Cross-functional collaboration in sales management
Kirjoittanut: Hassan Chakir - tiimistä SYNTRE.
Cross-functional collaboration in sales management
Written by: Emil Makkula, Hassan Chakir & Samu Nyqvist
Cross-functional collaboration is defined as a process where different teams, departments, or individuals with different areas of expertise and skillsets work together for a common objective, i.e., to increase sales effectiveness. (BigCommerce, 2021). With the world getting increasingly interconnected, this type of collaboration is increasingly becoming more prominent in the field of business. In this essay, we will talk about the potential benefits and challenges of cross-functional collaboration in sales management and the strategies and practices to follow and use in your own organization.
- Benefits of cross-functional collaboration in sales management
When it comes to sales, it is particularly important for the salesperson to be informed about current trends, what the customer needs, and what the company can offer. Salespeople are often at the very frontier in attaining new customers and raking in the profits. However, to support them in this, there is often a wide network of other functions, such as marketing and customer service, that back them up. These functions are the most direct links between the company and its customers (Ryals and Knox 2001), which is why it is vital for them to collaborate.
Collaboration between salespeople and individuals working in marketing and customer service, areas which are closely related to customers (Krohmer, Homburg, and Workman 2002; Royals and Knox 2001), has been found beneficial to enhance customer value creation and sales performance (Hughes, Le Bon, and Malshe 2012). It is essential from the perspective of sales performance to coordinate these functions because they together hold the key to fully addressing customer needs.
Sales and marketing cross-functional collaboration
Sales and marketing collaboration allow for superior customer value creation and enhanced performance because the marketing function can supplement sales by collecting market intelligence, and anticipating and addressing customers’ needs (Homburg, Workman, and Krohmer, 1999). To manage customer relationships, salespeople also depend on marketing for any customer and brand related information. Collaboration between sales and marketing allows the salesperson to balance their preferences against what the firm and its product portfolio can offer and find a match between the two (Rouziès et al. 2005).
Figure 1: Graphical analysis of (sales-marketing) interaction effects and sales performance. (D. P. Claro and C. Ramos, 2018). By creating strong ties with a few marketing colleagues, the salesperson gains access to rich, reliable, and reinforced knowledge thus leading to enhanced sales performance.
Sales and customer service cross-functional collaboration
Sales and customer service functions have complementary goals and competencies (Homburg and Jensen, 2007; Jasmand, Blazevic, and de Ruyter 2012). Customer service can aid sales by helping customers satisfy their needs and providing insights for solution and problem-solving. Customer service function has direct access to customer’s full record with the firm, which combined with the knowledge of firm’s product portfolio, gives customer service integrated knowledge and vital insights in addressing problems and developing solutions. By establishing ties with customer service, the salesperson’s capabilities in managing customer relationships and customer orientation are improved.
Figure 2: Graphical analysis of (sales-customer service) interaction effects and sales performance. (D. P. Claro and C. Ramos, 2018). Salespeople benefit from maintaining multiple, weaker ties with customer service functions that offer access to a vast array of knowledge and information but require limited resource investment.
“Tie strength reflects the frequency, importance, and closeness of ties the salesperson has created with colleagues in the firm” (Brown and Reingen 1987; Steward et al. 2010). “Total ties correspond to the number of ties a salesperson creates with colleagues in the firm, reflecting the ways in which the information and knowledge that a salesperson can access or is granted affects the extent to which he or she influences or is influenced by the surrounding network” (Everett and Borgatti 2005).
III. Challenges of cross-functional collaboration in sales management
Sales management in a cross-functional environment can be incredibly challenging and strain-inducing for the manager. This is because marketing and customer service functions have specific orientations, goals, knowledge, and competencies, which must be managed with those of salespeople. Sales managers must manage ties with colleagues in those respective functions in diverse ways.
Research shows that cross-functional collaboration efforts between sales and marketing are neither easy nor cooperative; salespersons have trouble coordinating contacts with marketing colleagues due to Non cohesion, distrust, conflict, and/or mutual negative stereotyping. (Anderson 1996; Beverland, Steel, and Dapiran 2006). And although sales and customer service share functional similarities, they have conflicting interests: where salespeople want to make latest sales, customer service representatives want to help customer get the most from products they already have (Jasmand, Blazevic, and de Ruyter 2012). Often the firm’s control systems reinforce these interests: “assessment of salespeople’s performance is traditionally based on latest sales and sales volumes, but rewards for customer service workers are based on the levels of customer satisfaction and retention.
