What is team selling?
As stated by an article from Sales Hacker, “team selling is a collaborative approach where you develop a sales strategy involving two or more team members working together. The goal is to utilize each team member’s talents and skills to maximize sales. Team selling is about effective communication that leads to successful collaboration in sales, which is either between team members or between different departments in sales.”
In our sphere of influence within the sales world, we find many of our clients wanting to learn more about how their sales reps and sales engineers can more effectively and efficiently work together to close deals and serve their customers. So, we spoke with sales engineering guru Chris White from DemoDoctor.com, and Ramzi Marjaba of WeTheSalesEngineers.com, to outline the critical nature of the relationship between seller and sales engineer and share our findings with you.
What are the benefits of team selling?
In many industries and organizations, selling truly is a team sport – which implies that there are multiple people involved. Team members bring different skill sets, knowledge, and experience to the sales process. Combining forces to pool their talents and resources allows sales teams to advance more sales opportunities, and to do so in a more efficient way.
What Sales Engineers Bring to the Team
On an obvious note, sales engineers have the technical knowledge about the solution and the ability to help demonstrate or explain that to the prospect or customer. They conduct demos and provide information to inform the customer as they proceed through the decision-making process.
They are good problem solvers and can help customers think through all aspects of the technical solution, as well as potential challenges or additional needs.
Ramzi Marjaba tells us that sales engineers generally relate more easily to the customer or end-user, whereas the account manager or sales rep is sometimes perceived as someone “just trying to sell.” They have a certain credibility in the eyes of the customer. Because of this dynamic, sales engineers can often function as “insiders” for the salesperson. They can ask questions that the sales rep may not be able to. Customers are naturally more inclined to share things with the sales engineer. Their role allows them to cultivate receptivity with the prospect and then uncover specific information that the sales rep would not have been able to. Sales engineers often see or notice things that an account executive or sales rep might not.
In addition, Ramzi tells us that as a sales engineer, he continually gets new leads just by being present and engaging with his existing customers. They will refer him to new opportunities and prospects, without him asking. He believes this is fairly representative of most sales engineers’ experience. Customers and end-users are more likely to say, “You helped me with XYZ, you should talk to Company A, they need help with _____.” Lead gen is a huge benefit that comes with team selling.
When the sales rep and the sales engineer can collaborate on new leads like this, it’s another way that sales teams can build their pipeline and advance more deals by working together.
What Sales Reps Bring to the Team
On the flip side, salespeople understand the sales process, and its many nuances. This is critical when ensuring that a deal actually comes together. The reality is, salespeople are the ones that will ultimately drive the sales process. There are aspects of a sales engagement and a sales strategy that sales engineers may not completely understand or be able to execute.
They also excel at engaging the customer and building rapport. They set up meetings, overcome potential roadblocks, and ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
With good internal communication, the sales engineer and sales rep can advance the opportunity much more efficiently and serve their customers more effectively.
Why is the sales rep to sales engineer relationship so important?
Chris White says that there are essentially 3 reasons why sales demos, opportunities for team selling, are ineffective:
- Something is broken in the relationship between the sales rep and the sales engineer within the sales team.
- The individuals themselves don’t have the necessary sales skills.
- There is something wrong with the demo process and/or structure.
In this article, we’ll focus on the first one.
For the reasons discussed above, team selling can be beneficial for everyone involved. But the success of team selling rests almost entirely on the relationship between the sales rep and the sales engineer.
Chris White says he like to think about the relationship between sales rep/ account executive and sales engineer as a Venn diagram:
The account executive/ salesperson has a certain perspective and skill set, and the sales engineer has a certain perspective and skill set. They overlap a bit, but they also have their own unique strengths (and weaknesses). The reality is, both parties have blind spots.
When sales reps and sales engineers can accept that reality, and see the value of working together, team selling becomes truly successful. But that is easier said than done, and therein lies the challenge. The success of team selling depends on the relationship between the two people. And oftentimes, (almost always!) relationships take work.
How to Actually Sell as a Team
If the sales reps and sales engineer are not aligned, it will bog down the whole sales process. This is why the “choreography” of the process, and of the sales calls themselves, is critically important. There has to be some understanding or discussion about where the sales rep’s role ends and the sales engineer’s role begins.
Here are a few keys from Chris and Ramzi on how to effectively sell as a team:
- Get on the same page (before every single customer conversation).
It’s common sense, but not always common practice. Whether it’s a Discovery call, a presentation, or a demonstration, set aside some time to walk through how the call will progress, who is going to talk about what, and when they’re going to talk about it. It sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how often this doesn’t happen.
If you walk into a call with assumptions, but no preparation, you’re setting your sales team up to fail. Why assume when you can know? Sales reps and sales engineers should be prepared by getting aligned. Make the time and have the discipline.
- Learn to communicate.
Not all communication is created equal. The way you communicate with team members will depend on how long you’ve known one another and how often you work together, among other factors. If you communicate well and often, you won’t need as much structured prep time before presentations or calls.
Part of learning to communicate well is developing the ability to “read the room” and read your partner, so that you can adjust your approach, or let them take the lead when necessary.
- Play off each other’s strengths.
Sales reps have the reputation of being “talking heads,” for being good on their feet and on the fly. They build rapport with customers or prospects. A good sales engineer comes in with a plan. They are prepared with the demonstration and the technical information they want to share, but can also be flexible in allowing their partner, the sales rep, opportunities to add their shine.
- Don’t drop any surprises.
Ramzi says the worst feeling he gets during any call or demo with a customer is when a sales rep asks him to demonstrate or explain something that they didn’t discuss during prep time. Of course it should be something he, as a sales engineer, has the ability to demonstrate, but it’s never fun to be caught off guard in front of a customer. It leaves room for unnecessary hiccups or awkwardness.
- Be open to feedback from one another.
Ramzi shared with us, “As a sales engineer, I know that the sales rep is not my boss, but they are my leader. I follow their lead.” At the same time, sales engineers need to be able to communicate with sales reps to share insights about what should have been done differently, what could have been said, express communication preferences, etc.
And the sales rep needs to be able to give the sales engineer feedback or pointers about how their behavior/ language affects the sales process, and ultimately, the win. Ramzi highlighted something else very important: “Everytime I open my mouth, I’m either adding value to the solution or I’m taking away value.”
By being able to give and accept feedback, sales reps and sales engineers can strengthen their ability to sell as a team.
The goal is to eliminate friction in the sales process, not to add unnecessary steps, complications, or time.
Summing It Up
The success of team selling is ultimately determined by the relationship between the sales rep and the sales engineer. Learning to communicate, spending time in preparation for every customer interaction, being open to feedback, and playing off one another’s strengths will help both sales reps and sales engineers be more effective, more comfortable, and more successful in every sales opportunity they navigate together.
Oh and by the way, we realize that there is indeed an “I” in Team Selling, but that makes for a bad blog title…
Do you and your sales team need help learning to convert the unreceptive and disinterested customer? We’ve designed a program for the toughest challenges in sales.
If you’re interested in reading more, check out unReceptive: A Better Way to Sell, Lead, and Influence by ASLAN CEO Tom Stanfill. The book ships from Amazon on Nov 9. Secure your copy today!