Collaboration – The New Competition
The New Competition was voted by you as the number 7 Sales Trend for 2010. Over the coming years, we will see collaboration become the new competition. Markets around the world are crying out for collaboration as innovation and differentiation become scarce in a sea of commoditised products and services.
Sales people who see themselves as collaborators, both internally (colleagues, departments) and externally (customers, competitors), will prosper more than ever during 2010 and beyond.
A large 5 year long research study conducted by B. Rosenbaum, Business Horizons, entitled Seven Emerging Sales Competencies and published in Jan/Feb 2001 revealed what makes highly successful sales people. His research, among other key findings, showed that the most highly successful sales people are indeed collaborators. In his research of over 1,000 B2B sales people across 5 years he found that top performers:
- collaborated with colleagues and did not allow competitiveness to get in the way of good business, and often assisted their colleagues in achieving their best by sharing ideas, information and resources;
- orchestrated internal resources so as to benefit the company, its people, and the customers and their people;
- invested time building collaborative, customer focused relationships inside their organisation;
- created an alignment between the customers’ and suppliers’ strategic objectives;
- looked to further the interests of their customers’ firms as well as their own;
- expanded the customer’s understanding of what a business relationship can be;
- built a flexible relationship that is responsive to marketplace changes;
- creatively drew on the full resources of the firm or business;
- introduced customers to other suppliers and potentially valuable support resources; and,
- invested time building collaborative, customer focused relationships inside their organisation.
As I wrote recently, many sales teams are still held hostage by old school sales management practices and outdated mindsets that encourage internal competition, league tables and the like. Too many sales leaders are still stuck in the 1980’s with ‘greed is good’ and ‘carrot and stick’ philosophies which do not work in the long term and only serve to hold us back in a 21st century world. Most sales rewards are still self serving, endorsing selfishness which is completely at odds with the new world of collaboration and our natural state of being.
Daniel Pink’s new book Drive focuses a big spotlight on this very issue – what motivates us. He reports that what business thinks works by way of motivation is not what the science shows or the vast majority of people want.
Besides the commoditisation of products and services, Rosenbaum’s research, Daniel Pink’s findings, and other corroborating research, the advent of social media and the multiple levels of engagement we can now have with our clients, suppliers and key stakeholders means that we need to work collaboratively with each other. And this collaboration needs to take place across marketing, sales, service, supply, production and finance if we are going to create the ideas and solutions needed for our success in the 21st century.
Those 21st century enlightened salespeople will be the conductors or connectors of viable and valuable relationships across many levels. They will be open-minded, humble and astute, and they will see patterns of connection and synergy in many places. They will recognise that we are all interconnected and without kindness and cooperation we cannot exist. They will identify competency and harness talent to achieve effective solutions. They will know that they are working towards something larger than themselves. And they will know that their success is a shared success they will celebrate collectively.
So we need to get with the program and rethink our approach to sales motivation, sales mindset, sales skills, sales rewards and teamwork if we are to remain viable in this world. Collaboration calls for a team effort. Sales teams where everyone is pitted against each other to achieve ‘top dog’ status will be replaced by a ‘lead team’ approach. Companies that want to bring in new business and grow and develop existing customers will rely on the united hands of many – rather than just one. Successful sales people of 2010 and beyond will leverage the power of collaboration over competition because they understand that relationships never work if they are forced and manipulated, and that the sum is greater than its individual parts. Synergy and collaboration will prevail.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.