Why Teamwork Traits Matter in Sales

BY Kathy Crosett
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Agile operations first gained ground as a buzzword in the software development industry. Since then, managers in other functional areas of business operations have adopted agile practices. Is there a place for agile in the sales? First, you’ll need to review agile in the context of why teamwork traits matter in sales.

Teamwork Traits Matter in Sales

How Agile Works

While agile software development allowed teams to roll out products and upgrades faster than they had before, Timothy Clark, who wrote on this topic for the Harvard Business Review, warns that “approximately half of organizations that undertake agile transformations fail in their attempts.” These failures may be happening because of the team’s culture. Clark points out, “Agile teams ultimately rely on psychological safety.”

In a typical scrum meeting, team members feel safe discussing ideas. As they bring up problems they are having, other members suggest solutions. In these give-​and-​take sessions, individuals acknowledge contributions by each other. And they will also point out when they believe something won’t work. The overall goal is to stay on schedule and on topic. Many of these meetings are held as standing sessions because nobody wants to spend an hour in the conference room. They want to get back to their computers and try out the new ideas they discussed.

Work Traits and Agile Success

When it comes to sales, your reps may have a “me against the world” mindset. In other words, they have numbers they’re determined to meet, and they don’t care what they have to do to get to that goal. You’ll know they possess this tendency if they’ve taken a psychometric assessment because the results will indicate their work traits. In addition, you’ll want to pay attention to other work traits that make a difference in successful team participation.

When you schedule meetings, watch which members enjoy collaborating, their level of feedback acceptance and whether they are naturally sociable. You’ll need to keep these work traits top of mind during a sales meeting you’d like to transition to an agile format.

If you typically require each rep to give an update on their progress, expand the meeting purpose. Ask each rep to come to the meeting with a challenge they’re facing with a prospect. They may be struggling to get a first meeting or to close the deal. In addition, ask them to present two or three sales plays they’ve tried.

After they complete their presentation, ask each rep to explain other tactics they have tried in a similar scenario. Be watchful for team members who may try to impress everyone, especially you, with tales of success. That behavior makes the rep who needs help feel insecure, and they’ll likely stop participating. When that happens, Clark explains, “low psychological safety” ensues and “elicits a fear response with survival as the goal.” 

Using Agile in Your Sales Meetings

You can establish a safer meeting environment by setting ground rules before you start holding these meetings. Ask participants to agree on “behavioral terms of engagement.” Clark points out that one key irritant is the tendency to interrupt a person before they’re done speaking. The group can agree that when a participant engages in this behavior, members have the responsibility to remind them that, “Alicia currently has the floor.” 

If one individual continues to struggle with using good teamwork traits, coach them on improving their listening skills and social awareness.

Your end goal in transitioning to the agile process may be to improve sales operations or shorten the sales cycle. But, you won’t be completely successful until you’ve improved the teamwork traits of each member of your sales department.

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