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How Top Sales Teams Work

Do you sometimes wonder how they do it? You know who I mean–the top sales teams, the ones that are always getting recognized for their performance. The ones that customers love, and the ones that are able to spend time with their families every night. Are they the “chosen few” among us? What pushes successful sales teams forward, in spite of obstacles, corrections, setbacks and even failures?

The more complex the solution, the more essential team selling is for success. In many ways, top sales teams are like sports teams. They are “fit” for their jobs. They have winning qualities of self-motivation, self-discipline and dedication. Inside every “business athlete” is a personal desire to be the best at what they do.

  • These high-performance teams are focused on the customer—not just responsive, but proactive.

  • They make every conversation with their customer about that customer—and that customer’s customer.

  • They understand their customer’s business almost as well as the customer does.

  • They look at the sale/contract signing as just a milestone along the way to accomplishing their extraordinary goal of delighting their customer.

  • They nurture and build loyal customers, not just produce sales and merely satisfied customers.

Forming winning sales teams aligns right-skilled salespeople with customer needs. Just as athletes know that they must warm up before playing their sport, business athletes also warm up by developing a compelling vision of success and the determination to focus on short-term actions leading to the goal.

  • Everyone on the team clearly understands the overall goal, which is exciting and challenging from both their customer’s and the sales team’s viewpoint.

  • Everyone on the team knows how the team will get there, and what part they will play.

  • Everyone on the team knows his or her accountabilities to action.

  • The team leader continually refines the strategy and work plan on the basis of new information and the knowledge gained from progress to date.

  • The team leader communicates effectively, securing commitment to actions and holding people accountable for those actions.

Sales teams that accomplish extraordinary sales results develop specific milestones to accomplish a certain goal, identify short-term actions that lead them to achieve those milestones, assign and enforce accountability for actions to which they have agreed, and adjust to changing priorities.

  • Milestones. While extraordinary goals are great for stretching thinking and providing something for the team to strive for, most people on a team cannot stay energized and focused for long periods of time on something that is too big or too distant. Like marathoners, sales teams need line-of-sight targets that are reachable and achievable so they can pace themselves to the larger goal.

  • Short-Term Actions. To focus tactically on the milestones, top sales teams identify at least one short-term action for every milestone. This is about establishing continuous traction. Early actions make it easier to accomplish future critical milestones and prepare the team for unforeseen issues that arise later.

  • Accountability. Each team member is accountable—for their own assigned tasks and to one another. They communicate regularly with one another and are prepared for change if warranted.

  • Priorities. There is no longer time for a sense of pause and reflection for a customer-facing team when the business environment changes. They must be prepared to respond quickly at every level. Teams that are prepared to respond maintain strong relationships during the unplanned downturns, and readily grasp the opportunity of unplanned upturns.

In the face of competition, complexity, and economic swings that are a part of commercial life, the driving force behind successful sales teams is their ability to plan, work together, make course corrections, and constantly move forward.

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