Sales teams in general are usually a collection of pretty individualistic people. Many of life’s narrow employment pigeon-holes don’t quite suit good salespeople. That’s why they are in sales! Managers never want to lose the benefit the business gets from these focused, “lone wolf” type individuals. It’s why wise sales managers measure and manage with a light touch.
Yet, if you look at very successful i.e. high growth, companies, while they attract capable individualists, they get an added bonus that smaller, lower growth companies miss. They get an incredibly high level of engagement from each salesperson to help the sales operation be successful. It’s like every individual salesperson is being supported by the know-how and experience of all the other salespeople.
This engagement and group intelligence, doesn’t come about by chance. It is “architected” into the sales operation using a common language. This is what turns a collection of individualists, into a powerful sales operation, while supporting individual autonomy and creativity.
The common language is used for all sales-related discussions. It describes how you create and close a deal, how a buyer moves through the buying process and the tools that move deals forward. It describes what “committed forecast” means and when a deal is stalled. It even describes what “closed” means and it sets the agenda for the manager-rep regular review.
The common language uses a light sales pipeline framework, relevant tools, a flow of ideas for prospecting and closing deals, and supports a meaningful manager-rep conversation. It creates a “checking in” rather than a “checking up” culture, and captures and communicates accumulated experience and learning across the sales team. And we recommend that the fastest way to make a common language relevant for salespeople, is to visualize the language.
Elay Cohen, author of SalesHood and a former head of sales productivity at Salesforce.com, brilliantly captures idea of the highly individualistic, yet highly engaged salesperson that benefits from connecting with team know-how: every salesperson is saying the same thing, in their own words.
Sales managers warm more to the idea of a common language than a dry “sales process”. For some reason, process and sales is an oxymoron. When Sales Enablement, or Sales Training talk about sales processes, what they really should be promoting – and creating – is a common language across the sales team and the company. Indeed, I cannot think of any greater contribution a sales support function can make, than embedding a common language across the sales team – and a language that the non-sales departments also use and respect. It takes a village to be individually successful. And the village speaks a common language.