Sales professionals often assume that they are ‘on their own’ when it comes to making new deals happen. While it is beneficial for sales professionals to recognize that achieving quota is ultimately their personal and professional responsibility, sales organizations benefit from a team approach. We discussed some of the strategies you can use to create an effective sales team in 5 Keys to Team-Building Success for Sales Managers.
However, along with creating a cohesive team culture across the sales organization, we also need to engage non-sales professionals in being aware, educated and available to support sales within the company. Drawing a ‘hard line’ between sales and the rest of the organization tends to alienate sales people and make the operations and service delivery side of the business unresponsive to market feedback gathered by the front-line sales team. That’s why it’s so important to get your non-sales staff engaged in sales.
Here are three ways you can begin to close the gap between sales and non-sales cultures in your organization as you seek to improve sales results:
1. Take the ‘How It’s Made’ approach.
The phenomenal success of television shows like “How It’s Made” and “Dirty jobs” proves that customers have a deep desire to learn the ‘inside story’ behind the products and services they purchase. By giving customers exposure to the people who make the product or deliver the service, you also get those members of your team out and in front of customers as well.
For example, if you operate a furniture store that specializes in precision carpentry and craftsmanship, consider setting up a small woodworking studio in the store and having members of the production team rotate through during select days. This allows sales people to learn more about the product story, and gives marketing something to promote, all the while getting your ‘makers’ to interact with your customers and salespeople. That’s a win-win-win.
2. Institute a cross-training apprenticeship.
A sales professional who can say with confidence that he or she personally worked on the code behind the software, cut the wood for the custom-designed wooden deck or helped engineer the technology in the factory will always have an advantage, because customers like to purchase from people who ‘know the product’ and have firsthand knowledge. It also emphasizes the salesperson’s role of being invested in the company, like an owner, and not just selling something for the purpose of purely making a dollar.
What is also true is that people on the production and operations side who have experience with how customers make purchases are inherently more effective at designing and creating products that meet the customer’s need. Instead of guessing at what customers want — or just ignoring the customer altogether — they are more likely to take their firsthand interactions with customers and use them as fuel to create better solutions or develop more effective services.
You can address both of these points by creating a cross-training apprenticeship program in which employees have the opportunity to take time to ‘walk in the other person’s shoes’ and immerse themselves in other roles across the company. Some firms actually require that new salespeople go through an experience like this before they start working on sales activity; others use the process as a step that operations staff take on the path to management. Regardless of how you set it up, you can create enormous benefits across the company by implementing such a program.
3. Engage non-sales professionals directly in sales.
The third strategy is to directly engage non-sales professionals in the sales cycles. Some technology companies have historically done this by requiring product engineers to accompany sales reps for certain kinds of sales calls, but in most sectors the cultural lines between sales and non-sales are deeply marked.
This step takes some planning, but for those willing to do it, the results can be profound. The key to achieving success with this kind of effort is to make it voluntary but beneficial for participants; require real sales training for non-sales personnel who elect to participate; and give them a specific role to play in the sales meeting.
For example, an accounting manager within your operations group could accompany a sales rep to a meeting and speak to his or her direct experience of the company’s consistent and well-formulated approach to investing in new product development, or to ensuring that customer needs are promptly addressed.
Remember that customers know they are buying the entire company when they purchase from you, and the more that you can make them feel that everyone — from sales to production, from operations to accounting and from payroll to customer service – is a part of the same team ready to serve them, the stronger their emotional reasons will be to buy.
By exposing non-sales professionals to the sales environment and vice-versa, you are creating a customer-centric culture that will drive better sales, stronger collaboration and a clearer understanding of how everyone in the company can support the sales imperative.