interest to learn how to apply the conceptsoutlined in Innovative Team Selling.”—Geoffrey von KuhnManaging Director of a large New England family officeand former Head of U.S. Private Bank, Citicorp“As Worldwide Training Director at Ogilvy & Mather, I relied on Eric Baronandhisteamtotrainourpeoplearoundtheworldincollaboration,innovation,creative problem solving, and consultative selling. I am delighted to see himcombine all this in Innovative Team Selling. This book’s how-to skills and theunderstanding that supports them are practical, relevant, and often unique.If you work with clients, you’ll benefit from reading this book.”—Fred Lamparterformer Worldwide Training Director, Ogilvy & Mather“I have worked with Eric Baron for over 25 years and seen firsthand howpowerful his approach is. Collaboration and teamwork are the pillars thatsupport successful sales organizations. Innovative Team Selling is a must readfor professionals in virtually any customer focused business.”—Chuck SulerzyskiPresident & CEOPeoples BankMarietta, Ohio“Sales professionals in the biopharmaceutical industry must collaborate withtheir internal resources every day. Innovation and teamwork must becomethe norm. The skills, techniques, and approaches outlined in InnovativeTeam Selling are very applicable to our industry and others. Eric Baron andhis team have a solid understanding of what it takes to make team sellingwork. Anyone in sales or sales support can benefit from this book.”—Chuck BucklarVice President, North American Commercial OperationsBioMarin Pharmaceutical, Inc.
  3. 3. 3GFTOC 03/27/2013 1:52:14 Page 9ContentsIntroduction xi1 The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 12 Meetings, Bloody Meetings 133 Easy to Say; Hard to Do . . . Very Hard 254 So Who Does What and When? 395 Now, Let’s Get Creative 536 Adding Structure to the Process 657 Getting Our Acts Together 798 It’s All About Connecting 899 You Mean We Have to Sell, Too? 10310 Positioning . . . A Key Ingredient in Understanding Needs 11911 Just One More Question (or Ten), If You Will, Please 13112 Are They Sales Teams or Needs Development Teams? 14513 Is Anybody Listening? 15914 The Big Day 17315 Okay, So How Do We Do All That? 18516 What Do You Mean You Don’t Like It? 20117 Bringing Home the Bacon 21718 One Last Time: It’s All About Differentiation 229ix
  4. 4. 3GFTOC 03/27/2013 1:52:14 Page 10About the Author 241About The Baron Group 243Acknowledgments 245Index 247x Contents
  5. 5. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 11IntroductionMy first book, Selling Is a Team Sport, was published more than10 years ago. The world has undergone monumental changes sinceits publication as technology, globalization, and unparalleled competitionhave made succeeding in business so much more difficult. Innovation is nolonger a luxury; it’s a necessity for every organization if they want to stay inthe game and ahead of their competition. Effective sales teams who under-stand how to leverage their resources can contribute significantly to anyorganization as they address the challenges they encounter in this competi-tive environment.Organizations are comprised of intelligent, talented, committed, andeffective people. We all know that individuals can do great work. But teamsoutperform individuals. Weknowthat intuitively, and thereistons ofresearchto back that statement up. Of course, there are situations where an individualmight outperform a team when given a specific task. But nobody is smartenough to always assign a task to the one right individual who will outperformthe team. It just doesn’t work that way. Teams do better than individuals, andwhen they work together well they can accomplish great things.This is a book about how effective team selling works. Our emphasis is oninnovation, collaboration, teamwork, differentiation, and leveragingresources. Sales teams have the potential to do remarkable things. Theyjust need to learn how to reach their potential. The intent of this book is toprovide the reader with skills, techniques, methodologies, and approachesthat will enable their teams to work together more effectively and deriveinnovative solutions for their customers.The process of successful team selling is essentially comprised of threedistinct components. First is the dynamic of how the sales team workstogether internally to develop strategies, recommendations, and solutionsthat address their clients’ needs. They must learn how to conduct out-standing meetings. To do this they need to understand concepts like meetingdynamics, facilitation, roles and responsibilities, generating andxi
