Improving bid success thru Sales vs Non-Sales collaboration

How can all functions responsible for bid win, feel valued and co-operate towards organizational success.

Cross-functional collaboration is key to organizational success. Especially true for bid wins where all functions - sales, technical pre-sales, PMO, Finance get involved. But the general perception is that sales dictates terms. That they can get away with anything. They are the ones who get all the credit and enjoy the rewards, where as everyone else is busy addressing the challenges.

While that may not be always true, let’s see what are the common grouses against Sales.

Marketing: Marketing is responsible for the top end of the funnel. Ensuring that there is consistent flow of qualified opportunities to the sales team. Their constant grouse is that (a) sales only work on opportunities that they think have potential and (b) don’t give constructive feedback so that Marketing can improve the lead quality. Sales on the other hand thinks Marketing brings them irrelevant opportunities, that they do not understand that ICP well, and do events just coz they have budget.

Pre-sales: Pre-sales – technical, design or consulting – are more closely aligned with sales than any other function. They are measured the same way, have similar objectives and along with Sales are face of the organization. But internal tensions exist. Together they are responsible for a significant part of any organization’s revenue. So a synchronized relationship between the two can do wonders whereas constant bickering and lack of trust can mar the deal efforts. Sales wants presales to reduce the efforts/BOM so that the costs are kept down, where as Pre-sales has the responsibility to ensure that the proposed solution meets client requirements after the deal is won.

Delivery: Not much explaination required here. Many a times sales has oversold and raised the expectations that the customer is going to get the world. Delivery needs to moderate it and deliver with the given efforts and budget. Not to forget, find every opportunity to raise CRs. In large, multi-year projects the sales team which sold the solution has moved on but the project needs to go thru to completion. They have to fend for themselves.

Finance: Finance and Sales is truly a diagonal relationship. One is focussing on revenue whereas the other on profits. Sales wants more discount. Finance’s job is to protect margins. Sales complains that Finance is getting to take the calls, when they haven’t even met the client. Conversely Finance thinks Sales doesn’t want to understand the financial implications. And that sales don’t negotiate hard enough, and merely succumbs to more discounting.

Guess there’s enough evidence to suggest many of the above scenarios actually exist. But enough grumbling .. now let’s discuss how the Sales and non-sales teams can work in tandem to meet organizational objectives:

1> Have common KPIs across functions – Obviously this is not simple as it sounds. But if organizations can associate a large portion of every function’s individual KPIs to include a common set, it will be a good starting point. Many organizations attempt it, but very few get it right.

2> Have systems to support the key bid decisions – "I had said this", "you had never told us about it", "who approved this point", "show me the associated working", "where is the earlier version". Well, the list can be endless. Without a proper system to support the business processes, governance and controls can be hard to practice. Which leads to lack of trust and bottled-up frustration. Systems can also improve collaboration, productivity and decision-making.

3> Offer cross-functional stints – This is the best way of getting different functions understand the intricacies of each other’s roles better. While it may not be entirely possible at the highest or lowest levels, it can be attempted with the middle management. Also Marketing, Sales, Pre-Sales, Support functions may be better aligned to support this compared to Finance or Delivery.

4> Build trust/rapport – Find time beyond business to get to know each other. This happens at the senior level or in groups. Try and do it with your peers or 1-on-1 with your counterparts in other functions. You will see dramatic results. In one organization every sales or technical new joinee is attached to a “buddy” from another department to get him started and have him onboarded.

5> Share deal information – This is another common accusation on Sales. By not sharing complete deal information, sales teams jeopardize their own outcomes. As a sales person one doesn’t want crucial information to leak. But it’s important that the team knows the proceedings. Else they may not be able volunteer their best efforts, when needed.

6> Qualify hard .. every time – A customer made this point in our webinar – "sales wants us to work on every opportunity". No organization however big, has unlimited resources or time. There is nothing called quarter-V. It’s important to focus on the deals where you have a better chance of winning. Qualification should be ingrained in the sales process, preferably involving multiple stake holders, and quantifiable where possible.

7> Share credit with others – Don’t keep other functions as a foot note in the win mail! Wherever they have made an impact, give more credit than is due. This will build morale and trust. A simple test – are you the sales person everyone wants to work with or are you the one they rather stay away from?

8> Understand sales compensation – This one is for all the non-sales guys. If you didn’t know – 40-50% of a sales person’s salary is variable. Yes, that’s true. That means she is not sure what will be his take home every month. No wonder she wants to be in every opportunity and increase her odds of winning. Empathize and see how you could help her win.

CXOs have the responsibility to walk the talk and set the example for the team members when it comes to collaboration and trust. No doubt that sales is a super critical function for any organization. If they realize the power of collaboration, they will be able to achieve much more.

Here’s to a more collaborative and successful 2021!

Comments and observations welcome at