All organizations are systems of conversation, and a sales team is no different. Every day, sales leaders are having conversations with the people on their team, and those salespeople are having conversations with potential clients and customers. Whether internal or external, the quality and timing of those conversations is critical to sales’ ability to meet their revenue targets and goals. These conversations either produce value or create waste, and the sales leader who understands the design for creating value through conversation has the ability to unlock a new level of productivity and alignment for their team.
So, what is that design for creating valuable conversation? There is plenty of published advice out there about “how to sell” and how to “manage” a conversation with clients. Salespeople are taught to follow scripts and best practices for getting a prospective buyer across the line, and most sales leaders hope their team’s conversations are valuable. But we’ve found these types of conversations tend to be prescriptive and over-generalized (sometimes even manipulative). A truly valuable conversation requires awareness, purpose, and follows a few core principles.
The reliable design for conversations that produce value and sustained success features a repeating cycle made up of three elements: Align, Act, and Adjust. When all three are present and happen in the right timing, you and your team accomplish more with less time, money, and stress. When any are missing or ill-timed, you’ll find yourself and your people using more resources and achieving less—likely with more disagreement, fatigue, and strained relationships.
We call this three-part cycle the Cycle of Value, and it can be used by sales leaders in aligning and inspiring their team, and by salespeople in the buying cycle as a way to interact with prospective clients and customers for greater results.
The reason a sales team exists is to earn revenues for the organization, and the ability to coordinate your team’s highest level of achievement starts with Alignment. Problems with teamwork, creativity, and resource allocation are largely due to poor alignment. Well-connected teams, however, tend to be resourceful and innovative when challenges arise.
There are three elements of alignment:
When team conversations have all three, there is authentical alignment rather than cheap agreement. Many leaders confuse these two, but alignment moves beyond agreement by requiring allocation of sufficient time, money, and talent to execute. It confronts reality, and when done early, it gives everyone a better chance at achieving their goals, which generates energy and engagement.
When Alignment is strong, you have the commitment and intelligence of a connected community on your side. Without it, you’re betting on the self-serving talents of a disconnected group. While many sales teams have high levels of autonomy and independence, that structure is most reliable when this foundation of authentic Alignment to shared purpose exists first. Then you can count on self-supervising action that’s grounded in the common purpose of the team, contributing to results you’re all focused on achieving.
Act conversations make commitments explicit and launch coordinated action. The three elements of action are:
The evidence for Act is action—if people spend more time talking about work (gossip, opinion, excuses, and blame) than actually doing work, the Align and Act parts of the cycle are likely weak. Managing these conversations well frees people on your team to make their unique and specific contributions in a coordinated way. Once people commit, help them take the first successful action, and then adjust often.
The Adjust cycle isn’t about perfection, it’s about correction. Rarely do things go according to plan the first time, so there’s always something to learn from the actions we take regardless of how close they got us to our goals. Because learning accelerates value, we should do it as often as we can. A well-managed Adjust drives value by revealing best practices, solving problems, eliminating waste, and further deepening of alignment.
There are two elements of adjustment:
Great occasions for adjustment include:
Conversation may be the most unexamined, widely used system of value creation in the world. It may sound simple, but a well-connected, well-aligned sales team that practices the above design is a powerhouse for value creation (and likely for longer-term relationships with satisfied customers). By paying attention to our conversations and their impact, and by designing our conversations for greater connection and value, we increase the effectiveness of our teams and the business at large.
To learn more about how our other tools for high-value conversation and authentic connection apply to sales management and sales team challenges, send us a note and we’ll be in touch.