Attempts at better collaboration between team members, from the open plan office to enhanced digital connectedness, are not delivering the wished-for outcomes. Mobile technology is moving the sales environment in a positive direction.
Being able to creatively respond to new, and old, situations can increase your people’s effectiveness. Sales teams operate in ever-changing conditions. New customers, new competitors, new regulations, new financial pressures. And yet, in this changing space, generally it’s the same products and services that need to be sold! How do you create a team environment in which creativity flourishes and innovative selling comes to the fore?
When to gather, when to scatter?
Teams operate according to a rhythm of gathering and scattering. They gather to discuss things and scatter to do stuff. And in this lies one of the great challenges of managing a team and facilitating creativity and productivity. When do you gather? How often do you gather? Who gathers and who scatters? These questions are important because more gathering means less doing and more scattering means less thoughtful actions. We’re searching for a means that enhances both collaboration and efficiency.
How companies almost got it right
Strategic and technological solutions aimed at optimising the balance between gathering and scattering don’t always produce the wished-for outcomes. Let’s consider two critical shifts from the past few decades.
First, the move away from walled offices and cubicles to open plan offices and, secondly, the hyper-connectedness brought about by digital technology.
The idea behind open-plan offices is fairly obvious: fewer physical barriers between colleagues leads to greater transparency, more collaboration between them, and ultimately more creative solutions to problems. Right? Not necessarily. It may not be the case in your office but a recent Harvard study concludes that open-plan offices tend to make workers less collaborative. Others, like Vice’s Hannah Ewens is despondently wishing for a ban on open plan offices!
The Harvard study, which was the first to empirically measure both face-to-face and electronic interaction before and after the adoption of open office architecture, found that volume of face-to-face interaction decreased by approximately 70%, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. Open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and instant messaging.
But communication is communication, it doesn’t really matter whether it happens in person or digitally. Is it though? Team Human’s Douglas Rushkoff begs to differ, which brings us to the second point of digital hyper-connectedness.
Rushkoff notes that while we’re now more connected than ever, it tends to happen at the cost of creativity. The digital landscape enables us to share more information, more effectively but it’s not a space in which wisdom can be transmitted and creativity can flourish. Again, the human response to socially isolate ourselves is apparent while creativity depends on people being present with one another.
Are there more successful ways to stimulate collaboration and creativity in sales team environments?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is – it’s about what kinds of conversations you have when you meet face to face with your team. If the in-person conversations are simply report backs of activity or an interrogation of call report details, it’s unlikely that anything creative will happen. However, if the conversations are about challenges, opportunities and new ideas, the team will be creative and get creative.
What can sales team leaders do to ensure this kind of quality conversation is happening?
Using technology to build more creative sales teams
Sales managers are often torn between regularly gathering with their reps to better understand what’s happening in the field, and freeing them from time spent on admin and meetings keeping them from valuable time with customers.
Skynamo’s mobile sales app brings balance to the gathering-scattering issue. Managers are constantly connected to reps and able to coach them to be more efficient in the field, while their face-to-face meetings are also more productive.
One of our customers, Interstat, reports that their reps no longer spend unnecessary time at the office but are rather out in the field selling. And when they do have weekly meetings, everyone is already on the same page and able to think through issues together.
Reps no longer need to visit the office as regularly as they used to before Skynamo. Now, they only go in once a week to touch base with management, compared to having to go in twice daily, five days a week.
Managers now receive a daily report from reps and can question matters of major importance immediately. These discussions are now a constant, everyday thing and no longer a build-up to the next sales meeting. ‘We’re constantly in contact, so our Friday meetings are relaxed times to share with each other how our weeks have been or comparing problems we ran into and thinking through what we might need to pay attention to going forward,’ shares Lisa Joao Campbell, sales manager at Interstat.