  6. 6. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 12developing ideas, leveraging each other’s expertise, managing conflict, andgaining commitment. The first half of the book focuses on this internalcomponent of team selling.Second is how a sales team works together to make outstanding teamcalls. This is the external component. Whether it’s two people meetinga prospective client early in the process, several colleagues making a formalpresentation, or many members of the sales team participating in a FinalistPresentation, they need to do this in a customer-focused way that is bothmemorable and unique. How sales teams present themselves, how theyconnect with their customers, how they work together, how they demon-strate understanding of the client’s situation, how they tell their story, andhow they build upon each other’s comments all contribute to the impressionthey make. These factors significantly impact the likelihood of their success.The skills required to make outstanding team calls are what the second halfof the book explores.There is an important third overarching component that impacts theentire team selling process: the planning and coordination required in day-to-day interactions. Sales teams can’t just come together when it’s time tostrategize or when it’s time to visit the client. They need to consistentlycollaborate. They need to communicate on a daily basis. They need to bethinking about the customer all the time. When they get together, they needto review each member’s understanding of the customer’s needs and look forunique ways to address those needs. The teams have to consistently leveragethe collective expertise of the organization. They need to listen to differentpoints of view. They need to plan and rehearse prior to their client visits. Andthey must always be held accountable—to the customer, to the organization,and to each other. This, too, will be discussed throughout the book.This book is about improving the process behind selling as a team. Youwill see, as we investigate innovative team selling, that process refersprimarily to how individuals work together. Whether it’s with your col-leagues, your teammates, your customers, your friends, or your children,how you interact greatly impacts whatever you hope to accomplish. Whatyou have to say, or what you suggest, or even what you think is oftendwarfed by the way you interact. Most of the information about team sellingthat is currently in the marketplace discusses what teams need to do, howthey are comprised, and what their goals and objectives should address. Thatis important information. But there isn’t much out there about how they doit. That’s what we will explore together.xii Introduction
  7. 7. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 13For sales teams to reach their potential, it is critical to understand thepower of process awareness. Whether they are planning for a presentation,working together in developing a strategy, problem solving to deriveinnovative solutions, or meeting with their clients, how they interact driveseverything. Unfortunately, process rarely gets the attention it deserves.Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you are speaks so loud I cannot hearwhat you say.” This exemplifies the power of process. Sales teams can workeffectively and efficiently, both internally and externally to derive creative,innovative solutions for their clients. Adding process sensitivity to the salesteam’s toolbox enables them to work like a well-oiled machine when theyattack problems, uncover needs, and pursue opportunities. Understandingthe importance of process enables teams to tell their story in a wellorchestrated, beautifully coordinated, extremely polished and impressivelyprofessional manner that will differentiate them from their competitorsevery time.In the 30-plus years that The Baron Group has been training salesprofessionals and sales managers, we have had the opportunity to observetens of thousands of sales calls; some were in person, but most were insimulations on video. Participants in our programs practice the skills theylearn by using cases we develop on video. As a result, we have acquired abody of knowledge that is based on what salespeople do, whether they areworking internally or externally; whether it’s face to face or on the phone;whether they are selling products or services; and whether they representmajor corporations or smaller firms. We have learned much from them andas a result the concepts we teach are consistently tweaked, modified, orenhanced.Early in our firm’s evolution we won a job that we really had no right towin. We were too small, too young, and too inexperienced. But we won it.That happens sometimes, just as when you don’t win jobs that you shouldhave. The client told us that they selected us, not just because they liked ourproduct, but because they liked how we worked together, how we gave theimpression that we enjoyed each other, and how we demonstrated our abilityto complement each other. There was more to it, of course, and our ability todemonstrate our understanding of their situation was huge, but the way weworked as a team played a big role in our winning that piece of business. Inever forgot that, and much of what team selling is about can be summarizedby that experience.Introduction xiii
