Episode 153: Developing a Team Selling Strategy – Trish Bertuzzi

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 153: Developing a Team Selling Strategy - Trish Bertuzzi
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What do you know about team selling? What are the advantages to approaching sales from a team position? In today’s episode, you’ll hear from Trish Bertuzzi, founder and CEO of The Bridge Group and author of The Sales Development Playbook. Listen in to hear what Trish has to say about what team selling models look like, what the benefits of the team selling approaches are, and how you can start thinking about team selling as an option in your business.

Episode Highlights:

  • What team selling means
  • What a team selling model looks like
  • Hybrid roles
  • How to start looking at team selling as an option
  • Different versions of team selling
  • Developing a team sales strategy that makes sense for you
  • What account hierarchy looks like
  • The continuity of team selling
  • What you can learn from being part of a team
  • Why you need to think differently about your selling model
  • Where sales goes from here


Trish Bertuzzi

The Bridge Group


Marylou: Hi, everybody. It’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is none other than Trish Bertuzzi. She’s the founder and CEO of The Bridge Group. She’s been around for a while, just like I have. She also is the author of The Sales Development Playbook. That was written a couple of years after Predictable Revenue was written in 2011. 

I’ve been following her work for some time. I saw a blog post on LinkedIn where she referred to a term called team selling. That got me super interested, as a lifelong learner. Also, being in sales now for 30-some odd years. I had heard that term when I originally worked back in 1981 at Xerox. I was curious about what Trish had to say about this topic.

This week’s episode is giving us an insight into how she’s refraining the term team selling, some option you may want to consider. Also, letting you know that she’s going down this rabbit hole and learning about how to apply this in today’s selling environment.

I felt that it was really important that you listen to this particular podcast knowing that it’s bubbling up. It’s percolating. It’s not something that we put into action, try to scale or things like that. It’s allowing us to think outside that box of the traditional, transactional, assembly-line–type of selling where we have people doing business development, who hand off opportunities to quota-caring or to field salespeople—whatever you want to call them—direct sales.

It’s giving you another idea of how to look at this. Please, take a listen to this week and let Trish know. She’s on LinkedIn all the time. She’d love to connect with you and find out your experiences of playing around with these configurations for sales, what’s working and not for you. In a moment, Trish.

Trish: Thank you. Team selling has been around forever. I think it was the early 90s I was in a team selling role. When I use the term team selling, I don’t mean a pod. I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of pods, and I have good research to show that pods really don’t add much more value. To me, they’re a lot of work and they don’t really get you that much more. 

Having said that, when I started talking about team selling, I got a lot of comments on LinkedIn, so I picked seven or eight people. I said, all right, talk to me about your experiences. I think much as I would love there to be one definition of it or one potential implementation, there could be multiple. Let’s take them one at a time. 

My vision first, because, of course, I’m always first. When I talk about team selling, I don’t mean the SDR. I mean team selling, like partnering with an inside rep and a field rep. It’s ridiculous because they’re both virtual now, but I don’t know how else to articulate it. When partnering with sellers in a geo or territory or however it’s structured with shared goals and objectives, there’s your number, team. You need to go make that number. But also providing them with some level of corporate focus. 

For instance, lots of people have a solution that can be sold to many different tiers of companies. Your ASP for under 10,000 employees is $40,000 and your ASP for over 10,000 employees is $250,000. Look at the territory. Tear it out and say to the, I’m going to use the term field seller for lack of a better term, you’re responsible for going after employee count 10,000 and above because we’re making the assumption that there’s going to be bigger deals. Inside sales rep, you’re responsible for going after 10,000 and below because we assume it’s going to be a lower ASP. 

But in reality, what happens is you can be going after that smaller account and say, whoa, I can make this deal huge. If you’re not in a team selling model, your inside salesperson is going to try to tackle that themselves. Are they the best person to do that alone? Probably not. In this version of team selling, they bring in their field partner to help. No harm, no foul. Two resources is better than one, […] sale price—you get where I’m going. 

On the flip side of the coin, the field seller is an employee 10,000 and above account. They’re never going to spend more than $40,000. Well, rather than chase it when he could be chasing bigger deals, he gives it to his partner. Partner works it, they work it as a team thing, biggity baggity boom. It’s a thing of beauty. In that version, it’s about applying the right resource to the right sales process. How does the SDR fit into it? It all depends. It’s not what I was talking about when I was talking about team selling, but yeah, they have shared goals and objectives.

Marylou: Again, SDR sales, business development, account development, whatever it is, there seemingly are still those people who like to get conversations started and warmed up. There are those people who like to take those warm conversations and get them further into the pipeline. Now, that’s similar to that pod concept that we were talking about. 

What also intrigues me about what you’re talking about, what I’m running into now, because I’m in the field right now working for a client full time in Denmark, we have an existing client base. There are areas where we can expand either usage or penetration within the base itself in that client. Then, there’s this net new where there could be new money centers or new logos that were also targeted within that bubble, that same team. 