IV. Strategies for successful cross-functional collaboration in sales management
Organizations are coming to understand the value of cross-functional cooperation in today’s global economy to attain economic success. Organizations may increase customer happiness, streamline operations, and boost sales success with the support of effective cross-functional communication.
However, due to the various backgrounds, viewpoints, and priorities of various departments and stakeholders, achieving successful cross-functional collaboration in sales management can be difficult. Thus, organizations must create a strategic strategy that considers the special difficulties and complexity involved in cross-functional cooperation.
A. Leadership and support:
Cross-functional team (CFT) cooperation and the development of a collaborative culture inside an organization depend heavily on effective leadership. By providing the required resources, removing obstacles, and outlining clear expectations for cooperation, leaders must show their dedication to cross-functional collaboration.
Communication is critical for the success of any cross-functional team. Team leaders should be carefully selected based on their exceptional communication skills, record of accomplishment of clear and efficient communication, and ability to lead by example. Since each department often has its own terminology and concepts, team leaders must identify potential areas of confusion and encourage patience and empathy. They should also document and share definitions of commonly used jargon to ensure everyone is well-informed and engaged. (Serena, 2022)
A mirroring structure can be beneficial for cross-functional teams in large companies. For example, a project team could include managers and directors from distinct functions, with one end-to-end accountable leader overseeing each function and one overseeing everything. It is essential to have a decision-making substitute for each function in case someone misses a meeting. At IBM Global Services, mid-level managers can step in with decision-making authority and serve as the first line of defense for cross-functional escalation issues. (Benham, 2015)
An effective team leader should possess a range of skills, including the ability to delegate tasks, mediate discussions, and adhere to project schedules. They should also act as an advocate for the cross-functional team (CFT) within the company. When choosing a team leader, prioritizing emotional intelligence is key. It may be tempting to choose the best engineer or highest-performing salesperson, but soft skills are just as important. The team leader must be able to help others work together effectively. A project manager can also be an option for a CFT leader. They may not contribute directly to the final deliverables, but they can keep everyone on track and prevent one area of expertise from being emphasized over another. (Mark, 2022)
B. Clearly defined goals and objectives:
Organizations must establish precise, quantifiable goals and objectives that are in line with their overall company strategy if they are to successfully collaborate across functional boundaries. This may ensure that all departments and interested parties are working toward the same objectives and can monitor their progress.
Cross-functional teams, made up of individuals from different departments within an organization, can often face challenges due to differing agendas and legacy processes that hinder performance. To prevent discord, project managers can define clear project goals, mapping them back to the deliverables needed to achieve them, and ensure team members work collaboratively to develop goals that are measurable and clearly defined. Establishing clear roles and allowing everyone on the team to contribute their thoughts can also help improve goal quality and foster ownership in the project. (Benham, 2015)
To ensure your cross-functional team stays on track, establish a clear roadmap outlining exactly what you want the team to achieve, and transparent expectations for each team member’s responsibility and deadlines. Communicating how each team member’s effort will contribute to the company’s overall success can also help keep them engaged and committed. Set milestones and demonstrate appreciation along the way to show team members that their work is valued. (Serena, 2022)
Before forming a cross-functional team, it is crucial to establish specific project goals by identifying scope, time, and resources required. Working with stakeholders to define what needs to be accomplished and writing a formal project charter can help ensure goals are explicitly described, risks are identified, and each team member’s role is clearly defined. (Benham, 2015)
C. Open communication channels and regular meetings:
Effective communication is crucial for cross-functional collaboration. Organizations need to establish open and transparent communication channels that facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and feedback between different departments and stakeholders. Regular meetings can help to ensure that all parties are on the same page and can address any issues or concerns in a timely manner. (Serena, 2022)
When it comes to cross-functional teams, effective communication is essential. Not only should team leaders be highly communicative, but all team members should be encouraged to communicate consistently and effectively. Since many individuals on these teams do not interact regularly, it is important to open channels for collaboration. Using company chat applications like Slack can help team members communicate seamlessly, but more comprehensive tools that align goals and timelines and provide access to communication histories can further enhance collaboration. (Serena, 2022)