  8. 8. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 14The Baron Group’s roots trace back to Synectics1Inc., now calledSynecticsworld. After earning a degree in chemical engineering, I workedfor Union Carbide for eight years, holding positions in technical sales, salesmanagement, and marketing. By accident I had the opportunity to work inthe Personnel Development Laboratory (PDL), which was a group dedicatedto training Carbide’s sales professionals. The PDL was way ahead of its timeback there in the 1970s, and we had the opportunity to work with people likeMac Hanan, Chet Karrass, Rosabeth Kanter, Earl Rose, and Barry Stein.It was at PDL that I met Synectics and fell in love with the pioneeringwork they were doing in creative problem solving, innovative teamwork, andmeeting management. I left Union Carbide to join Synectics, where I spentfive wonderful years. It was at Synectics that I became intrigued with thenotion of applying problem solving skills to the sales process. My colleague,Kate Reilly, and I left Synectics to found Consultative Resources Corporation(CRC) with Jonathan Whitcup in 1981. I left CRC to start The Baron Groupin 1992, because my interest had evolved more toward team selling andrelating innovation to the sales process.When I wrote Selling Is a Team Sport, I introduced our sales process anddemonstrated how sales teams could apply it to their day-to-day activities. Itook the consultative selling model, built upon it by infusing it with problemsolving skills and techniques, and demonstrated how by using it, sales teamscould become more effective. But the book started with the selling model andrelated it to teams.This book takes a very different approach in an effort to enhance theconcepts and increase the uniqueness of the approach. Innovative TeamSelling begins with the sales team, not the selling model. The early focus is onwhat the team needs to do to get its act together and do brilliant work. That isthe starting point. So in essence this book turns everything upside down.Investigating sales teams and exploring how they can use sophisticatedselling skills to do marvelous work is quite different from starting with thesales process and explaining how teams can effectively apply it. Thisreframing of team selling will be an exhilarating exercise and you willmake many connections throughout the process.With that in mind the book will once again take a hard look at someproven problem solving skills and explain how sales teams can use them togenerate innovative solutions internally, and then leverage these concepts toimpress their clients externally. It will explore meeting dynamics andintroduce ways to use that knowledge with both colleagues and clients.xiv Introduction
  9. 9. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 15And we will look at state-of-the-art selling skills that every member of thesales team can use whenever they interact with their customers.To help accomplish this, a story is woven throughout the book. Thisfictitious story is about a sales team, led by their team leader, Sam Jamison.The team is comprised of 10 individuals from different functions. You willsee how the team works together from the time they receive a Request forProposal (RFP) that provides them with a marvelous opportunity, rightthrough the day that they give their major presentation. You will see howSam manages the team. You will observe the team as they strategize. You willwatch them try to clarify the customer’s needs. You will walk through theircustomer visits with them. You will see them rehearse before the big day.You will be there when they develop the big idea that helped them win thebusiness. And you will even get a sense as to how they think and how theymanage their own insecurities.As you observe Sam and his team, you will benefit from watching themput into action what we have learned over the past three decades from themany outstanding salespeople with whom we have had the pleasure to work.Their story is based upon a real story. Everything they experience is based onactual situations, either our own or those of our clients. Their situations canapply to any organization regardless of their business, their size or theirhistory. We made this example complicated, and it relates to a manufactur-ing company, but the dynamics can apply to any organization’s salesopportunities.Sales teams who understand how to use process as a tool to buildrelationships, understand their clients’ needs, make great recommendations,and orchestrate both their internal and external meetings, will outperformtheir competitors every time.You will notice as you read this book that we use the terms customer,client, buyer, and prospect interchangeably. We don’t do that to confuse you.We do it to ensure that whoever reads this will be able to relate to theconcepts we offer.Every example we give, every anecdote we introduce, and every situationwe include in the story about Sam Jamison’s team is based on real events withonly the names changed for obvious reasons. Everyone in our firm, includingyours truly, has serious sales experience. We know what it is like to lose a jobwe should have won. We know what it’s like to travel for hours only to learnthat the customer can’t see you. We know what it’s like to be told you won ajob only to have it go elsewhere for political reasons. We even know how itIntroduction xv
  10. 10. 3GCINTRO 03/27/2013 2:2:58 Page 16feels to be thrown out of someone’s office—if not literally, at least figura-tively. And, of course, we know how sweet it is to win new business, closedeals, and emerge victorious.So when you read this book, please keep in mind that it comes frompeople who have been there. Our research is based on experience, and theconcepts we introduce have been tested in the best laboratory of them all—the real world.I conclude by referencing my business partner for 12 years, David Hauer.He was with me during a critical period of our evolution and madesignificant contributions. David often referred to what we taught as “appliedcommon sense.” The first few times I heard him use the term I didn’tappreciate it and I shared that with him. But he continued to use it, and astime passed I realized he was right. Much of what we teach is common sense.I hope that, as you read this, you’ll realize that much of what we say arethings you either do, or know you can do, or realize you should do, but don’tdo as often as you’d like. Much of what we include are the things successfulsalespeople incorporate into their approach. This book will help make theprinciples associated with team selling practical, usable, manageable, and,yes, ways to apply what is really common sense.Enjoy the experience.xvi Introduction