We see the combination of skill set that the account or business developer is better at that endurance muscle of warming people up, that they can also take care of the base if they’re knowledgeable enough. We’re looking for people who are not only good endurance muscle, for that workflow and habit of connecting, but also, they have to be well versed in the products and services that we’re selling in order to be able to expand, increase the penetration, and usage. That’s what I’m seeing now as part of this team, what we call a team.

Trish: That’s more of a hybrid role than doing a traditional SDR role. The challenge is they’re going to fall back on their comfort level. If I’m an SDR and I am not comfortable getting into negotiation, objection, handling, competitive positioning, delivering, pricing, I’m just going to go have my little initial conversations. Or if I think I’m a hotshot and I think I can close a lot of deals, I’m not going to prospect. I’m going to chase every deal, crappy or not, and try to close it because that’s my preference.

I like hybrid roles. You just really have to pay attention to them, make sure that they’re well managed. I think that potentially is the next evolution of what an SDR, ADR, BDR could be. It just has to be really well-managed.

Marylou: And the comp plans. We have the wildest comp plan now that we’re working on it. It’s not in stone yet, but we’re trying to get an understanding of client value. For example, it’s not only average deal size, it’s the market share we’re trying to go after to build our book. We’re trying to add in a point system where if you’re in this customer base with this customer type, then you’re going to get more points as we progress into the funnel than if you go after the kind of bread and butter we know we can close them kind of accounts because we’re looking to open up our market share. 

I’m seeing that this role and these combinations of skill sets is ebbing and flowing. It’s interesting to see it’s not as segmented as it used to be. That’s for sure. I’m actually getting people who were account executives who want to come and do this thing what we’re calling a hybrid (like you said), that they can take it not only to a qualified opportunity, which is the old fashioned model, but they march into the funnel maybe 25%, 35%, 50% probability, but still can’t do the closing. Still needs the body to come in, negotiate contracts, just look at that whole purchasing side of things. 

When you said that about the team, I’m just trying to figure out, we can’t really delineate a marker that says you go up to here and then someone else takes it. What you said is depending on the deal. The deal drives the resources.

Trish: I couldn’t have said that better myself. The deal dictates the sales resource applied to the deal. 

Marylou: Got it. That is one balance of what those deals look like in that territory. Are you saying that these people are now all of a sudden account planners? They actually look at their territory and try to break it up into a manageable piece? How would I go about beginning to look into this as an option for my team?

Trish: It has to be a corporate strategy. It’s not that the team itself is identifying tier one and tier two accounts. That has to be done at the corporate level through sales and marketing, developing their ideal customer profile, tearing people as appropriate, giving point systems—I like that idea, actually—whatever the case may be, it’s not something the team has to figure out. 

Where team selling will go awry, like if you have 10 teams selling in your company and they have 10 different strategies going, you’re screwed. It has to be a corporate strategy that you’re executing.

The beauty of inside sales is it doesn’t have to be one-to-one. You can have a one-to-two ratio, with one inside seller focused on those accounts, with two senior sellers focused on the rest. It’s still shared goals and objectives with a buffer.

Marylou: Yeah. You even said […] experts we’re finding. We have a clinical side of life and then we have a research side of life in my current world. We’re awaiting now FDA approval for the clinical in the United States. We’re grabbing those resources and starting to filter into America’s side of life. With COVID now, we don’t have to worry about traveling where everybody’s figuring out how to virtually support one another. All of a sudden we feel like we have this bigger team. We have this new team all the way around. It’s just now that people are not so focused on certain geographies. They’re looking at the subject matter in order to organize.

Trish: Okay, a different version of team selling.

Marylou: Oh, my God. You better write a book on this then.

Trish: I’m never writing a book again; maybe I’ll write an ebook. So, different versions of team selling. I talked to some companies that are doing really interesting things. They’re not calling them pods. They are partnering sellers with domain experts on subject matter experts, technical experts, with sharing. Everybody gets paid off revenue, though. 

Marylou: Right. That’s how we’re organized.

Trish: I love that. Everyone gets paid off revenue. In one of my interviews—I actually think it was yesterday; he said I can’t say who he is yet—this model—listen to this, listen to how brilliant this is; brilliant—he says if you’re selling to large companies, and you’re selling to the head of HR—chief people officer—the best thing you could ever do would be to hire someone that used to have that role. Pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars to not just be your domain expert, to work with marketing and say, “That messaging would never have worked with me. Here’s why,” to work with your product team and go, “Yeah, that’s neither a bell nor a whistle. That’s nothing. Don’t waste your time developing that,” to work with the executive team and a content team, to make sure you’re on top of trends. Oh my gosh. Everyone selling into the enterprise should do that. Why don’t we do that? I don’t know.

