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Why a Sales Team Full of Winning Players Could Be a Losing Team

 
 

Sometimes in life, there is a drive towards a certain formula. Often we are divided into groups with similar preferences or activities, but what happens when everyone has to work together rather than just agree?

After a crazy year where I gained more responsibility on my own team, I started wondering: How do teams come together?

After speaking with some of the leaders here at Salesforce, it became clear there is more thought given to putting together a winning team than I originally realized.

There are a couple areas of life where you see team composition working or failing. Often, successful teams achieve what seems impossible.

Sports is the obvious analogy. Players are assigned positions, and different characteristics — speed vs. agility, strength vs. skill, aggression vs. control — mean players are better or worse at different roles.

Imagine a soccer team full of just 11 Cristiano Ronaldo clones, or a basketball lineup with five Kevin Durant clones, or a football offensive unit with 11 Cam Newtons. Sure, it’d be fun to watch, but would success be sustainable as a team of individuals? Though they would share the same (considerable) strengths, they would also share the same weaknesses. With the same set of skills, they would be limited and inflexible when approaching new strategies.

The more fun analogy: boy bands. Stay with me here...

You’ve got Tommy, Tim, Charles, Blake and Johansen — or any other set of names where there’s the bad boy, golden child, sensitive one, athletic one, and the artistic one. Yes, they all generally need to be able to sing, must have some aspect of athleticism to dance, dexterity for their instruments. Beyond surface-level stereotypes, you need something deeper. You need to understand motivation.

Without the right combination of players — those willing to harmonize, and those comfortable in the back, zoning out on their instruments — success will be short lived. It matters so much less that each of them have particular skills, abilities and traits, but so much more that they can gel, be managed, and bring different preferences. Otherwise, you have a quick recipe for in-fighting, unhealthy competition, and all of the sudden you’ve got a band breaking up to the dismay of millions of teens (as well as some in-the-closet-about-pop adults).

This same concept applies to every other team you’ll come across, whether that’s on the soccer field, in a group project, or in your team at work. Following a recipe with a rigid structure and singular approach will never be as successful as highlighting the strengths, and adapting to potential weaknesses, of your unique mix of people.

In sales, you can have the leading rep who always hits quota. It’s nice to think you can simply replicate that person and have an incredible company. For operations, maybe you have a group of coordinators who never hesitate to answer the late emails or who wake up early to keep up with demand. At the big consulting firms, you have a lot of A players, but then what happens? The vast majority end up burnt out by the end of their first year (if not their first month).

Why does this happen? There is no counterbalance. You don’t have the B player — the guy who might not stay late, but who also doesn’t hesitate to tell you to come grab a beer or take a walk. When an A player feels on the verge of burning out, it’s sometimes those small gestures that keep them sane.

As a manager, you face the challenge of providing enough attention to keep the go-getters strong while also helping those middle players reach their potential. When these two groups perform well, the independent contributors won’t require as much management. You have less pressure to get them to perform and more room to let them be independent and play to their strengths.

In summary, you need the right mix of players. Remember:

  • Not everyone can be a go-getter

  • Not everyone can be a unifying force

  • Not everyone can lead

  • Not everyone can be independent

You need the right combination of go-getters, independent solo contributors, and those in between, to create a winning sales team.

It matters so much less that each of them have particular skills, abilities and traits, but so much more that they can gel, be managed, and bring different preferences.”

Derek Guinn | Account Executive, Salesforce

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Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"
 
 
 

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