Understanding good team working skills will help you find the Zen of teamwork!
According to Zen Buddhism, the “ego-mind” interferes with the path to heightened awareness. Therefore, transcending the ego-mind is an important step along one’s path. I witnessed this principle play out while facilitating the development of a high performing sales team. As the team developed, its members evolved from having individual consciousness to having team consciousness.
Learning good team working skills
This company had in-house sales reps and field sales reps sharing the same customers. Each rep received full commission regardless of who got the sale. Based on this scenario, one would assume the two reps worked cooperatively with each other. However, this wasn’t the case when I first assessed the situation.
I immediately observed how the field reps and in-house reps were competitive with each other. They competed for the customer’s loyalty and competed for recognition from management. The competition for customer loyalty resulted in discount wars between the reps. Competition for recognition from management resulted in each rep trying to take credit for a sale. More specifically, this involved withholding information the other rep may have benefited from, and minimizing the other rep’s contribution.
A clue to the root of the problem emerged when I reviewed the field rep’s customer visit summaries. Customer visit summaries are descriptions of each visit the field reps were required to write. In-house reps complained that the information on these summaries was useless. Reading the summaries myself, I could see the in-house reps’ point. The summaries listed everything the field rep did during the visit. A typical summary would say, “I discussed the new cold and flu product, I pointed out our discount priced products, I left literature on our calcium supplement.” Reading these summaries, I didn’t see any information the in-house reps could follow up on. When I inquired with the field reps, they told me how they want to show the company all the work they do.
Good Team Working Skills Problem: Individual Consciousness
This is when I had my epiphany. The field reps lacked goal clarity. The goal of selling isn’t selling, the goal of selling is buying. The field reps were describing their selling, the in-house reps needed information about the customer’s buying. The summaries lacked any insight about the customer’s decision process. A summary that would be more useful to the in-house reps would report things like, “Customer wants to expand multi-vitamin section. She’s most receptive to hearing about multi-vitamin products during the expansion.”
If I had only coached the field reps to write better summaries, however, I wouldn’t have addressed the problem at its source. The source of the problem revealed itself during a meeting I had with the sales manager. He told me he lets field reps know he reviews their summaries. He also told me that whenever the company gets a big sale he asks if it was the in-house rep or the field rep that took the order.
These actions by the manager resulted in competitiveness between the reps.
The sales manager was unintentionally fueling his field reps’ ego-interference. Telling them he reviews their summaries for quality inevitably made them feel judged. To avoid judgment, they used the visit summaries to promote their image. The field reps’ feeling of being judged distracted them from focusing on the desired goal. Instead of being focused on customer buying, they were focused on their own selling.
The sales manager created another problem by asking which rep was responsible whenever they got a big sale. Once again, he was putting reps’ egos on the line. Ego defending interfered with the necessary shift from individual mindset to team mindset.
Good Team Working Skills Solution: Team Consciousness
I explained to the sales manager that the field reps and in-house reps won’t work as a team until they share a common goal. Moreover, the common goal for both reps should be having customers buy. This seems like common sense, but it’s actually less common in the world of selling than one would think. For most salespeople the goal is about the salesperson’s selling performance. This is reinforced by a multi-million dollar sales training industry, which also makes its goal about salesperson performance.
In reality, a salesperson’s focus should be on their customer’s buying performance. Salespeople get commission when customers buy, regardless of how much selling was involved. Commission isn’t paid if the customer doesn’t buy. Ego interferes with salespeople’s ability to focus on their goal, which is customer buying. It’s a distraction that results in salespeople pursuing the side agenda of prioritizing their selling performance over buying performance.
Luckily for me, I was working with a cooperative sales manager. He accommodated my recommendation to stop interfering with the reps’ teamwork. He clarified their goal and reminded them that the goal of selling is buying. He reinforced his commitment to that goal in several ways. He told field reps that the visit summaries were only for the inside reps, and he promised not to read them anymore. He also stopped asking who was responsible for the sale.
With management interference out of the way, we were able to get in-house and field reps working together as a team to increase their customers’ buying. The reps began communicating and coordinating with one another. They would strategize together to determine the best course to take for maximizing their customer’s buying potential.
Good team working skills takeaways:
1) Teams can’t exists without sharing a clear goal
2) The management must be careful not to create a distraction from the goal. This will divert team members’ attention from the goal and result in the pursuit of “side-agendas.”
3) Ego insecurity interferes with the team members’ evolution from individual mindset to team mindset.
Jeffrey Lipsius is President and Founder of Selling To The Point®-Sales Training and Consulting. His award-winning book entitled “Selling To The Point,” introduces a new method salespeople can use to influence customer decision-making. Jeffrey’s “Selling To The Point” approach for salesperson performance is based on his training of salespeople for over 30 years. Jeffrey presents keynote addresses, and conducts workshops in addition to his “one on one” salesperson coaching.
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Thank you to Jeffrey Lipsius for this guest blog post on good team working skills. This blog is a product of People First Productivity Solutions where we build organizational strength by putting people first. Our president, Deb Calvert, is a certified executive coach and leadership development specialist, working with teams to bring out the best in everyone.