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How to Avoid the Downside of Collaborative Selling


downside of collaborationEarly in my sales career, I was told that the way to become a top performer and close larger deals was to sell collaboratively by bringing the right resources into the deal to maximize the outcome. The more relevant and credible the people involved, the better. These key resources would provide sufficient input along the way to help eliminate surprises. But sometimes, the same people you bring in can get out of role and essentially take over your deal! Needless to say, this can cause huge problems.

Here’s one situation I recently encountered. A sales rep was working an opportunity that had been in her pipeline for some time. She followed her sales process and brought in management and other key resources at the appropriate times to help broaden relationships and gain additional information on executive priorities, goals, strategies, etc. The prospect/customer totally understood her role as a sales person (aka, quarterback) and appreciated her “can do” attitude in helping them achieve their goals.

Then suddenly she had a new sales manager who asked her to introduce him to the key decision makers on her big deal. She briefed the new sales manager on all aspects of the what, who, when, why of the deal and they spent a good amount of time role-playing this important introduction meeting.

Fast-forward to the meeting:  The new sales manager, right from the start, went out of role and high jacked the meeting right from under her. All questions were being directed to him. He took copious notes and let everyone know he will provide the follow-up from this meeting. He stepped out of his role and essentially took over her deal!

Another situation that comes to mind was with a large team who was prepping for a finals presentation. All levels were in attendance and many days were spent role playing different situations that could arise.

Fast forward to the meeting:  The head of customer service jumped in and answered questions related to implementation, licensing and terms – none of which were his domain. He stepped out of role and caused confusion to the internal team by promising things that had not been discussed – areas that the sales person could have easily deflected and learned more before responding. From there on in, the customer perceived this individual as the lead to this account and addressed the difficult questions to him – again, high jacking the meeting.

Getting everyone involved is a great way to ensure that all levels of your prospect’s or customer’s organization are being addressed and allow for internal collaboration on how to best respond to their needs. But when any one of these key resources gets out of role, it can cause chaos both internally and with the customer.

Stay in role. The head of product development should not be talking about customer service issues. The head of implementation should not be talking about licensing issues. The head of customer service should not be providing a high-level implementation plan. Stay in role and let the sales person do their job.

Janice MarsJanice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more than 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter

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