A good sales team is special, different in many ways from other departments in the company. When supported and encouraged to collaborate with the rest of the company, the sales people are invaluable for many reasons other than just closing the deal.

Think about it. These are the folks who are your face-to-face, boots on the ground, team. They have the first client and customer interactions and, as they manage their accounts, grow the relationship between the customer and the company. This gives them insight that other departments won’t necessarily have.

It takes a unique blend of compassion and competitiveness to be a great salesperson. The compassion is expressed as empathy towards the customer, listening and understanding the customer’s needs and concerns. Understanding leads to problem-solving and meeting those expressed needs. If the customer is happy with the product or solution, trust is built, and the positive cycle continues.

Once a salesperson has developed that trust and rapport the information they’ve gleaned can be shared with other departments. Collaboration, after all, is the key to overall company growth.

The specific, in-depth, knowledge (once shared) can affect everything from pricing to distribution. For instance, we had a customer that was using a fabricator to help them make some of their parts. Because of our relationship the customer introduced us so that we could potentially get more business from their conta. The fabricator, in return, received the same level of service and pricing we were giving to our current customers in the area. Obviously, this was a “win-win” for everyone.

These customer conversations are also invaluable when it comes to creating product and service plans. Members of the sales team are the first to know about customer needs and, as long as they compare notes with each other, will also know when a request for a new product or product modification could lead to new business or upsells to customers with similar needs.

A perfect example of this is with a door manufacturer that we’ve had an ongoing business relationship with for years. We have developed a great working relationship with them and both companies have prospered. They wanted to improve their product, so we worked closely together on a part that we could reduce the gauge and still get the same performance.

We had so much success with the transition from the old part to the new that we shared the experience with our other manufacturers. It ended up being a savings for multiple customers and we became more of a trusted advisor than vendor.

Another area where sales can potentially help out is promotion and advertising. Again, this is because they move physically in the spaces where customers work. They know what customers read, in print and online, through simple observation.

All of this engagement, empathy, communication and sharing isn’t easy. Add in other traits that a great salesperson should have- drive, focus, optimism- and it’s clear that it takes a unique person to fill the role.

It’s no wonder, given the intensity of the job, that the burn out rate is high. Turnover in the sales department, both voluntary and involuntary, runs between 20 percent and 34 percent annually in most industries.

To keep the best associates -and get the most from your sales team overall- it’s important to give them the support they need. As with any department, and as we’ve written about before, the technology they (and any other department) use must be on point and useful to them.

For new team members, it’s important to make sure there’s a mentor who can help them manage goals, learn about the industry, and have their back for at least the first three to six months.

Finally, be sure to give sales a shout-out when they go above and beyond, as they often will.

The bottom line: don’t keep your sales team on the sidelines. The hands-on knowledge they have of your customers is invaluable when incorporated properly into the rest of the company.

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