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When we discuss staff engagement strategies, commonly we are considering the way that leaders inspire their people to become involved in the aims and objectives of the entire business. While this ‘big picture’ strategizing is necessary, you must not neglect the need to establish highly collaborative partnerships at the coalface.
In this article, you’ll learn why your sales and service teams must collaborate more closely, and the elements of a staff engagement strategy that will encourage this to happen.
I heard a story recently about a large and well-respected company in the financial sector that rolled out a new product. The launch was a disaster. As the product was sold to customers, it became clear that the marketing, sales, and product development teams had not collaborated closely on the product.
The sales team had promised customers design features that had not been developed. The developers had built features into the product that were not needed. The marketing team sat in the middle, suddenly bombarded with requests from front and back.
The outcome: delays in delivery, frustrated customer service teams that were not prepared for the questions they were being asked, and an explosion in the cost of the product. Margins were decimated. The reputation of the company slid.
In our article ‘6 steps to integrity selling’, we highlighted the need to work with the customer and develop game-changing insights to their business needs. Customers want solutions. In the example above, everyone knew the general needs of customers, but specific needs were overlooked. The devil is very much in the detail.
According to Forrester Research, around 8 out of 10 executive buyers don’t believe that sales people are tuned into their issues. If only all your teams would collaborate more internally, this problem could be solved.
For example, customer service teams could hold the key to arming your salespeople with the information they need to know. These are the teams that receive calls about your products and services every day. It’s a mine of information that is often neglected. A more collaborative environment would solve this conundrum.
Collaboration doesn’t just happen. It must be planned for, and your employees must buy into it. The difficulty for many organizations is that this is a 180-degree turn from “the way that business is done around here”.
Traditionally, salespeople are the stars. They are the ones who go out, gain customers, and turn leads into revenue streams. By its very nature, a culture of collaboration means that everyone is involved in the selling process. Changing your current, ingrained culture requires you to embed a staff engagement strategy that breaks down barriers and encourages different teams to work more closely for the greater good.
Here are five elements of collaborative working on which your staff engagement strategy should focus.
Provide the big picture in a cross-departmental meeting. Encourage people to share knowledge and ideas. Empower them to develop joint aims and goals.
At this initial stage, you should expect some members of the enlarged team to be reluctant participants. This doesn’t mean their voice should not be heard. Provide ways for people to give feedback other than in the team situation. Value that feedback, and show openly that it is valued.
Help your people to understand the challenges that other departments face, by providing opportunities to improve cross-functional awareness. A day in someone else’s shoes can be very enlightening.
In todays VUCA market, needs are constantly changing. It is imperative that you provide channels of communication that make dissemination of new and updated information both easy and accessible to all. This includes insisting on a common language and dispensing with the jargon or tech speak that acts as a barrier to collaboration.
Don’t allow your leaders to set a ‘them and us’ tone. Your people will watch what happens from the top down, and then imitate this. Create a cross-functional leadership team and avoid complacency by employing disruptive leadership – remember, you are battling cultural norms that have been embedded over decades. Ensure that your leaders lead together.
Contact us today, and discover how we could help salespeople understand their own cultural biases and embed the new behaviors needed to boost sales in a new culture of collaboration.
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