“Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only.” If Blake (played by Alec Baldwin in the classic film Glengarry Glen Ross) were staring you straight in the eyes, would you put the cup down? Do you even know what it means to be a closer?
The answer is probably, “no.” And thats okay. Those of us who work outside of sales aren’t expected to “close” deals, but we should be expected to help facilitate them. But instead, we often dismiss sales as brawn that carries out the tasks determined by the brains.
If this is how you think of your sales team, it’s time to snap back to reality. Your sales team is like the Marines of your company – the men and women on the front line, leading you into battle. Typically the first to interact with the customer, they are the first to spot the glaring strengths and deficiencies of your product. But their discoveries are not given to them – no way – they’re earned. Enduring bullets of customer backlash caused by organizational inefficiency, product faults, and flawed market fit, they trudge forward, committed to finding what pain point the product actually solves and why it resonates with your best customers.
Want to know how I know? I’ve been that sales guy.
As someone who has worked on both sides of the table, let me be the first to tell you – if you’re not communicating regularly with your sales team you’re missing out on valuable insights that could disproportionately accelerate your business. Here is a quick primer on how best to work with your sales team:
Adopt this Mindset: Sales’ problems are your problems
Sales is related to every facet of your business – finance, communication, customer service, and even product. If your sales team is having problems selling product, it’s probably part-attributable to a department other than sales. Lack of sales is often a symptom of a larger issue rather than a result of bad salesmanship. Examine the ways your department could be affecting the sales team:
Are we messaging to the right audience?
Are the product features actually solving the problem that we claim to address?
Have we established the right product-market fit?
These are just a few of the questions that you should ask yourself if your sales team is struggling. In doing so, you just might learn that the problem lies at a deeper level than initially believed.
Take Action: Ask and you shall receive
Sales carries insights that are worth their weight in gold. Be persistent in asking your sales team how they are positioning the product, what customers are saying, and which selling points are resonating and which are failing. Better yet – set up a recurring meeting with your sales team to discuss on a regular basis. Everything from your company’s core message to your product roadmap can be improved with feedback from sales and the customer. Think of them like fertile grounds for testing new products, propositions, and features.
Plus, this step should be easy – you’d be hard pressed to find any salesperson who doesn’t want to talk.
Tailor your Communication: Clear, concise, and to the point
That email newsletter you’re working on, the product feature you’re slaving away on for the past two weeks, that press story in the works – all examples of work that seems routine to you, but incredibly exciting and lucrative to the sales team. Don’t wait until something launches to inform your sales team. Make it a habit to share the projects you’re working on and how they will affect your team. Bottom line: always proactively communicate to stay on the same page.
If you feel like your communication isn’t breaking through, try this advice from sales expert, Kevin Gaither (Top 25 most influential in Inside Sales every year since 2010):
“Be crystal clear about how the change affects them. Sales teams are constantly living in a world of deadlines and quotas, so the more you waste their time with unclear emails and conversations, the less clear they’ll be on how to meet sales goals and expectations. Secondly, give them more time to adapt to change than you think they will need. Product and marketing changes (a/b tests and promotions) can be a painful headache for the sales team if they are communicated late or not at all, but if you give your team a runway to anticipate and/or communicate change to their sales partners, they will be able to modify their pitches and continue to close deals and will thank you for it.”
So there you have it. You now have all keys to successfully working with your sales team. Go ahead – pick up that cup of coffee cup, you earned it.