The science of selling has a long and dynamic history. But for the last one hundred years or so, companies have by and large subscribed to the same practice—siloing their sales departments from the rest of the company.
That means members of other teams (marketing, customer service, product) don’t engage or collaborate with sales. Even many sales departments today remain in their own worlds, internally competitive, yet inherently separate.
Companies continue to propagate this sales model for one reason: it works.
I’ve been in sales for over a decade and have seen the siloed approach fuel many multi-billion dollar companies. But over the last few years, the industry has begun to shift.
A more collaborative approach has caught on among a new generation of salespeople.
And in my opinion, it’s long overdue. Sales should be integrated into the whole organization as a collaborative component of the larger whole.
Here’s why an integrated sales model is taking over:
Companies that encourage collaboration enjoy a data advantage.
Some twenty-odd years ago, internet companies learned an important lesson: data collected from the sales department could be used across various teams to improve performance and guarantee a more intelligence-driven approach.
The data was useful for retargeting efforts, as well as enhanced analysis and improved customer success. Marketing departments could use it to inform their PR strategy—how they designed landing pages, what changes they made to the company brand, and what ads they ran.
Unsurprisingly, sales teams also performed better when they had undiluted access to the intelligence and data of other company departments.
Heck, companies saw their sales teams could even turn around and sell the data they collected. In other words, using an integrated sales model elevated the performance and ability of the entire company. This has been proven in more recent years by companies like Google and Facebook.
Their success paved the way for the popularity of the integrated approach, which is currently taking over the startup world.
Adopting an integrated sales model is appropriate for the shifting cultural landscape.
Increased revenue isn’t the only explanation for the popularity of an integrated sales model. The world and the culture it supports have changed drastically over the last twenty years, and simply put, people now expect and want collaboration.
Of course, collective consciousness is apt to change. As a generation, millennials are more communicative. From what I’ve seen, younger salespeople prefer collaborative company environments that allow team members to work across departments.
When you consider the rise in popularity of things like open floor plans, this makes a lot of sense. Millennials crave authenticity, and the companies run by this generation seek to deliver on that. A more open culture, where information travels unencumbered is more conducive to authentic outcomes. Politics and dishonesty breed in shadows and silence, after all.
The truth is that if you insist on using a siloed sales model, you’re putting your company at a disadvantage––not only because it prevents communication, but because it flies directly in the face of what your talent likely wants.
A collaborative approach still allows for competition.
The most common point raised against the idea of integrated sales teams is that they discourage competition.
Salespeople, so the thinking goes, are inspired first and foremost by money and by making as much as they possibly can. How founders or company leaders design the sales processes, then, should above all encourage competition as much as possible.
To an extent, I agree. Competition is important for increasing sales. Yet sales teams can and do remain competitive even in more collaborative environments. When salespeople are allowed to collaborate both with other salespeople and other departments, they’re generally more successful. It elevates the bottom line and helps everyone succeed.
Integration also encourages a healthier kind of competition, if for no other reason than increased transparency and accountability. It cuts down on backstabbing and dirty politics.
Ultimately, an integrated sales model improves communication and overall customer experience.
At the end of the day, what truly matters for any given company is the quality and health of your customers’ experiences.
So it’s just common sense that if your teams don’t communicate with each other––thereby restricting teams’ access to potentially game-changing bits of information––your final product and the customer experience are threatened. It allows for bottlenecks and unaddressed customer pain points.
If you’re building a company today, look at the companies in your space that employ an integrated sales approach and design your processes so as to mirror them. The key, ultimately, is embracing collaboration as a good thing. That’s what we’re seeing, at ShipChain, and it’s what’s being evinced by the Googles and Facebooks of the world.
Will there be a new and more popular sales model developed at some point in the future that’s removed from integration? You can count on it. The science of sales will continue to evolve.
But integration is where we are now—it’s the proven model for succeeding in this moment of transparency and collaboration.