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Four Cornerstones of Successful Sales Teams

The foundation of successful sales teams consists of four cornerstones:

  • A common goal or purpose

  • Good communication

  • Team development

  • Team attitude

A team must share a common purpose or goal to be a team. A sales leader often must work to gain the support of people who work behind the scenes. This might include product development, delivery, service, engineering, and support staff. It may involve working with other vendors. It may involve working with people who are going to run your sale through the design, development, implementation, or billing process. In any case, everyone on that team must work together to realize the goal.

Good communication flows in all directions in a timely and effective way. Team members know what is expected, they know how they are doing, and they know about customer changes before customers know about the changes.

Team development means that the team develops its ability to work together as a team. High-performing teams don't leave this to chance. They don't spend inordinate time doing this, but they also don't ignore it. They know that to deliver the solutions they promise to customers, they need to rely on people in support positions, in engineering, in information processing, in billing, in customer service, and in other parts of the company. Sales leaders take the time to ensure that people on their team are clear on what the team needs to accomplish, feel they are being heard, are glad to be a part of the team, and recognize the efforts of the individual team members who contribute to the team's success.

Your team development efforts might consist of having a meeting (or a series of meetings) with the people on your team. The meetings can have a number of purposes:

  • Communicating customer needs

  • Seeking others' input or understanding others' concerns

  • Examining resources and finding solutions to problems

  • Gaining the commitment of team members to goals

  • Coming to agreement on priorities and next steps

Team attitude means that when people on the team care about the customers and about helping each other, the team is going to find ways around problems. They will fill in for each other as needed. They will be proactive and head off problems. They will step up as individuals and assume leadership roles as needed to meet the team's commitments. As team members, they take their team commitments seriously. They consider their other team members to be their customers. They minimize hidden agendas, and although they may have allegiances to the departments or people they work for, they keep communication open, and once they make a commitment they follow through on it.

Each of these team components plays a role in the team's success. In smaller proposals, the team's attitude may be the single most important determinant of success. The team may be working with limited resources in short time frames. Communication will normally flow more easily if the group is smaller. Team development may involve one, or at most two, startup meetings to identify roles and outline how the team will work together.

In projects involving larger proposals, these elements become more significant. The team's goal must be absolutely clear; communication must flow freely and be comprehensive and timely; and the team needs to think about how it works together. Attitude will play a role and will normally be a positive factor when people are excited about the challenge ahead.


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