By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that the lone wolf sales rep is a thing of the past.

With sales teams increasingly expanding and collaborating across functions, you’d be hard-pressed to find a sale that’s you can attribute to one person, and one person only. More likely, you’ll see reps calling on experts – other reps, marketing, finance, pricing or operations – for support and backup.

Does that mean that sales is now entirely a team sport? Well… yes and no.

Teamwork makes a big difference. Research from Miller Heiman shows that “world-class” sales organizations had 20% better year-over-year growth than the rest. The deciding factor? Conscious collaboration. They made a strategic effort to break down silos and work together. 

But it takes individuals to make that happen. You need a team filled with reps who have a sense of autonomy, ownership, accountability, and trust to keep things running. 

It’s two sides of the same coin.

Teamwork makes the dream work

When we talk teams, we don’t mean the chain of command that runs up and down your sales organization. We don’t mean the production-line operations that happen between roles, either. “That’s a silo, not a team,” says Tim Sanders, author of Dealstorming.

“You need to foster a new way of thinking: When you get stuck in a sales challenge, don’t go down alone. Build teams comprised of everyone who has a stake in the outcome or expertise in the problem and then lead them to solve sales challenges faster than the competition.” That can include anyone internal to your organization, or even with your prospect.

In other words, when it comes to team selling, think wide, not tall.

Team selling has a lot of benefits, like:

  • Bringing together diverse perspectives 
  • Playing off of a range of experience and expertise
  • Filling in gaps in strengths and knowledge 
  • Keeping reps and other players accountable for their actions
  • Creating great learning opportunities for less experienced reps

It’s also necessary. Buyers are better educated about the products and services they purchase. They’ve done their research ahead of time, and expect that your sales team will be more knowledgeable still. It takes a village to meet these new expectations.

And prospects sure aren’t coming to the table solo. B2B buyers, on average, bring six to seven decision-makers or influencers to the table

If they’re collaborating, why aren’t you?

But individual effort matters, too

There’s no room on a team for a sales rep who says, “Maybe I’ll help you later, after I hit my quota and if I have the time,” or “Stay away – this sale is mine.” But there is room for your reps to be great individual contributors.

For a team to work, everyone needs to pull their weight. And to make that happen, four solo-focused factors need to be in place for each rep on your team:

  • Autonomy: How much freedom do your reps have to go off-script when they have a sales challenge outside the process, or when testing a new approach? Colouring outside the lines (thoughtfully, of course) is how we discover new tactics and best practices that we can share with the team later.
  • Ownership: Reps who care about the outcome of a sale adopt a sense of ownership and pride over their work. It doesn’t mean they should exclude others from the process. Rather, it means they’re motivated to go the extra mile to help the organization, not just themselves.
  • Accountability: Reps need to take individual responsibility – to be the one answerable to a task at the end of the day – for things like delivering results on time. They also need to acknowledge that their actions affect others on the team.
  • Trust: You need to trust your teammates; your teammates also need to trust you. Trust comes from confidence that you’re working towards the same goal. You earn it by being reliable, professional, consistent, and diligent. Lose it, and you’ve got a weak link – and a team is only as strong as its weakest link.

Help your reps do both

Collaboration is the secret sauce for building a great team – and great individual contributors to your team. 

There are two parts to this puzzle: giving your team the technology they need to collaborate, and baking it into your sales culture.

You can accomplish the first with tools like team chat and Playbooks™, where reps (and folks outside your team) can share knowledge, ask questions, and get answers. The second part comes from ingraining those tools and processes into your everyday processes. 

After all, it’s really about enabling reps to put their winning (and losing) cards on the table so everyone can play their part – and help others play theirs.

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