To establish effective communication strategies, limit formal meetings as much as possible and explore other options to keep everyone informed. Stand-up meetings can be an efficient option for face-to-face team meetings, while technology like Slack, Microsoft Teams and other software options can help everyone stay in touch and share files. (Serena, 2022)
D. Shared performance metrics and KPIs:
To measure the success of cross-functional collaboration, organizations need to establish shared performance metrics and KPIs that reflect the contributions of different departments and stakeholders to the sales process. This can help to promote accountability, identify areas for improvement, and recognize the contributions of different teams and individuals. (Lucidchart)
Creating effective cross-functional teams requires agility and the ability to adapt to change quickly, often taking an agile approach to ensure that investments, tools, or marketing campaigns work together seamlessly. Once established, it is crucial to continually evaluate and refine the processes and tools in place, optimizing collaboration and building innovative products. However, building and managing these teams can be challenging, and it is important to remain flexible and adaptable, providing feedback to improve operational efficacy, and tweaking processes and tools as needed to improve outcomes. Managers must evaluate progress and performance, recruiting more members or adjusting timelines when necessary. (Mark 2022)
E. Cross-functional training and development programs:
Small organizations may create teams with a diverse set of talents by utilizing cross-functional training and development programs, which can protect them from some of the unavoidable business-related risks. Employees that are trained to perform numerous tasks simultaneously save on payroll costs and form a cohesive team that can cover for one another when necessary. Additionally, it makes employees more aware of other aspects of the company, which can improve problem-solving and teamwork. Employees with a variety of skills are less likely to get bored at work and seem to like it more, which makes them better teammates. Additionally, cross-training fosters a culture of group success where staff members can cooperate to solve problems and take pride in their accomplishments. (Chron, 2021)
Organizations must engage in cross-functional training and development initiatives that provide staff members with the abilities and knowledge necessary for productive departmental and functional collaboration. This may foster a culture of cooperation inside the company and assist in fostering trust, respect, and understanding across various teams and stakeholders.
Adopting these tactics enables organizations to successfully collaborate across functional lines in sales management, reaping the rewards of improved sales performance, streamlined operations, and increased customer satisfaction.
V. Best practices for building effective cross-functional sales teams
Developing cross-functional sales processes and workflows, establishing a shared understanding of customer needs and expectations, promoting cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making, encouraging cross-functional celebration of successes, and recognizing individual contributions are all necessary for effective cross-functional sales teams. Cross-functional cooperation is a crucial component of contemporary firms since it boosts productivity, creativity, and outcomes.
A. Establishing a culture of collaboration and teamwork
The team leader must establish a common vision consistent with the organization’s objective for the cross-functional sales teams to perform well. It is imperative that the team members grasp this vision and how their unique contributions may help the firm accomplish its objectives. A sense of oneness is fostered by this mutual understanding, which encourages the team to cooperate in achieving their goal. (Josh, 2022)
The value of cross-functional cooperation in accomplishing organizational objectives must also be communicated by team leaders to team members. This may be accomplished by fostering an atmosphere among team members that encourages communication, openness, and trust. As they give team members a forum to discuss their progress, difficulties, and ideas, regular team meetings are one way to accomplish this. Training sessions may also be used to coach team members how to resolve disputes, develop trust, and function efficiently as a unit. (Josh, 2022)
Both team leaders and members must put out effort to foster a collaborative atmosphere. Team members should be willing to cooperate and share expertise and resources, and leaders should promote open communication, teamwork, and mutual respect. Recognizing and celebrating team accomplishments and individual contributions is crucial because doing so fosters a feeling of pride and inspires team members to keep pursuing the common goal.
B.Creating cross-functional sales processes and workflows
Creating cross-functional sales processes and workflows for building an effective cross-functional sales team involves designing and implementing processes that enable team members to work together efficiently and effectively towards shared objectives.
To create effective cross-functional sales processes and workflows, team leaders should start by identifying the key sales processes involved in achieving the team’s objectives. This could include processes such as lead generation, lead qualification, proposal development, and closing deals. Once these processes are identified, the next step is to break them down into smaller tasks that can be assigned to team members based on their skills and expertise. (Paul, 2016)
The team leader should also identify the critical handoff points between team members in distinct functions and create protocols for seamless communication and transfer of information at these points. This ensures that information is not lost, and team members are not left waiting for input from other team members, which can lead to delays and inefficiencies.