  11. 11. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:55 Page 11 The Celebration,or Why We NeedSales TeamsIt was not your typical business dinner. The group was a bit more jubilant,bordering on being rowdy. They had just arrived and you could imme-diately sense that unlike similar events, the evening was getting off to a faststart. Usually the excitement builds at these kinds of dinners, but nottonight. The high-fives and fist pumps were flying around the room beforepeople took off their coats.Sam Jamison, the sales professional and team leader who had arranged forthe team to celebrate their recent success, was glad he had requested aprivate room. He had a feeling that things could get noisy as the eveningmoved on. And why not? This was their evening. They earned it.The group looked pretty much like any group of business people thatyou’d see in a restaurant on a weekday night. Whether it’s an off-site, anational meeting, or just a group traveling together, dinner is usually partof the agenda. And like any team, there were those who were thrilled to bethere, those who attended a bit reluctantly, and the majority who acceptedthese kinds of events for what they were and did what they could to make it afun evening. But again, this particular group seemed different.Like any of these dinners, it was another night away from home for thosewho attended. Sam knew that. So when he sent out the invitations, he wasvery careful to position this as a celebration. Because that is precisely whatit was.Dinner had just been ordered when Sam tapped his wine glass a few timeswith his spoon in an effort to quiet the group down so he could make a few1
  12. 12. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:55 Page 2opening remarks. He had been thinking about this moment from the day hereceived that memorable phone call informing him that they had won thecontract. He usually liked to speak extemporaneously at times like these, butfrom the minute he heard the good news, he knew that this deserved a bitmore thought. After all, how often do you hear a client say “Congratulations,Sam! You won the business. And it wasn’t even close!”?As he tapped on his glass for the third time, he was amused at thedifficulty he was encountering in trying to get this group to give himattention. They were downright giddy. And it was still quite early in theevening. “Okay, here we go,” chortled Frank Prince, the always-upbeat R&Dmanager. “I learned a long time ago that there is no such thing as a freelunch, so I guess we’ll have to listen to Sam.” The group gave Frank a politechuckle, and a few people raised their eyebrows, but it did quiet them down.And finally Sam was able to share his prepared remarks.Surprisingly, in light of the time he put into preparing what he would say,he started with one of those terribly overused cliches: “I could not havepossibly accomplished this without you.” Nobody said anything, but youcould see that in spite of those somewhat patronizing words, he had finallygotten the group to listen. But then he immediately corrected himself. “Letme say that a bit differently. We never could have done this without eachother.” That got everyone’s attention.He continued, “Everyone in this room, and I mean everybody, as well asthe few members of our team who couldn’t make it tonight, played asignificant role in our winning this business. That’s what makes this sospecial. It’s not just the size of the contract we won, it’s what we did togetherto win it.” That’s when even the more skeptical members of the team finallytuned in.But Sam was far from being through. “You know as well as I do that theodds were stacked against us. But we worked together and developed notonly what proved to be an incredible proposal, but a presentation that blewthe clients out of the water. We won the business hands down. And that’swhy we are here tonight celebrating this mind-boggling accomplishment.”The group spontaneously gave him an enthusiastic round of applause.He then did something quite unusual. He asked each person to lookaround the room and acknowledge the other members of the team. “Just takea minute and look at your colleagues,” he said a bit sheepishly. “Don’tsay anything. Just look around and see who we are.” So they did. It felt a bitawkward, even contrived, and a few people found themselves looking at2 Innovative Team Selling
