Look at a couple of your won deals and analyze the criteria that made the difference. There will be tangible criteria such as the vision of future success, the compelling business case, a specific solution whose value outweighed the perceived risk of change, etc. There is one intangible criterion that empowers all the tangible criteria, and that is collaboration.
Conscious collaboration—a behavior of world-class sales performers
The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identifies the individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One is conscious collaboration. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to pursue large deals, specifically to quickly allocate the right resources to those deals. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to manage strategic accounts and to have an effective cross-functional process to manage global accounts. Conscious collaboration also means that sales and marketing are solidly aligned, with a shared understanding of the customer’s journey and a shared focus on one goal: revenue.
Collaboration needs to be defined
The purpose of collaboration is not collaboration itself. It’s achieving better results in a shorter amount of time. It allows individuals with disparate areas of expertise and different roles to work together in ad hoc scenarios through a common language and strategic frameworks. Collaboration connects teams, organizations and companies. It’s how they work together to multiply their individual contributions. Collaboration objectives are different for a strategic account environment, and they are different for an inside sales team. Sales professionals are traditionally more competitive than collaborative, which means that collaboration and its objectives must be clearly defined. Collaboration has to make sense for sales professionals. That’s why we call it conscious collaboration. Each situation is unique and requires its own balance of collaboration and competition. For example, large deal team are necessarily collaborative, while account teams compete for sales resources, and sales professionals may compete for promotions. Defining collaboration cannot be delegated. It is a sales leadership task. When sales leaders establish guiding principles for different situations and defines expected behaviors, it creates the foundation for conscious collaboration.
Collaboration needs a framework to create business impact
These principles and definitions must be operationalized to create a common language and a shared understanding of the components of the strategic framework. Successful collaboration frameworks start with the customers at the core. Those frameworks cover customer management strategies (including account and opportunity plans), industry strategies and sales execution plans. Messaging covers how to address different customer stakeholders with the right messages based on their concepts and roles. Another component is knowledge—covering all relevant knowledge areas (e.g., customer, products and solutions, industries, competitors and internal knowledge. Prepared with such a framework, and ideally embedded in technology, collaboration and enablement platforms together with integrated SFA/CRM systems can create great value. The extended sales teams can speak the same language, have access to the same information and are able to focus on the customer instead of constantly needing to adapt to random, judgment-based tactics driven by individual sales professionals. In this way, conscious collaboration empowers sales communities.