Breakthroughs In Group Selling

By Malcolm Fleschner

Team selling with everyone working toward a common goal sounds like a great idea: together everyone achieves more – and all that. Many sales organizations alter comp plans and add incentives designed to spur a more team-oriented approach to selling. Yet, says Linda Kuritzkes, a Haddonfield, NJ-based compensation consultant, many of these efforts fail to produce the desired team cohesion, and sometimes even generate resentment and dissention in the ranks. She suggests a variety of reasons for this outcome, including:

– Company salespeople hired for their killer sales skills tend to be motivated by personal achievement, not team goals.

– Organizations are structured in silos that encourage districts to compete against one another.

– Sales managers are compensated based on their reported performance and are not encouraged to collaborate with other offices.

– Different team members report to different managers so the entire team doesn’t get a unified message.

Despite these formidable obstacles, all is not lost, Kuritzkes says. It is still possible to motivate your sales staff to work more in unison. The first issue, she says, is to make sure your team focus will deliver genuine benefits to the bottom line. Ask yourself: Are there true synergies to be achieved by the team that can’t be met by salespeople focused on individual achievement? If so, what are they?

Once you’ve identified the tangible benefits to a team-selling approach, Kuritzkes suggests you make changes in the following areas to ensure the new approach will work.

1. Hiring
Rather than going after lone wolves, modify hiring practices to recruit individuals who are inclined toward achieving group goals.

2. Management
Create a management structure that’s aligned with the new team orientation. If individual salespeople have more than one boss, make sure the managers are all working from the same strategic playbook.

3. Compensation
Add a team component to the comp and incentive plan. Rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach, base metrics on the expectations and functions of each team member. Try to keep things simple, however, so everyone readily understands the measurements and can track results. If possible, pilot the program to iron out the kinks before implementing a wider rollout.

4. Communication
Discuss the new plan ahead of time with each district. If you’ve piloted the program, share the results – even if they were not all positive. By getting ahead of the new changes you will build credibility among your salespeople and have a greater chance of developing early buy-in.

In closing, Kuritzkes notes that aligning these elements is not merely helpful for promoting team selling – they’re absolutely essential. “Team-based incentives do work,” she says, “provided there is a compelling business need for teamwork, the appropriate individuals are selected and trained and the compensation plan reinforces the business goals and motivates the team members.”