  13. 13. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 3their shoes as opposed to their colleagues, but most of them appreciatedwhat Sam was trying to do.He wanted everyone to realize what an incredible team effort this was, andhe wanted each of them to enjoy every minute of this very special evening.“I’m sure as you looked at each other you realized once again how talented agroup we are,” he said. He wasn’t worried about overdoing it as he praisedthe team. He just wanted them to know how much he appreciated each andevery one of them.He then said a few words about each member of the team. He kept hiscomments brief, but was careful to include each person, even those whocould not attend. He talked about how Francine from Marketing providedthe team with incredible data about the competitive landscape. He creditedTony from Distribution for his thoughtful comments at the presentationabout “just-in-time inventory.” He recognized how articulately Helen fromIT explained how the transition would be seamless if we were to win thebusiness.When he sensed the group was getting a bit antsy, he kidded Joe fromContracts about his tolerance and self-restraint when he had to deal with theprospective client’s Procurement Group. He told a funny anecdote abouthow Jerry from Manufacturing reworked his slides six times before he feltcomfortable talking about his quality standards. He enthusiastically recalledhow Lesley from Customer Service triggered the big idea that he trulybelieved made the difference in their winning the business. The teamapplauded enthusiastically at that particular remark, and Joe said, “Let’sdrink to that.” Which they did, and after lots of clinking of glasses, Frank,who would be the first to admit that he was incorrigible, said, “What is this, awedding or a business dinner?” He just couldn’t help himself and the groupappreciated it.Sam realized it was time to wind down, but he quickly referenced thebrilliant benchmarking work that Valerie from Market Research had done tohelp them price their recommendation. And he poked fun at Charlie fromOperations about how he had never seen him in a suit and tie prior to theFinalist Presentation. That got the best laugh of the night.He mentioned every member of the team, including his Sales Manager andhis Sales Assistant, and concluded his remarks with the same message that heused to begin: “We could never have done this alone. Without everyone’scontribution this never would have happened.” And then it was time to stop,particularly since Frank said, “Enough already, let’s eat.”The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 3
  14. 14. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 4It was a great moment. Some of our best days in business are when we winbig jobs. This was the third biggest contract that Sam’s company was everawarded. To win it required many players and many points of view. Manyfunctions were involved. The entire team contributed to the research, theplanning, the strategy sessions, the development of the proposal, and ofcourse the Finalist Presentation. They did a fabulous job and tonight theywere celebrating what they had accomplished. It was the final chapter of awonderful story.They met as an entire team regularly, but sometimes they worked in sub-groups. They communicated day in and day out. Each team membersubmitted status reports on a regular basis. They diligently reviewed andrevised their proposal over and over. They rehearsed their presentationseveral times. As a result, they won the business. And as the client said whenhe told Sam that they had been selected, “It wasn’t even close.”That is what team selling is all about. When teams understand and leveragetheir expertise, they can do extraordinary things. When they allow themselvesto tap into their creative potential across functions, and develop innovativesolutions for their customers, they can differentiate themselves in ways thatare hard to match. Innovative Team Selling presents an approach that everyorganization, regardless of its size, structure, and offerings, can adapt to andapply every day. And it is something every company must take seriously.Teams have the ability to get things done efficiently, quickly, and collabora-tively. And they can do this extremely well. They just need to learn how to applythese basic, but critically important and surprisingly sophisticated, concepts: How to conduct productive internal meetings. How to make outstanding team presentations. How to plan and coordinate the process on a day-to-day basis.This is the three-legged stool upon which team selling sits. If sales teamseffectively perform these critical activities, they will outperform theircompetition every time.Why Sales Teams?There are many questions you may be asking, the first of which is why? Whydo we need sales teams? Can’t salespeople just get the help they need and usetheir resources without having to involve so many people in the process?4 Innovative Team Selling
