No other group in the workplace operates quite the way that the sales department does. Human resources doesn’t ring a cow bell and jump around when they sign up an employee for benefits. A product development worker doesn’t get a commission when he or she has a new idea.
Sales teams have an “eat what you kill” mentality, which means they don’t collaborate or brainstorm, but instead zealously guard their territory and are rewarded individually for their successes, says Tim Sanders, former Yahoo! Chief solutions officer and cofounder of Deeper Media, Inc., a research consultancy.
But that mentality is also why sales departments at many companies are floundering. That mindset no longer works in such a fast-moving and competitive marketplace, he says.
Sanders says sales teams need to embrace “dealstorming,” which he says is the combination of deal making and brainstorming. He says companies such as CareerBuilder, Conde Nast and Regus have adopted the method, and find that the scalable, repeatable process has helped drive better bottom-line results.
The underpinnings of dealstorming are that no sale should ever be lost – and everyone should jump in to try and save it. That means those outside of sales can be tapped for their knowledge, creativity or connections to figure out ways to stop sales from going to the competition.
“People aren’t innovative by themselves,” he says. “But I’ve learned that companies who collaborate just do better.”
Collaboration can be a foreign concept to sales teams, who often are driven by a lone wolf mentality and a winner-take-all philosophy. But Sanders says that companies that embrace the idea of bringing in outside ideas close more deals. (He says that those who use dealstorming have a 70% close ratio.)
Further, those companies that involve everyone in the sales efforts find that employees are more committed to execution and delivery once the deal is made, he says.
Adding to the challenging climate for sales is that the shelf life for products is becoming shorter. Trends come and go so quickly that only by tapping into the knowledge of everyone can better sales be achieved, he says.
Sanders has outlined how any company can use the method in his new book, “Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges.” He says companies need to:
- Sanders says that dealstorming often requires “significant resources,” so it’s important to look at the exact challenge – such as a deal being in jeopardy – and what’s going to be necessary to get it back on track.
- The team assembled to dealstorm needs to have a unique perspective on the sale. Stakeholders should be those who can ensure that problem solving and execution are linked – keep it to about a dozen people or it can become unwieldy and make meetings a nightmare. It will be key to explain “why” these stakeholders should care, as those in tech or operations may not care much about sales, but will be more interested if they see it as a career opportunity.
- In about four pages or less, stakeholders should be briefed on the issue and the “sticking points,” he says. This preparation can be key in setting the right tone and a getting buy-in from employees who will see that they’re not being asked to participate in a wild-goose chase.
- When this group meets, it’s not a free-wheeling, anything-goes brainstorming session where everyone is supposed to come up with outlandish ideas. This is a much more disciplined effort where new ideas are encouraged but key concerns can also be voiced. “You only think outside of the box to make it stronger,” Sanders says.
- “The ideas from a dealstorm are worthless unless they are acted upon, analyzed and improved,” he says, and the execution “involves more than just doing what we agreed to do.” Sanders says it’s important to do research on the meeting outcome to verify assumptions, confirm facts and get to the testing stage to see if an idea will work.
- While it’s important to assess whether the deal worked or not, it’s also critical to figure out if there were any negative side effects of the approved approach. “Sometimes you win the battle (the deal) but lose the war (the long-time relationship),” he says. “Your clever hack or persuasive device may have moved things forward, but at a price….it may be too high a price to pay, even to land a big deal.”
- All those involved in the deal should be notified immediately of the analysis results. “It’s important to give praise to the team for the solution, but be careful not to attribute the ideas to individuals,” he says. “Remember, there is no lone inventor: genius is a team sport.”
Finally, Sanders says it’s also important that every employee participate in a dealstorm at some point, as it teaches teamwork and helps employees see the measurable outcomes of their work.
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