Team Selling: 8 Questions to Select the Right Players and Screen Out the Deadweight
As solution complexity, buyer expectations and competition intensifies, the more likely your sales people and account managers will require additional firepower to help them win business. However, bringing new players, such as product specialists, sales engineers, technical experts and senior executives into a deal increases complexity, risk and cost. While it is important to work as a team and support your people’s success, consumption of scarce, precious resources requires forethought and accountability.
Before your subject matter experts start jumping on airplanes to support your sales team, consider the following questions to help you make better decisions.
1. Does the opportunity/relationship merit their involvement?
The opportunity should be sales qualified, large enough and realistically winnable so the risk and effort justifies the reward. It is better to define these criteria in advance. For example, do you have a relationship with the economic buyer or are you merely responding to a blind RFP? Establishing criteria gives you rationale so that decisions to support or not support an opportunity don’t seem arbitrary or political.
2. Will the resource provide a clear benefit and add value to the buyer or client?
Don’t leave your buyer questioning the value of anyone involved in your pursuit. If someone’s value to your team isn’t clear, that person should not be involved. The only possible exception could be when onboarding someone new. When this is the case, assign them some tasks that will help them learn and be a productive part of the team.
3. Do they add or balance technical or industry expertise?
As I mentioned in my opening, solutions can be very complex and situations may require specialized expertise to craft the best-possible solution. This is especially the case when there are legal and regulatory concerns, special licensing requirements, or highly-technical content or skill requirements. Additionally, there may be important nuances that must be taken into account to adapt solutions for certain industries.
4. Do they add or balance skill expertise (i.e., negotiations)?
Having a team member who can not only add value based on their subject matter expertise but also their sales expertise is a huge bonus. Often this is related to experience. If someone has been in a situation and has learned firsthand what it takes to succeed, that tribal knowledge will benefit the team. Think about your sales process from prospecting to close and to retention and growth. Then, identify where you have strengths and gaps across the process to execute. As you choose team members, consider those who can fill gaps in addition to providing technical expertise.
5. Do they add or balance senior presence?
In complex sales, it is crucial to identify the buy influences and decision makers. If the buyer has a very senior-level team and if they are highly influential, then to the extent possible, you should balance and align your team by rank and role. Brining senior-level executives into an opportunity demonstrates commitment. Additionally, senior-level peers can relate authentically to the concerns of each other, and provide reassurances that address concerns. This can often be the difference it takes to win.
6. Do they have an existing relationship with a client decision maker we can leverage to help us win the business?
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but in large organizations it is difficult to know who knows who. However, LinkedIn can be a very powerful tool to even navigate your internal networks. You should start by connecting with key influencers in the buying organizations. Once you’re connected to a buyer, then you can often see in their immediate connections if they are connected to anyone in your company. This is quick and easy, and you just never know what relationships may already exist that you can leverage.
7. Will they be responsible for any ongoing relationship or implementation?
Involving these people on your team makes the hand-off process much smoother because they have the benefit of hearing any preceding conversations firsthand. Managing client expectations is always very tricky, especially when the solution requires a lot of customization and services. Having that consistency of personnel from the sale to implementation helps prevent scope creep and unproductive conflict.
8. Can they devote the time to win the deal?
Big opportunities create big excitement, but also big demands and big commitments. Everyone wants to be on the deal team and be part of the glory and reward of winning, but not everyone can put the time into what it will take to win. This puts stress on the rest of the team to pick up the slack for incomplete or shoddy work. It creates conflict in times that require cohesiveness.