I know the sports and business analogy can be cliche… but you don’t often hear about sales organizations being compared to team sports. Maybe golf or tennis here and there… but sales, a role often said to be lonely and vicious, described as a true team sport like basketball or baseball? A lot of people might laugh at that.
I consider LaSalle’s approach to running our sales team unique, but it’s not rocket science. I’m a part of a sales team that has grown a ton (more than doubled our headcount in the last year), but we haven’t lost our team-based culture. We all have individual goals and incentives, but we also understand and know our company’s annual revenue goal, and we work together to charge towards that number every year.
The team-based approach helps our retention because our sales people don’t feel isolated; instead they feel valued for more than just their individual production. We respect each other and understand that acting as a team and a unit gives us a better chance of reaching our own long term goals and the company’s.
Like any sport, communication of goals starts at the top. It’s up to the coaches to rally the team together and keep their eyes on the championship. Our CEO and CRO do the same for us: they make sure we all know our goals, the company’s goal, and how our production contributes to the latter. We know how we fit into the big picture and into the team.
The Game Plan
All good teams have a game plan to reach their goals. If you want to get to the championship, you have to know what to do to get there! So everyone on my team has the same weekly metrics and follows a proven sales process that, when executed, will lead to success. Because we all have the same metrics, teammates can push each other and compete to hit them… and often surpass them. We meet as a team every Thursday and hold each other accountable to our weekly activity and metrics.
We train together, we practice together, and we learn from and play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We meet every Wednesday to role play for an hour so that everyone can hear each other’s styles. We share leads, we make introductions, and we can have two sales specialists calling on the same account because they trust their teammate to do what’s best for the organization.
Even though we have individual goals, we all also play an important role on the team. We have sales people with different specialties and we have senior sales people who help develop and mentor the newer folks. We have junior sales people who have specific team responsibilities like timekeeping, metrics check-ins, and team event planning.
Defense Wins Championships
We’re freakin’ competitive – trust me, we all want to rank first and to “make varsity” … but we don’t kick each other in the knees to get there. We know our competition, we get together to “study the tapes,” and we protect what’s ours, individually and collectively. To quote Rudy, “No one comes into our house and pushes us around.”
But when one person loses a deal, we share the story so everyone can learn from it. When someone has a big success, we celebrate the win as a team. And most importantly, we have fun.
The Playoffs… and the Trophy
For us, the playoffs are the 4th quarter – we worked hard all year, but it’s time for the extra hours, the two-a-days, and the extra push to reach our goals. Our trophy is an incentive trip. Last year when the company hit our revenue goal, everyone went to Miami, and the year before we went to Napa.
There are obvious trade offs to the team-based approach. The team needs to be present in the office, sacrificing some of the flexibility some sales people expect. But the benefits are job satisfaction and a sense of belonging, both to a team and to a growing organization.
I’ll tell you what: I’m no professional athlete, but I’ve won a few club championships in my (much younger) heydays. And what I remember most from those moments isn’t the trophy I got, but the feeling of pushing myself harder than ever before and of working with my team. I would echo that sentiment about our successes at LaSalle, and I’d add that while we have pretty sweet trophies, Miami and Napa were way more fun with my team than had I gone alone.