Collaboration Makes Good Sales Great

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Sales organizations that foster a culture of collaboration are increasingly gaining a competitive edge over those that keep sales activities siloed.

This was a key finding from "The Growing Gap Between Good and Great," the latest sales best practices study published by Miller Heiman Research Institute. After a survey of 1,100 sales professionals, the institute determined that world-class sales organizations share three key attributes: The customer is at the core of the business; there is a culture of collaboration; and organizations are calibrated for success or know the reasons they are successful.

According to the study, 91 percent of organizations identified as "world class" agreed that collaboration was a key element of their sales strategy. Only 30 percent of the other survey respondents noted collaboration as key.

"Collaboration is really more than 'Let's just play nice,'" comments Joe Galvin, chief research officer and executive vice president at Miller Heiman. "Collaboration is a structural framework, language, and terminology that allows multiple knowledge pieces to come together."

In this new era of selling marked by an open transparency sustained by social media, it's not uncommon for a sales rep with account knowledge to team up with a pricing or presales technical specialist or financial specialist to help structure a deal. However, Galvin offers the following caveat: A company can't fully take advantage of all of its resources and knowledge until it is focused on the customer; has a defined view of its sales structure, accounts, and opportunities frameworks; and uses "language that's the same" across all departments.

Companies can unite their diverse groups by deploying collaboration technology, such as Salesforce.com Chatter, Jive, IGLOO, Telligent, or Yammer. According to "The Value of Mobile and Social for CRM," a recent study by Nucleus Research, organizations that relied on social CRM technologies such as collaboration software saw 11.8 percent growth in overall productivity.

"Collaboration is one of the next great knowledge frontiers," Galvin maintains. "That will require a fundamental cultural shift to really create this notion of a collaborative culture [around the use of a] social platform. Its real value proposition is opening up a culture and getting out of this Stone Age thinking of hoarding information."

As a bonus, coupling enterprise collaboration capabilities with coaching and training through a sales performance management solution can add to the benefit of either software. For example, Salesforce.com integrated its social sales performance management platform Work.com, which is collaboration-enabled through Chatter, with the Sales Cloud Salesforce automation system.

"It's social, it's fun, and it's very peer-to-peer," comments Daniel Debow, senior vice president of Salesforce Work.com. "Today's selling has transformed. It's a team sport [where you] bring [together] salespeople, solutions experts, and even marketing people."

Inbound marketing software maker HubSpot, a Salesforce.com CRM and Work.com customer, uses the platform to enable sales coaching and real-time feedback, and to empower employees to share team goals. Deploying Work.com has led to a 12 percent increase in HubSpot's close rates.

"Employee behaviors have started to model against consumer behaviors in the way that social media has caused for us to be much more transparent," Mark Roberge, senior vice president of sales and services at HubSpot, tells CRM. "It's much more real time and social across our entire group."

HubSpot currently has about 325 employees across sales and services using the system. Work.com allows the team to identify monthly goals for each salesperson and measure them against the skills they are developing or need to develop on the side.

At a minimum, employees' sales performance is evaluated once a month, and sales managers are evaluated to see if they are aligning reps' day-to-day activities with organizational goals. To socialize the experience, employees can earn badges or award contributions using Work.com, and give another HubSpot employee $100 per quarter for collaborating "on a big win or helping you on a project," Roberge says.

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