There’s a certain sound in the air these days. It’s a collective sigh of relief that the dog-eat-dog, every-rep-for-themselves approach to sales is on the way out. In the current climate of working smart, many sales organizations now understand the importance of encouraging their reps to pool their talents to keep the sales numbers healthy. It’s called teamwork, and there’s still no “I” in it.

21st-Century Sales

Selling itself has changed over the past two decades. More and more, we’re in the business of problem-solving and working with prospective clients over the duration of an extended relationship-building period. “Always be closing” has been replaced by “always be helping.” Sales cycles are longer. Customers are better educated about their choices. Transactions are often more complex and multifaceted than ever before. A sale can involve multiple customer touch points and stakeholders, resulting in a longer period before the ink hits the contract.

In short, there’s more competition among companies to obtain the business of prospective clients. In the current B2B climate, the best approach for an organization is to put together a strong sales team, pooling talent and winning a larger percentage of the market share. Here are some essential tips for building a great sales team.

Unearthing Data

Stored in the gray matter of your individual sales reps are valuable data points about customer demographics, products and services, and company culture. Stockpile these data by mining and then combining them. Team members are stronger when they share their collective knowledge. Hold scheduled team meetings for employees to contribute what they know regarding current deals in the pipeline. If they’ve had a recent win, they can demonstrate what worked. If they’ve had a loss, they can share what went wrong. This process helps equip other reps with the tools to emulate winning habits and avoid mistakes.

Opposites Attract Business

Newbies and veteran team members bring different perspectives and approaches to the workplace, so pair up an old pro with a novice. The newbie will benefit from the vet’s experience, and the seasoned pro will gain objectivity and fresh ideas from the new hire.

Divide and Concur

While you transition from lone wolf to pack collaboration, be careful when it comes to commissions. On a two-person team, one rep might feel that he or she did the heavy lifting and deserves a larger share of the commission. Head off the resentment with spot bonuses, non-monetary (but still effective) praise and credit, and delayed compensation scenarios. For example, each individual who collaborated to close a deal could receives 75 percent of the total commission that one rep would have earned.

Finding Team Talent

Of course, to build your team, you’ll need team players. When interviewing potential new hires, pay careful attention to the words they use to describe their past experience. Do they say, “I did X” and “I accomplished Y”? Or do they say, “We made X happen” and “We successfully pulled off X deal”? What they say, and what they don’t say, speaks volumes about their potential to be an effective team player.

Engage in a Little Gamification

You never want backstabbing or resentments among members of your sales team, but there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition to inspire collective success. Increase morale and a sense of accomplishment by creating small teams for a good old-fashioned sales contest. Encourage team signs, team names and even T-shirts. The key is to keep the competition relaxed and at the level of good fun.

Remember, your sales team is only as good as the organization that supports it. Sales managers should actively coach the team, inspiring them to realize their potential and win. Engaged coaches make close observations and offer targeted and encouraging feedback. If one team player is technically challenged and collects customer data in a spiral notebook in a desk drawer, pair that person with a teammate who is well-versed in your CRM.

Ultimately, what you are looking for are team players, so make your reps feel like they’re an integral part of the organization. For good measure, go old school with donuts and coffee during the morning sales meeting. Food says you value your team. In this day and age, coffee is not just for closers.

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