  15. 15. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 5Isn’t this in some ways counterproductive? Do we really want to riskcomplicating the process with so many personalities and so many conflictingpoints of view? In today’s fast moving high tech world, can’t we do all thisstuff electronically? Don’t other functions have enough to do? Since mostmeetings are a waste of time anyway, will this really help?These are certainly reasonable questions to ask, even if they are somewhatchallenging. We look forward to answering them. And our answers mightcome across as somewhat steadfast. That’s because we are convincedthat teams outperform individuals. Many studies, including what the BostonGlobe described in 2010 as “a striking study by the MIT Sloan School ofManagement professor shows that teams of people display a collectiveintelligence that has surprisingly little to do with the intelligence of theteam’s individual members.”1The article further states, “Intuitively we stillattribute too much to individuals and not enough to groups.” This isinteresting stuff. In today’s complex world, nobody has the ability to doit all by him or herself. The generalist, that talented individual who could doit all, is history.Leveraging Sales TeamsThe sales organization has a very specific role in any business. They arecharged with bringing in new business, while maintaining and buildingexisting relationships. If that oversimplifies the role of this critical function,we apologize. But that’s what they do. They know that it’s all about thecustomer. Sales has the responsibility of constantly determining and dem-onstrating their understanding of the customer’s situation, and explainingwhat they can do to satisfy their requirements and add value. But to competetoday, Sales must know how to take advantage of the depth of theirorganizations. They simply have no choice.Virtually any sales organization will be more successful if they learn howto leverage their resources and tap into their collective expertise. To dothis, they must conduct effective meetings that address business opportu-nities. When team members have the opportunity to get together tocollaborate, speculate, and innovate, they can accomplish great things.1Carolyn Y. Johnson, “Group IQ: What Makes One Team of People Smarter thanAnother? A New Field of Research Finds Surprising Answers,” Boston Globe,December 19, 2010.The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 5
  16. 16. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 6If they can figure out how to corral those resources, they’ll inevitably deriveinnovative solutions that will help differentiate themselves from virtuallyeveryone else.At the same time, they need to explain articulately to clients and prospectshow well they understand their needs and objectives. This is perhaps thesingle most important thing that any sales professional or any sales teammust do. Few actually know how to do this. And finally, they must clearlydemonstrate how their products, services, and ideas can help their custom-ers accomplish their objectives, satisfy their needs, and take advantage oftheir opportunities.These are the keys to success in sales, more so today than ever before. Youneed to understand the clients’ needs, use your resources to derive innova-tive solutions, and demonstrate to those clients how you are different fromyour competitors. It all comes down to these three challenges. Addressingthem is mandatory in today’s extremely competitive global environment.Anything less will fall short. And sales teams can play a major role in makingthis happen.Now, much of what appears above is pretty basic stuff that you probablyheard the first time you attended a basic sales training program. Mostsalespeople know that they need to figure out their customer’s needs, comeup with good solutions, and explain the solutions in ways that the customercan understand. No big deal. What you might not know, however, is howmuch better you can do this if you leverage your resources, particularlywhen you tap into different functions throughout the organization. Andthough it may seem obvious, this rarely happens.Most organizations simply do not take advantage of their collectiveexpertise. Whether it’s because of the silo mentality conundrum, thestructure of the organization, the way salespeople go about their business,the lack of leadership, or even compensation structures, team selling stillhasn’t become totally embraced by most sales organizations. They talk aboutit often; they just don’t do it. The reality is that innovative team selling is theexception, not the rule. That is nothing short of a missed opportunity—ahuge missed opportunity.Let’s go back to that celebration for a minute. Sam wasn’t just blowingsmoke. He didn’t plan this celebration so that he could shine in front of hiscolleagues and managers. He was recognizing the team for what they haddone. He knew better than anyone else how critical each of them was inwinning the business.6 Innovative Team Selling
  17. 17. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 7From the time the RFP was received he knew he could not do this alone.In fact, his immediate instinct was to decline the opportunity because itappeared to be too big for his company. He came very close to notresponding. A few of the people he discussed it with, including his manager,were quite skeptical about their ability to compete. When he first read that32-page document, he was surprised at the anxiety he experienced. Heusually embraced these kinds of opportunities with heartfelt enthusiasm.But not this time. His initial reaction was that he couldn’t see how they couldpull this off.But Sam was not one to walk away from a big deal. So, consistent with hiscompany’s policy, he put together an internal proposal requesting approvalto move forward and invest the time and money required. Once he receivedthe go-ahead, he formed what Steve Waterhouse would call a “vertical team”in his thoughtful book, The Team Selling Solution.2The