When you think of a career in sales, regular collaboration probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
In fact, you may think the exact opposite – and you probably wouldn’t be alone.
Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street perpetuate the idea that sales is a cutthroat, every-person-for-themself type of job. And when you hear about “quotas” and “territories” – well, it makes sense.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Today, modern companies and sales professionals are realizing the value of collaboration. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the best and most truthful information comes from situations in which you leverage the people around you.
It’s not that sales has lost its edge. Salespeople are still working toward their individual quotas, still monitoring their territories, and at the end of the day, they’re still after their commission.
But, they’re also working together.
This collaboration will create better salespeople and ultimately, drive bigger impact. So how can companies not just encourage it, but practice it?
By injecting collaborative learning into your sales training, you’re setting up your sales reps for success from day one. Not to mention, you’ll be reaping all the benefits that come along with an inclusive and cohesive workspace. You train your employees on your tools, such as CRM software, so it’s crucial to train them on peer-level learning as well.
What is collaborative learning and what does it look like in a business?
First things first – what exactly is collaborative learning, and what does it look like in a business?
As its name implies, collaborative learning is an environment in which two or more people are working together to learn or solve problems. In doing this, they’re able to lean on one another’s skillsets – particularly with skills an individual may not possess on their own.
“Contrary to the top-down student-teacher approach employed by most organizations today where employees non-interactively receive information, Collaborative Learning relies on bottom-up peer learning.”
Source: What is Collaborative Learning? – 360Learning.com
By practicing collaborative learning in even larger groups, you can get a tremendous wealth of knowledge – even if each individual contributes just one thing. This alone is invaluable, as people can combine their different life experiences so that the group can make more informed plans and decisions.
In business – and particularly, in a sales setting – this may take different forms. Collaborative learning can be as simple as two account executives putting their heads together to close a deal, or as elaborate as a cross-functional project between your sales, product, and marketing teams.
And while both of those events sound really great, how can we ensure they actually happen when it matters?
Let’s face it: what your new employee learns in training is what they’ll take with them on the job. To ensure your sales team fosters a collaborative environment, you have to integrate collaborative learning from the get-go.
Why you need to inject collaborative learning into your sales training
Collaboration shouldn’t be an afterthought, or a last resort. It should be implemented from the start, so that your sales team will take it with them as they settle in to their new role.
Here are three reasons you should include it at the beginning.
1. Collaborative learning fosters an environment of inclusivity
While sales has historically been seen as an independent – and even competitive – industry, more and more companies are starting to realize the value of collaboration.
Quotas aside – let’s take a minute to think about your account executives and who they really are.
With or without collaborative learning, sales is a high-pressure role. There’s a strong desire to succeed, and that expectation takes a toll on your employees (even if they pretend it doesn’t).
Encouraging collaborative learning sends the message that, while you expect your employees to perform, you also expect them to be human. A little friendly competition has its place, but you also expect them to work together, help one another, and lift up their colleagues.
Creating this environment, and continuing to foster it, means more than you may think.
The impact that collaborative learning can have on your business goals is important (and we’ll get there next – I promise), but the impact it has on your employees and their wellbeing can be even greater.
2. Integrating collaborative learning sets them up for collaborative selling
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
And, I’m sure you know it isn’t actually about our furry four-legged friend.
The expression comes from a proverb claiming that people can’t – or more likely, won’t – change their established patterns of behavior. And while this sentiment may not be 100 percent accurate, there is certainly some truth behind it.
That is exactly why you should introduce collaborative learning as soon as your new employee signs their contract, as part of their sales onboarding.
Picture this – you hire fifteen new account executives. On their first day, they quickly make their introductions, and then they’re all sent to their desks to watch training videos and explore your sales software with their headphones on.
How much collaboration can you really expect six months down the line?
Alternatively, you could have them watch the training video together and then talk through each scenario, using real-life experiences to help them come to a solution.
Six months later when Salesperson A gets pushback from a prospect over a particular product feature, they’ll remember that Salesperson B experienced something similar at their last job. They put their collective heads together; maybe Salesperson B even jumps on a call, and ultimately, the deal is done.
Who wouldn’t want that?
3. Collaborative selling improves the customer experience
In sales, closing the deal is important.
But it’s not the most important.
It’s what comes after you close the deal. That’s right – the relationship you build (and maintain) with your customers is mission-critical. Collaborative selling can help you ensure that relationship – and your customer experience – remains best-in-class.
How? Well, when you encourage employees across your customer to jump into conversations, you make sure that your customer is always getting the most complete picture of your product and brand.
It may be your product manager jumping on a call to help explain a complicated feature, or your support specialist communicating directly with a customer to jump into the project management tool and expedite their request. In high-stakes cases, a salesperson may tap an executive to reach out to a prospect who has gone dark.
What this really means is that your customer is getting more attention and receiving more information than they would have been able to from the salesperson alone, ultimately leveling their expectations, personalizing their experience, and setting the relationship up for success.
Sales doesn’t have to be the dog-eat-dog world that people may think it is. A great sales strategy can help boost your public image and create word of mouth around your brand.
By injecting collaborative learning into your sales training, you’ll be improving the way your sales team works with one another, the rest of the company, and most importantly, with their customers.
Claire Brenner is the content marketing team lead at G2.com. Hailing from the University of Dayton, Claire found her way back home to Chicago upon joining G2 in May of 2016. In her free time, you’ll find Claire practicing calligraphy, seeking out the city’s best BYOB sushi restaurants, and planning her next trip.