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Collaboration–Now More Critical Than Ever

by David Brock on May 22nd, 2012

Those of us who  sell complex B2B solutions to large companies live in a world that is increasingly complex.  Our customers face very challenging problems.  Our solutions are very complex.  Gone are the days when a sales person could handle everything with the customer herself.  The days of knowing all about the products and being able to answer every question the customer might have with little support are gone.

To be successful in creating value for customers and driving growth, sales people can no longer go it alone.  We need a network of people in our companies matched with the appropriate customer personnel, all working in a coordinated fashion, with the sales person as the overall strategy and resource manager.

For many sales people, this is relatively new.  We used to be able to manage all the activities and communications pretty much by ourselves.  Perhaps, we would have a technical specialist involved for a short period of time, but managing the execution of the sales strategy and assuring we were aligned with the customer buying cycle was relatively simple because we were part of all these meetings. 

But things are different–our buyers may be spread around the world–a design team in Europe, a procurement team and factory in Asia, end users and financial operations in North America.  Our sales strategy requires us to coordinate the activities of people around the world–people we may have never met — both within our company and the customer.

Coordination of our activities with the customer is critical.  Learning what our customers are saying in each meeting, communicating this to other members of the team are important for sharp execution of the strategy.  The customer’s side is similarly complex, helping them to know what the “left and right hands” are doing can become a subtle part of our value proposition.

We use fancy words to talk about this coordination and communication effort.  We call it collaboration.  It’s a good word, but what we are really talking about is teamwork.  In maximizing our effectiveness, we want to make sure our team is aligned in the goals and objectives we have with the customer.  We want to make sure each person on the team knows their role and responsibility as a member of the team.  We want to make sure there is good information flow across all members of the team—that we have the ability to share what we are learning and what we are doing with each other.

Every team needs a “captain” to call the plays–this is the sales person.  It’s the sales person’s role to make sure all the thing the team needs are in place, that effective communications are in place, and that the strategy is being executed effectively and efficiently.  The cornerstone to achieving the goal is a plan — a documented sales strategy or plan enables each person on the team to understand what we are trying to achieve, who is responsible for what activities, and how we will execute the sales process.  Yet so many teams don’t have a documented plan in place—so sharp execution of the plan is impossible.  Each team member, though well intended, may not be doing the right things with the right people.  Effort and impact may be wasted.

Beyond this, coordination and communication may be as simple as some team conference calls and emailing updates to each other.  If you have a CRM system, most modern CRM systems have some sort of collaboration tool — it’s really a communication tool.  These tools are important to facilitating communication and keeping everyone on the same page.  It’s the sales person, the team captain, who is responsible for making sure this communication platform is in place for the team members, and that each member of the team is sharing information with the others.  For many sales people, this may feel a little unusual, we’re not used to documenting what we do, to keeping everyone else up to date with what’s going on.  Now it’s a critical part of the team’s effectiveness.

In large complex deals, team work and collaboration are fundamental to our success.  The critical elements are:  A defined plan, defined roles, strong communications across the team.

Are you prepared to collaborate?

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