Nothing changes your ability to close complex deals or solve big sales challenges like collaboration. Diverse insights usually lead to a breakthrough in the account. In my experience, cross departmental collaboration can triple your chances or getting a deal unstuck or saving an account in crisis.
But in many cases, you’ve built your sales team by recruiting quota-crushers who have a go-getter/self-sufficient style. In The Challenger Sale, Corporate Executive Board (CEB) refers to them as Lone Wolves, and have recently documented their fall from dominance in B2B sales. They limit collaboration to their inner circle and when they interact with others outside of the silo, it’s usually to solve a tactical issue like getting an approval or question answered. Building a wide deal team would be their last resort.
When the Lone Wolves are your top producers, you’ll develop a Tight Sales Culture where your account executives develop the habit of either winning or losing on their own. They likely don’t trust the World of Slow (Marketing, Operations, Delivery) or expose themselves willingly to the Land of No (Legal, Finance, Engineering). While it appears they are playing as a team, in reality, they are working as a line and not truly collaborating across the lines.
Here’s the reality: According to MHI Global’s 2015 Best Practices Study, world class sales organizations create a different culture: Together We Win. They have the habit of reaching out when qualified opportunities present themselves and bringing in experts and stakeholders early. They win by double digits in most key metrics due to their ability to quickly solve the myriad problems between prospecting and closing. Researchers refer to this as the organizational habit of “conscious collaboration.”
For the last decade, I’ve been working with sales leaders that want to harness my Dealstorming collaboration process to land bigger deals and create barriers to entry for competitors. Their first question is usually: How can I get my top producers to buy in to this new culture?
The key to success is to flip the conversation by creating new war stories that call the Lone Wolf approach into question. Culture is a conversation about ‘how we do things successfully here.’ The conversation is heavily influenced by the measurable outcomes of processes and approaches. To tip the conversation to team selling, you need to find a test case for building a deal team that includes multiple departments.
Here’s the criteria for your first dealstorm:
- The sales opportunity is high value and complex.
- There is a strong product-prospect fit.
- The account executive is good at leading meetings and working with non-sales people.
- Winning or losing this deal has deeper implications than the revenue.
Serve as the sponsor of this dealstorming project, coaching your account executive on team building, meeting management and execution. Empower your account executive to invite everyone with a stake in the outcome or expertise about the deal’s sticking points. If necessary, run interference to get key players on board.
It’s likely that the magic of collaboration will reveal a winning play that moves the sale closer to the finish line. You’ll need to keep the account executive focused on keeping the team together, as any complex deal requires multiple solutions to lead to a signature. In a majority of situations, if you follow the process, you’ll close the deal or save the account.
This unlikely win will have an immediate impact on your sales culture, but it will only be the start. You’ll need to find multiple wins with a variety of account executives to convince the hardcore Lone Wolves to open their minds to the power of collaboration. With each team based sale, you’ll prove that other departments do not slow the process down or inhibit your ability to satisfy prospect requirements. You’ll drive a new conversation: “When you get stuck, don’t go down alone. When we go wide, we can win the hardest deals.”
And as the conversation moves forward, so will your culture.