Making Software Team Selling Work

By Jason Compton

Team selling is nothing new in the software business. Sure, computers and software have become more commonplace, but both buyers and the software itself have become more sophisticated – and that means more communities of interest to sell to and the need for a greater range of expertise at each critical stage in the selling process. Team selling isn’t a dirty concept, as long as it’s managed effectively.

“You want the best expert in front of the customer,” says Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, senior VP of Oracle’s OracleDirect sales division. In organizations offering a wide range of products, team sales provide the best chance for an account executive to be able to manage a large, enterprise-wide relationship when mastering each technology would be out of the question. “If I have a broad set of products, I need a broad set of technical reps,” she says.

The biggest worries on a team sale stem from lack of coordination. Because many technical sales teams are created ad hoc to make a particular presentation on a particular day, consistency in the quality and tone of teamwork can be elusive. “I’m a big believer in measurement. I measure the effort, by product, that it takes to close transactions because if I’m not measuring, I run the risk of the four-legged sales call.” In short, she says, understand the priorities and processes that have made the most effective team sales click.

The account manager in a technical team sale needs to maintain control of the relationship without stifling the flow of information to the partners involved in the deal. Both account managers and technical sales staff need to have access to the same customer records so they understand the prospect’s needs and the sequence of contacts to date. If technical salespeople are dispatched like trucks on autopilot to prospects’ sites with no context or understanding of the customer relationship or the status of the opportunity, embarrassing slipups are bound to follow.

For longer sales cycles or regular team sales partnerships, consistent communication will help ensure consistent performance. “The account manager is the quarterback. You have to have a weekly or daily forum with team members to hold them accountable for what they’re doing,” says Koplow-McAdams. Otherwise the team goal is lost and the members devolve into competing for individual achievement, losing sight of the reason the team started working together in the first place.