Several years ago I took a job for a well-known financial institution. While I knew the support and administration side of the industry well, this was a sales position. My new manager assured me that I would have extensive training and I should be able to make the transition from operations to sales seamlessly
After traveling to a different city for three all-expenses paid days of training, I returned to the office with all the tools, resources and confidence I needed to be successful in the position. Or so I thought.
No amount of training could have prepared me for the highly competitive environment that was my new workplace. Instead of the collaborative team atmosphere that I was accustomed to, the office was merely a touchstone for people to make phone calls and close deals. Most of the sales people didn’t engage or talk to each other much. Every person in the office was “too busy” or “not paid” to help one another regardless of how big or small the need. The sales team was so busy managing their own pipelines and figuring ways to close their own deals that they had little time or interest in helping others do the same
The only time the team came together was for monthly sales meetings during which the conversation focused solely on production numbers and how the company stacked up against competitors. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was how many deals were closed.
Not surprisingly I didn’t last long in this environment. After a few months I moved on to a different company in a different capacity. At first I figured that what I had experienced was merely the difference between administration and sales and that the collaboration that I was missing really had no business in a competitive sales environment. But then I began to wonder:
- What would happen if seasoned sales people collaborated with others and shared best practices and knowledge instead of guarding their secrets to success so carefully? Wouldn’t that help close more deals more efficiently and accelerate the learning process for new sales people?
- Could sales people specialize to become experts in specific products, geographic locations, etc. and then work together to refer specialized deals to their respective experts, perhaps for a referral fee?
- Collaboration fosters creative problem solving and innovation. Competitive advantages often stem from the ability to find a faster, better, more effective way than competitors.
- Increased productivity, a shorter learning curve and improved efficiency mean more closed deals. More closed deals means happy sales people and a positive bottom line impact for the company.
Collaboration and competition do not have to be mutually exclusive, but consider how far the organization can go with a little collaboration. Even in sales.