ML embraces a culture of communication and collaboration (C&C). We interviewed three ML managers from our Specialist team to find out how they use C&C to create the best work experience possible for colleagues and clients.
Teresa manages our Market Research Specialists (MRS), and Terri-Lynne and Jennifer manage Sales Development Specialists (SDS). Each brings many years of experience in consultative sales. All three mentioned that they had worked on teams prior to joining ML that were less collaborative and were often so competitive that they sometimes pitted team members against each other. Their individual experiences led to the shared belief that the best way to achieve results requires an “all for one, and one for all” mindset. You must have each other’s backs and help everyone reach their full potential.
Teresa says, “While we all have our own lanes, across the company, we operate as a single unit with common goals. Our individual teams meet separately but with a view to ultimately share with all. It’s almost like a relay race. First out of the blocks are team members who focus on the account strategy, data analysis, research, and project management. They provide the MRS team with the tools to begin outreach on our clients’ behalf. Once we engage prospects, we pass the baton to the SDS team to carry it over the finish line … with appointments that are conducted with prequalified prospects. The entire process is very well choreographed from start to finish. We communicate closely with one another throughout the whole process to paint a complete picture for our client. This helps by allowing them to step right into the meetings knowing the full history of what led to the prospect committing to that appointment.”
Jennifer and Terri-Lynne manage separate SDS teams but also work very closely together. Jennifer explains, “C&C helps us share best practices and brainstorm to overcome sales challenges. For example, if one SDS finds a particular strategy challenging, the entire team is involved in finding a solution. Also, if one of us finds a new sales technique that works (texting is a great example), we share it across the entire SDS organization.”
Everything Teresa’s MRS team does sets the SDS teams up for success. They are an integral part of the process. Communication and collaboration helps maximize what the teams can achieve through their combined efforts.
Jennifer points out that ML was ahead of the curve with working remotely and conducting meetings virtually since we have done it for over two decades. “We know how to use our time and tools to be really productive,” she says. “We pop in on Zoom or MS TEAMS and are very efficient in staying connected. The job can be isolating, and we don’t want employees to feel alone or on an island. If a team member is having a tough day, the entire team is there to provide encouragement and boost morale.”
Terri-Lynne adds, “We all have successful and not-so-successful days. C&C makes it easy to reach out to our colleagues for encouragement. We share real-life examples like ‘After 20 calls, I finally got through,’ so the team knows they aren’t alone. We all have hot days and cold days. That’s just part of sales.”
Teresa continues, “We all know how crucial technology is, and every one of us is deep into using it daily because it allows us to connect in real-time with each other and our clients. We use TEAMS especially to share success stories, inspire, acknowledge, celebrate, and say thank you. And we use it to share new learnings and best practices with everybody. For instance, having an SDS tell us when they book a meeting and what my team may have done to impact that success is helpful so that we always know what is working and what may need some tweaking in our approach. That feedback helps us do our jobs better. For example, C&C helped us identify that the remote work environment many companies have moved to means target audiences are more accessible via mobile phones. So, we changed our practices to ensure we include mobile outreach in our efforts.”
Our teams typically meet individually once per month, and then all three groups come together about as often. We also engage one-on-one with team members as needed. Sometimes that can be several times a week. This allows us to focus on specific topics or challenges.
Topics for us range from prioritizing target account lists, new trends impacting sales, using technology to improve selling, industry market drivers, and sharing messaging and call frameworks that are proving successful.
Appoint someone to own the agenda and facilitate the meeting in a way that encourages participation from all attendees. Changing that up so that everyone has a chance to run a meeting is a great skills development tool.
Terri-Lynne shares that she lets her team speak first so that she can then provide feedback. This process also helps her to learn and grow.
Jennifer recently had ML’s CEO and founder, Lara Triozzi, join a meeting to discuss the evolution of the SDS role. Teresa has had ML’s SVP of Account Strategy, Michelle Haarde, present about her team’s client reporting process and the role the MRS team plays in that. This helps bridge the gap between departments so everyone can better understand the big picture. Our COO, Mary White, attends meetings regularly too.
We use TEAMS and Zoom. Since we are remote, this is a wonderful way to put a face to a name.
Allow the team to test new pitches. Says Teresa, “Because we don’t all work on every account, we can act as a fresh audience. We can share whether we understand their message and provide unbiased feedback. The role-playing setting is a great way to determine if messaging is clear and intriguing enough.”
These usually aren’t part of our meetings but rather part of ML’s corporate-wide C&C program. We do them as collective teams but also for individuals too. Fun is an ML core value, and we have a very creative group, so these are always a hit!
Don’t forget to acknowledge your colleagues who have gone “above and beyond.” We encourage team members to post “SHOUT OUTS” to acknowledge when another team member has done something that helped them achieve a goal. Not only is this a morale booster, but it also is another great way to share best practices and successes.
C&C begins the minute we onboard a new client. They explain their value proposition and how they want us to position their offering. They share what has worked for them, where they run up against challenges, and how to handle objections. Conversely, as we engage with their prospects, we share what we are learning, including what’s working and what isn’t.
C&C helps us decide who should participate in client meetings, depending on what we need to discuss. For instance, we will bring our Senior Sales Content Manager, Stephen Kirkpatrick, to discuss messaging. Or we bring in a Data Manager when the focus is on data and analytics.
Communication and collaboration allow us to strategize and pivot our client programs as the intel and data dictate.
We also encourage clients to share information about any new initiatives we can leverage. These include trade shows, new content, and the outcome of meetings they’ve conducted from our outreach efforts. Terri-Lynne says, “Events are a great example. I recently booked seven meetings for a client in one day, and most were booked by incorporating a trade show into my sales outreach. If we had not had our regular meeting or seen that communication on TEAMS, that golden opportunity might have passed without us being aware.”
C&C is instrumental in uncovering and then responding to emerging trends. For example, a recently identified increase in meeting cancellations and no-shows was particularly concerning. Because we are so closely aligned and committed to sharing, the ML executive team quickly had a line of sight on this issue. We pulled a group together and built a program that has effectively turned this trend around.
Tools like TEAMS allow us to quickly engage with each other and connect with our target audience. “I’ve had an MRS ping me on TEAMS right after they have a hot conversation with a prospect.” Says Terri-Lynne. “Since we know the person is likely still available for a call, I immediately jump on the phone to continue the conversation while the topic is fresh in their minds. That fast intel has helped me successfully engage many times over.”
Teresa adds, “Everyone keeps comprehensive HubSpot notes which provide a full history of engagement with each contact. These help to ensure there is no duplication of effort or topic. Because of the research and historical data available, the team can ask more probing and meaningful questions that warm up the audience.”
ML is constantly improving the way we use technology. For instance, C&C uncovered that each MRS team member had a unique way of using HubSpot. This skewed how we aggregated data and results across our broad client base. Reporting is a key differentiator for ML, so we took this very seriously. We put together a subcommittee to analyze what each person was doing and find the most efficient processes for the entire team.
As a result, we now have a consistent process that saves time and improves reporting.
Here’s a final thought regarding the importance of C&C. The sales environment has changed and will continue to change. That’s what keeps sales fun and interesting. We used to get a higher response to emails or just make a couple of phone calls and could get through to an executive. When that became less successful, we began a more strategic approach that incorporated both calling and sending emails in a personalized and thoughtful manner. Now we have texting as a tool for outreach, and we are just beginning to understand how to leverage AI here at ML. Drivers like recessions and pandemics change the playing field too.
The point is that you need to be ready and willing to change. And there are no better means to be on top of that than through communication and collaboration.