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SALES STRATEGIES
TEAM SELLING = GREATER SUCCESS WITH KEY ACCOUNTS
(Part 2 of 2)A selling team that works effectively can move far beyond the vendor status - forming long lasting bonds - perhaps even becoming indispensable to the customerís business. What follows are tips about how to adopt team selling, how to organize a sales team, who to include on the team and how to reward team selling.

ADOPTING TEAM SELLING

It is a good idea to involve the affected parties in discussions about how to organize the effort and make it work. It is easier to launch the team if all members buy in. Identify what areas of the business need to be included on the selling team and get them involved early.

Make sure to appoint a team leader (account manager) who is responsible for coordinating the team. This is most often the salesperson with field responsibility for the account. However, it may be a regional or corporate person - specially if the customer is truly strategic and/or cuts across more than one sales territory. Plus, some customers have been known to play games with different sales reps in different locations.

In addition, team players must be trained in the necessary skills. Team selling requires far more sophisticated communication skills, and many people do not naturally have or know those skills. In most cases this means fully developing and using all available communication tools and technologies. Traditional phone, fax, and snail mail must be supplemented or replaced by electronic communications and highly effective face-to-face communication.

Further, confirm that each player on the sales team understands his or her role and those of other team members. Most roles will be in direct support of the account manager. At times, each team member will have to work directly with a counterpart in the customerís organization or buying team. In every case, however, there must be excellent understanding of the roles, goals and responsibilities of all members of the team.

SALES TEAM ORGANIZATION

Sales team organization is highly complex and can vary dramatically. There are at least three different levels of structure formality that might be considered.

The most informal organization of sales teams expects people to work together as needed. In this organization, the lines of communications are not clear and it depends heavily on the sales rep to involve others.

More formal organization occurs when a team has appropriate staff assigned to work together when the need arises. Like informal organization, the sales rep initiates activity, but the communication lines are more obvious.

In very formal sales team organization well thought teams are assigned to work together with selected accounts. While the lead person is either a sales rep or an account manager, all team members understand they have a specific responsibly to work together pro-actively to bring value to the customer.

WHO IS ON THE TEAM?

There are both internal and extended participants on the sales/service team. People may serve on several teams designed for different customers. The internal team members often include technical support, sales management, service/support personnel, marketing, finance, engineering, and corporate management.

Technical support can play a key role. Salespeople are becoming more technically competent, so the right team member is a higher-level expert. There is often a researcher or product development specialist to deal with complex issues.

Increasingly in team selling, the sales manager plays a formal role in the relationships with key customers - especially when the customer's business extends across the boundaries of different salespeople.

Service/support personnel often are the eyes and ears of the company because they may know a lot more about how the product is used and what people are saying. These individuals may be company staff, distributors or dealers.

Marketing, finance, engineering and other business specialists are commonly included as members of a sales/service team. Each brings unique skills and experience to the value created for a key account. And in large accounts, each of these people may develop a specific relationship with their counterpart for the customerís organization.

Corporate management can be very useful team members when accounts are strategic. The participation in joint strategic planning with these accounts is valuable for both companiesí executives.

External team members may include customers. You can learn a great deal from one customer about a problem common to many. Customers can also be very effective and pro-active in bringing new business that will then "enjoy the same benefits as I am enjoying." Making them feel part of the family, sharing in successes with new customers can have a powerful impact on future business. This is often recognized through special distinctions and programs designed to demonstrate their value. The reward may be some sort of discount, merchandise, training, etc.

Other external members are influencers. Sometimes they have a formal relationship with the company and other times they simply have a positive feeling about a company they believe brings value to their clients. Again, the rewards can come from special status, programs, or even financial incentives such as a "scholarship" to a professional meeting or a company outing.

REWARDING TEAM SELLING

There is truth in the adage that you encourage the behavior you reward. How salespeople are paid, and equally important, how the efforts of other supportive team members are rewarded, sends a powerful message about the value of its team sales approach and the individual behaviors it requires. Clearly, a shift from reward structures focused on individual sales performance to a structure that rewards for team performance is needed.

Individual performance for all team members must be encouraged, but the nature of the behavior and the scope of the results may vary. For example, while achieving top line sales numbers may still be the basis for a payout, the focus can be on generating those results from the team-centered accounts.

In addition, a formula for distributing financial incentives can be developed to equitably share the reward among the team. The weighting of the formula should skew the greatest portion of the reward to the most impactive team member(s), but the point is to share the reward among the total team. Further, determine reward payout to individual team members by fully assessing their individual performance against standards and goals. Do not reduce the emphasis on "individual performance," but refocus the individual performance on team goals and results.

In fact, it is important to recognize individuals in a team environment. When high performers feel severely limited by weak team members, they can become quite discouraged. While much of the reward may come from team success, rewarding individuals for their performance is critical to maintain motivation.

CONCLUSION

This approach does not sell products - it sells total solutions. "We sell service and expertise. Our goal is to work so closely with our key accounts that we become part of their success." As one team sales/service team member put it, "We don't just solve problems - we prevent them." AM

 

Dave Downey is director of the Center for Agricultural Business at Purdue University. Marilyn Holschuh and Mike Jackson are with AgriBusiness Group in Indianapolis.



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