A group of individual contributors or a team?

sales performance
This past March, I was on the edge of my seat watching the NCAA (college) wrestling championships. It came down to Penn State battling Ohio State for the team title.  As the final round finished, Penn State won its seventh title in eight years.   Some may view wrestling as one of the ultimate individual sports – two people fighting it out on the mat without help from their teammates.  But as evidenced in the post-tournament interviews, it was with the help of their team that pushed these individuals to greatness.

The wrestlers at this level are highly recruited and disciplined.  They understand the commitment that they must make to be great. What most people don’t see is that they practice with each other and push each other to greater heights.  At the best wrestling schools, many times the practices are tougher than the actual matches.

As I think about this in the context of sales teams, I find that the opportunity to make individual contributors be better is often a missed opportunity.  The individual contributors often do their own thing with little guidance from their managers.  After all, if a salesperson has a long tenure in the role, they must be good, right?  What can someone possibly learn after selling for a relatively long period of time? Why involve the rest of them when individual contributors only care about what they earn?

Here are some ideas to turn your salespeople into a high performing sales team:

  • Practice with each other. Role-play different scenarios.  Try groups of 3 people. Person 1 observes, person 2 is the prospect, the third is the salesperson.  Rotate.
  • Make your team meetings beneficial to all. Give team members roles so that they can help each other.
  • Create a competitive but fun spirit with other teams. Inspire team members to want to be the top performing team.
  • Be part of the team. During pipeline meetings, are you asking if senior attention is needed to help close the business?
  • Share the ring. If you are the manager, your successes need to be shared by the team.  After all, they got it for you.

There are clearly individual successes that need to be recognized.  If there are lessons learned from the successes (and failures) they should be shared.  I remember one of my past employers always speaking about making 1+1=3.  The team should be better than the sum of its parts. There are synergies and motivations that make the individuals better.

People must realize that having individuals operating in silos is not the optimum way to get the most out of the team.  As with wrestling, coming out on top means getting the right people, inspiring them and making sure that they are rigorous about upping their collective game.

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