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The Myth of the Sales Team (and what to do about it)


Lots of organizations talk about their sales team, but most of the time, it isn’t a team at all; it’s just a workgroup. And that’s a problem because real teams far outperform other types of organizations, and often outperform all reasonable expectations of the team itself.

One of my clients was a pro volleyball player before getting into sales. He told me “You know, I was shocked when I got into business. I had worked in sports all of my life. I played for a number of professional teams, so I know what teamwork is all about. But in business, even though they talk about teams all the time, it isn’t a team at all.”

“First of all, a real team is committed to a common goal: winning the game and eventually the championship. The members are also deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and success. Team members put the team first and themselves second, and they can afford to do that because they know that everyone else is watching out for them, too. In business though, it seems like everyone is in it for himself.”

“On the field, if one of the players is screwing up, the rest of the team pitches in and tries to cover for them. In business, it’s almost as if the other members are relieved that the guy screwed up so that he can be blamed for the team missing their quota.”

“And if you’re the guy who keeps messing up on the court, it won’t be very long before the other team members pull you aside and have an intervention. After all, you’re interfering with their goals, and they take it personally. If you need more practice in a particular skill, they see to it that you get it. In a real team, the senior guys try to help the junior guys, not show them up.”

“If you don’t participate in that remedial program and get your skills up, you will very quickly find your position untenable. You’ll be taken out by your fellow team members long before the coach can do it.”

His observations about the differences between a team and a workgroup are spot on. There are at least 7 key differences that distinguish a workgroup from a team.

Six Differences Between a Team and a Workgroup

Focus on individual goals. Focus on team goals.
Members are concerned with own performance and challenges. Members are concerned team’s performance and challenges the team faces.
Manager shapes the group’s purpose, goals, and strategies. Team leader shapes the team’s purpose, goals and strategies, together with team members.
Homogeneous group of people brought together for management convenience. Team members share complementary skills and cooperate to shore up weaknesses.
Meet periodically to receive instructions and share information. Meetings are viewed as interruptions. Meetings are forums for planning work, solving problems, making decisions and reviewing progress. Meetings are essential.
Produce individual work products. Produce collective work products.

If you are dissatisfied with the performance of your sales team, see how they measure up against these factors.

How do you help turn a workgroup into a real team? You can find our solution here.

If you are interested in further reading on the performance of teams, check out: Self Directed Work Teams: The New American Challenge by Jack D. Orsburn, et al.

About Us

At Farsyte, we believe that the secret to building the best sales team in the world is investing in your front-line sales managers. We are like personal trainers, working with your high-potential sales managers to unlock their potential to be great sales leaders. Our system uses a unique combination of assessment tools, mobile apps and one-on-one coaching to actually change their behavior, from trying to manage each sale, to multiplying sales by empowering their teams for maximum performance.

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