An extremely effective method for winning new business which involves complex products or services, is the team sale. As an example, let’s say you are a Partner in a growing accounting services firm. You provide a number of complex advisory services to your clients, but as a Partner, you’re heavily involved in managerial and client delivery work most days. And, you’re tasked with a new business sales number as a key responsibility of your position. How do you get it all done?
Is Team Selling Success Really Possible?
For eight years, I worked with the Big 4 accounting, tax and consulting firm, KPMG. My role was to define, develop and execute the team sale concept. I don’t believe we invented the team sale at KPMG, but we worked darn hard to perfect it. And, the results were incredible, generating substantial new revenue increases annually. Team selling success is absolutely possible.
The Goal of Team Selling
Overall, the goals of the team sale should be this: maximize the efficiency and productivity of the “subject matter experts” (SMEs) of your firm, while achieving your revenue growth goals. Whether they are executives, partners, consultants, attorneys, or engineers, your SMEs are extremely valuable. And, to compete effectively and win deals, they will need to participate in the sales process. But, an effective sales process requires that you network regularly, source leads, qualify those leads, hold exploratory meetings with prospects, scope solutions, develop proposals, present those proposals, follow up with prospects and negotiate deal terms. How are your SMEs doing in regularly performing these tasks?
Actually, the tasks I’ve just described sound exactly like the responsibility of a sales person, don’t they? They actually appear fairly straightforward. But, have you ever tried executing successfully on all those tasks, such that you achieve an assigned annual quota? If your SMEs are struggling to make their assigned revenue number, it’s because they’re trying to do two distinct jobs: sales and delivery. And, usually, most of us are not cut out to do two different jobs well.
The Roles in Team Selling
To accomplish the overall goals for new revenue and SME productivity, let’s delineate the roles in the team sale. First, the major tasks of the sales role were just outlined above.
And, to successfully execute on those tasks requires the “hunter” mentality that goes with a high-achievement/high-reward personality. This must not be overlooked. So, let’s assume your highly-productive sales executive is doing their job of effectively managing numerous sales cycles and producing regular opportunities. Then what is the role of the SME in the sales process?
I believe the purpose of the SME is to be “positioned” into the sales cycle at just the right time. He/She should not be in the deal too early and they should definitely not be too late. Your role, as SME, is to bring credibility, expertise, and solutions to the table. You, essentially, are what the prospect is buying! By “too early”, I mean that the deal is not well qualified and you’re wasting a lot of time in first and second meetings with unqualified prospects. Your sales professional’s responsibility is to highly qualify the deal, so that SME time is maximized only on deals that meet stringent qualification criteria.
By “too late”, I’m referring to someone who shows up at deal closing time, or late in sales process. Proposals have been scoped and presented and the client is down to finalists. This is not the time to finally make an appearance in the sales process. If I was the buyer, I would feel slighted.
The Ideal Scenario
How does this look in day to day execution? The sales executive is constantly working to manage an active pipeline of qualified opportunities. They are in constant communication with the appropriate SMEs to prepare them for upcoming deals in which their participation is required. They will provide a full debrief of the opportunity, why it’s qualified and the explicit needs of the prospect to the SME. The SME will participate in the sales cycle as required, but not “run the deal”. They will help scope and develop the solutions and assist in the proposal development process, ensuring a properly defined and priced solution.
Sales goals are met because there is regular sales pipeline growth occurring. SMEs are more productive, as they are contributing their expertise to help the firm win deals and they’re taking care of client responsibilities. It really works and it’s a win-win for all.