Many years ago I attended a workshop on empowerment and communication. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with linguistics. It is hard to remember much about the content because I was distracted by something else. There was a “team” of three facilitators leading the workshop. Two of the three were clearly competing for floor time, and the third didn’t say much at all. One would say something and the other would mask her agreement and then correct her. One would answer a question and the other would re- answer it – not adding much value, but clearly feeling she needed the last word. As the day went on, it felt more like watching an episode of Game of Thrones, than attending a workshop.
I think everyone can relate to a situation in which they have witnessed a group of individuals posing to be a team while knowing it was in fact, a farce. Perhaps it was because there was bad chemistry or bad history, or perhaps it was because they never had the time to form as a team. I have heard countless stories of sales teams meeting for the first time by the security desk in the client’s building before going to present. And of course, even if the team is well prepared, and has prepared and rehearsed together, it can be challenging to truly form as a team if they have not worked together before.
Whatever the situation, clients catch on fast to poor team dynamics and if they do, it will kill the deal. Who wants to hire a broken team – they have enough of those in their own organizations!
Below are seven steps that you can take during your rehearsal and in the presentation to ensure that you are not just acting as a team, but you are playing as a team.
In your rehearsal:
1. Warm-up. Please refrain from rolling your eyes on this one. They really (really) make a difference. At the start of the meeting, pose a question like: What TV show are you embarrassed to admit you watch? If you were not in this career, what would you be doing? Warm-ups help foster personal connections among the members and usually involve some laughter. Even for mature teams, a warm-up like this will have a very positive impact on the tone of the meeting.
2. Break bread together. Encourage everyone to go out to dinner the night before the sales final. Obviously this encourages relaxed conversation that will again help to develop personal connections.
3. Get conscious of team-like behaviors. Remind everyone how critical body language is. In a previous blog (Your Behavior is Talking, are you listening?) I wrote about the importance of behavior being aligned with messaging. This is the same principal – no matter how many times, or how loudly you might insist that you are a great team – if the behavior and body language does not support it, you will lose all credibility. Remind the team that they should listen to a team member’s story like they have never heard it before; that they should smile, nod and make eye-contact demonstrating interest and support for each other.
4. Plan and practice the Q&A in character. What questions do you anticipate, how is it best answered? Who is best positioned to answer it? Acknowledge that it can be tempting to over answer a question or pile on answers. Request that they refrain from doing this.
During the presentation:
1. Use transitions to transfer credibility. When passing the floor to another team member, take the opportunity to brag about him. This will develop credibility for your team member and demonstrate camaraderie. “I am thrilled to hand the floor over to Susan. Before I do, I must say that clients absolutely love working with her, in fact she has just received the prestigious X award.”
2. Give a team member a head’s up before asking them to comment. This ensures that they will not be caught off-guard and will give them a minute to organize their thoughts. For example “in a minute, I am going to ask Joe to respond, but before I do…”
3. Support your team members in difficult situations. If a team member answers something with wrong information, determine how important it is to correct it in the moment. If it is not urgent, make the correction during your follow-up. If that is not possible, try to position your response in a way that protects the credibility of your team member.