team would worktogether for this one particular project. It was Sam’s responsibility to signthem up, get their commitment, and utilize them throughout the process.The ball was in his court and he knew he would do everything he could tomake it to the finals. He kept telling everybody, “It’s just like the playoffs inany sport. Once you get there you have a chance.” He knew that if they couldput together a proposal that demonstrated to the prospective customer theircreativity, their innovative approach, and the things they could do that wereunique, they would have a shot at winning the business.And that’s precisely what he did. As soon as he received approval, he satdown with selected resources and scoped out their response to the RFP. Theyspent significant time doing this and found themselves doing some thoughtfulproblem solving. He assigned different people to contribute to specificsections. He clarified everyone’s role and got the buy-in he needed. Heverbalized his expectations and gave others the opportunity to do the same.As the proposal was developed, he managed the process diligently, andwhen necessary he pushed back or asked for more. Prior to submitting theproposal, a subgroup convened and reviewed it very carefully, line by line.And when he was informed that they were selected as one of four finalists, heconvened a series of meetings to develop the formal presentation. Once thatwas locked in, the team conducted several rehearsals to ensure that theywere ready.2Steve Waterhouse, The Team Selling Solution (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004).The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 7
  18. 18. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 8There is no way that Sam could have done this alone. As Sam said manytimesthroughouttheprocess,“Ihopetheotherguysaredoingthisalone.Theydon’t have a chance if they aren’t tapping into their resources the way we are.”We don’t want to make this thought bigger than it is. Sales teams, or at leastthe concept, have been around forever. This isn’t something you haven’t heardabout or experienced before. We know that. In the early days a sales teammight have consisted of a sales manager and his or her direct reports. Theywould convene every so often to talk about the state of the business, sharesuccess stories, and occasionally work on customer related problems. Some-times a Marketing Manager or Technical Resource or Distribution Coordina-tor would be invited to attend a meeting to help when needed. This played outon a bigger stage at annual sales meetings and business related off-sites.But the concept of cross-functional sales teams didn’t really becomeprevalent until the 1980s, and even then they weren’t used very often. If amajor opportunity presented itself, a team would be assembled for thatinitiative, but in general sales did its thing and asked for help when necessary.Rarely were specific teams assigned to specific clients or specific businessopportunities. You would hear about sales teams from time to time, but in theday-to-day business environment you did not see them used very often.But as globalization became a fact of life, and technology soared, more andmore organizations realized they simply could not compete unless theytapped into their collective expertise. The result was that the notion ofdeveloping sales teams became more and more common, and many organi-zations will tell you they use a team selling approach today. The definitionsand approaches vary, as does the level of successful implementation, butmost companies, regardless of the industry or their size, will claim to use ateam selling approach.There simply is no other option. To compete today demands tapping intothe resources of your organization, whether you are 10 people, 100 people,or 100,000 people. If you choose to avoid getting on that train, you will findyourself waiting at the station for a very long time.The Human FactorLike anything else, saying it and doing it, particularly doing it well, aretwo very different things. Team selling is not something that just happensbecause someone in the C Suite thought it would be nice to do. It takes time,effort, commitment, and energy. Lots of it. Because the minute teams come8 Innovative Team Selling
  19. 19. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 9into play, human dynamics play a role. And that complicates thingsdramatically.There are many interactive components associated with team selling. Afterall, human beings are involved. They are all worthy of our attention. Howcolleagues feel about being a member of the team, how much their colleaguesvalue them, and to what degree they are included day-to-day, can havesignificant impact on the team’s success or failure. How team members’ ideasare treated, how their opinions are respected, and how their points of view areaccepted all play a tremendous role in the long-term success of any team.The way meetings are conducted, whether it’s the whole team or sub-groups focusing on specific issues, and the corresponding behaviors ofthe players, play an important role. How the team interacts in front of thecustomer will often determine whether they are selected or not. And thosebrief conversations every day can in the long run greatly influence the overallperformance of the team.All this and more impacts a