Cross-functional sales processes and workflows may be developed with technology. Team leaders need to find the technology and solutions that can facilitate smooth cooperation across various roles and assist team members’ work. Project management software, such as Trello or Asana, may be used to assign tasks to team members and track the progress of several projects. Furthermore, real-time communication between team members can be made possible regardless of where they are by collaboration and communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams. (Lucid 2023)
C. Developing a shared understanding of customer needs and expectations.
The essential part of developing a shared understanding about customer needs and expectations is to involve representatives from all functional areas in customer research and analysis to gain a comprehensive understanding of customer needs and expectations. This can be achieved by conducting regular customer surveys, focus groups, and customer feedback analysis. By involving all functional areas in this process, the team can develop a holistic view of customer needs and expectations, enabling them to provide a better customer experience. (Don)
Effective communication is crucial once the team has reached a consensus on the needs and expectations of the client. The team may do this by creating a clear and succinct communication strategy that explains how the team will distribute consumer insights and information among all functional areas. The duties and responsibilities of each team member in successfully communicating consumer insights should be specified in the communication plan. This will make sure that everyone on the team is aware of the requirements and expectations of the client so they can collaborate to create solutions that satisfy those requirements. (Don)
By regularly measuring and reporting on customer satisfaction metrics, the team can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to enhance the customer experience. (Mark, 2022)
D. Encouraging cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making.
Teams may identify and solve difficulties more effectively by fostering cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making, resulting in better outcomes and overall success. Encouraging cross-functional problem solving and decision-making entails building an atmosphere that encourages open communication and cooperation. Leaders may help by providing team members with the appropriate resources and tools, supporting the sharing of ideas and information, and encouraging active listening and constructive criticism. Additionally, leaders can provide opportunities for team members to collaborate on projects and initiatives that require multiple perspectives and expertise. (Sarah, 2022)
Effective cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making necessitates an openness to innovative ideas and viewpoints. Members of the team should be encouraged to question assumptions and propose alternate ideas. Leaders may help to nurture this by encouraging experimentation and risk-taking. Teams may exploit the diversity of viewpoints and skills within the team by fostering cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making, leading to more robust solutions and better outcomes. (Cameron,2021)
E. Celebrating cross-functional successes and recognizing individual contributions.
One way to celebrate cross-functional successes is by organizing team events or social gatherings to recognize team achievements and milestones. This can be a simple celebration such as a team lunch or a more elaborate event such as an awards ceremony or team-building activity. It is important to involve the entire team in the celebration to promote a sense of unity and shared success. (Valène, 2023)
Recognizing individual contributions can be done through regular feedback and performance reviews. This allows team members to receive constructive feedback and recognition for their individual efforts. It is also important to provide opportunities for professional development and growth to encourage team members to continue to contribute to the team’s success. (Sarah, 2022)
By creating a positive and supportive team culture, team members are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work, leading to improved team performance and business success. (Valène, 2023)
Ultimately, developing a cross-functional understanding of customer needs and expectations, encouraging cross-functional problem-solving and decision-making, celebrating cross-functional successes, and recognizing individual contributions are all crucial steps in developing and managing successful cross-functional sales teams. It takes work from both leaders and team members to create a climate that promotes communication, transparency, and trust among team members, resulting in improved cooperation, productivity, and outcomes. Businesses may establish a more cohesive and efficient staff that can respond to changes and problems by employing these tactics.
Today’s world is changing all the time and new skills are being developed. For a company it is almost impossible to hire and train a new employee every time a new challenge comes. That is why collaborating with different teams, departments, or individuals with different areas of expertise and skillsets can bring as an example a totally new perspective to the project.
In conclusion, cross-functional collaboration in sales management can lead to enhanced customer value creation and sales performance. As you have read from this essay, the upsides of this technique are great. However, it can also present significant challenges, including conflicting interests, goals, and competencies across different departments. It is a part of work life to figure out different conflicts and there is always a way to get over them. To overcome these challenges, sales managers can implement strategies and practices such as clear communication channels, common goals, incentivizing teamwork, and appropriate tie management to foster successful cross-functional collaboration. Precise, very clear and measurable in quality-goals should be established, and a clear roadmap should be created outlining what the team wants to achieve, expectations for each team member’s responsibility and deadlines. It should also be noted that and made clear that how exactly each team member or team will work towards the goal. What are their tasks and how to achieve them. Without these small steps, the bigger goal is impossible or at least very difficult to achieve.
By doing so, managers can ensure that their organization is well positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers and compete effectively in today’s business environment.
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