team’s ability to accomplish its objectives. Itisn’t as simple as putting the team together and letting them do their thing.They need to learn how to maximize their potential. They must learn how toaddress these issues. They need to get their acts together. The good news isthat they can.Let’s return to the celebration one more time. There was a lot going onthat Sam wasn’t aware of. As sensitive and aware as he was, and as hard as hetried to understand his team, there was much that he missed. These kinds ofthings happen to everyone. They aren’t good or bad; they are the dynamicsthat occur between and among people that usually happen beyond ourawareness. We aren’t clairvoyant. We miss stuff. It happens a lot.For example, Sam didn’t know that when Frank from RD made hissomewhat sarcastic comments about Sam’s opening remarks, his intentwas to let Sam know how much he appreciated all that he had done. It washis way of showing affection. His primary motive was to quiet the groupdown as opposed to having fun at Sam’s expense. Not everybody interpretedit that way, but that was his intent.When Sam kidded Jerry from Manufacturing about his slides, he did notknow how frightened Jerry was prior to the presentation, and how muchSam had helped build his confidence. Jerry was a bit embarrassed when Samcomplimented him at the dinner, but the first thing he said to his wife whenhe got home that evening was that he had been recognized by the team leaderin a positive way. And he felt great about it.The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 9
  20. 20. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:56 Page 10When Sam made his encouraging remarks about his sales assistant, littledid he know that she hoped this would help lead to her promotion. She wasthrilled that he had gone out of his way to recognize her contribution. Andwhen he talked about the self-restraint that Joe the Contract Managerdemonstrated, he was not aware that his remarks made Joe a littleuncomfortable. Joe could come on strong when he negotiated, but hewas really a sensitive guy, and a comment like Sam’s could make him uneasy.When the group applauded Lesley for her big idea, nobody knew that shehad to fight back a few tears. It was a very proud moment for her. She wastruly exhilarated. And finally, Sam could not possibly know that as Helenlistened to him rave about her IT presentation, all she could think about washow this was the first time she had been invited to an event like this and howgratified she felt about being there.There was no way for Sam to know all these things. And if he worriedabout how people would react to what he said all the time, he would say verylittle. That applies to all of us. We never know what people are thinking. Butthat doesn’t mean that we have to approach our interactions as if we werepolitical candidates, knowing that every word we utter will be scrutinized.Nor do we suggest that we all become armchair psychologists. We just needto realize that it’s important to understand that groups and group dynamicsare complicated subjects. We need to be sensitive to this if we want to get themost out of our resources.Sales teams can be even more complicated. They are hard to manage andharder to lead. But they are absolutely necessary. They can do great work ifmanaged and led properly. They can help any organization differentiateitself. They can be the key variable in the winning business equation. Butthey must learn how to work together effectively and reach or exceed theirpotential. Sure, it’s hard work. But it’s very manageable, particularly if youhave the necessary skills.Synectics1, Inc., the granddaddy of them all when it comes to corporatecreativity, said this very well: “Involvement is the prerequisite to commit-ment.” If your team members are involved in the process, they will becommitted to the results. Sales teams who understand this and team leaderswho make it happen will enjoy unparalleled success.The key is to understand the skills, processes, techniques, and conceptsthat are required to make innovative team selling work. It should neverbecome just another catchy phrase. It can become a basic tenet of corporatelife. How to make it work is what we will explore together.10 Innovative Team Selling
  21. 21. 3GC01 04/10/2013 12:14:57 Page 11Some Things to ConsiderWhatAnyone who leads a sales team must realize the importance ofrecognizing the members of that team. Whether you win a job orlose an opportunity, it is important to let each team member know howmuch you value their contribution. It can be done formally orinformally; just be sure to recognize the members of your team.HowAt one extreme it can happen at a celebration dinner like Sam’s. At theother it can be in a team meeting or even on an individual basis. Thekey is to include everyone. Even when you lose, your team membersneed to know that you value their contributions. And publicrecognition is something most people appreciate very much.WhenDo it sooner, not later. Any successful coach will tell you howimportant it is to give feedback as soon as possible. If not, it seemsless important and won’t be as relevant. So whether you win that bigjob or learn that your client went in another direction, meet with theteam or individuals and express your appreciation.The Celebration, or Why We Need Sales Teams 11