Marylou: We used to do that back in the days of Xerox selling. I’m dating myself to 1985. That’s how we learned. That is the book. The SMEs were the ones who went out—we were face-to-face back then; we didn’t have the Internet yet—and that’s the way we did it. I’m happy to hear that these things are starting to come around.

Trish: But just to make sure that I articulated clearly, this very senior resource doesn’t necessarily engage with customers, but he engages within the organization to make sure the organization is current on what’s going on. 

Marylou: Yeah. In our world right now, people we bring in from the industry who were pathologists or scientists, who actually are doing the workflow, know the challenges, know the unwanted outcomes, know the risks, we’re trying to mitigate those risks by having those people come and tell us, don’t bother wasting your time here because this is where the real issues are.

We have them actually working with our product people, even. Not just marketing and sales but product to make sure that our roadmap is such that we’re meeting the needs beyond the expectations, so we’re not the ‘me, too’ company. 

Trish: Here’s what I want to make sure people understand. I’m not running around saying, you have to have SDRs. They have to be really specialized. I don’t look at everyone and go, pod, pod, pod. You really have to understand your own business and develop a sales strategy that makes sense for you. 

One of the things that’s remained consistent over the last few months when I’ve talked to buyers—I probably do three or four sales calls a day; that’s how I learned so much from the actual practitioners—is we need to go upstream. They always needed to go upstream, but they could have lived off SMB. Well, SMB got decimated by COVID. Mid-market’s struggling, so everybody wants to go up to the enterprise. Guess what? That is a whole different way to sell. 

What I’m saying to these people is do not take what you were doing in the SMB and mid-market and slap dab it over here […] until you make your way through this pivot.

Marylou: Yeah. I came the other way. I came from large business sales. I had six clients with a  $2-million-quarterback in 1987. Six, that’s large accounts trying to go from that to medium size and then to small. I understand exactly what you’re saying. The rules of engagement are very different between each of these levels. In fact, Predictable Revenue was written as a book that talked about Salesforce when it was selling to mom and pop flower shops and how they tried to move upmarket. That little book was the case study of what we do to move up the market. Add if anything, this is a continual […] just don’t get.

Trish: Evolve or die.

Marylou: Exactly. Let’s get back to the team itself. You said the deals and the market drive. 

Trish: I’m experimenting with different scenarios. There was one scenario. Let the account dictate the sales resource […]. Another scenario is the one we just talked about with partnering domain experts, technical experts, having a really different type of selling experience, where maybe the seller is more an orchestra leader until he’s really needed than anything else. There’s that. 

Then, there’s also a team selling land and expand. Everyone says they do that really well. I haven’t seen a lot of people do that really well because they’re still handing the baton over. I know we have hunters and farmers, but why do we build a big wall between them? Why can’t we have hunters and farmers in the same territory with shared goals and objectives?

Marylou: Yeah. I think the concept of the pod was supposed to be to put everybody in one big little umbrella, underneath one umbrella. Once an account was sold, the eight-year sales developer, the field person as you call them, […] the net new, new money centers, new logos. Once it was closed, they’d hand it off to the account manager types. They were usage and expansion and trying to build out loyalty. That was their main roles. We can’t afford to lose people now that we’ve got them under our fold. In practice, it’s very difficult.

Trish: Yeah, it’s a lot harder. Once again, you have to also think through, who am I landing and how far am I expanding?

Marylou: The tiers of accounts should help drive, is this a multi-global, multi-branch–oriented type of account or is there one instance of it? What does my account hierarchy look like? 

You can help a lot with the list and set up the actual map. For team selling, as an example, do you get involved with how you orchestrate the map of accounts and whether or not there are multiple business centers and all of that?

Trish: I am early in my journey of bringing back teams selling. I will tell you that the keys to the kingdom in that mapping is great data. Okay, who has it? Nobody. I always think of people. The number one lever you can pull for productivity and revenue is data. Invest your money there, give up headcount for data. Everyone’s like, oh, it’s so boring. I’m like, it’s so necessary though.

Marylou: Oh my gosh. We all live by your annual reports which are data-driven insights that allow us to execute with more quality and better conversion rates.

Trish: By the way, […] will come out hopefully in 30 days. It just depends. We, the Bridge Group, don’t profess to be data analysts. That is total geek, but that’s a whole separate issue. He’s geeking on our report. Bringing in real, real data analysts to make sure you have accurate data and that you’re analyzing it correctly, I think that’s a wonderful investment that more companies should definitely make.

Marylou: Yeah. Now, with the systems all disparate, you have to have an outbound touch system that you’re using for this cadence, in that multi-touch, multi-channel. Then, you have an inbound system that you’re collecting, people who you’re attracting. Then, you have the CRM, which is like the mothership database thing. Yeah, there are a lot of systems now you also need to connect up, which is another issue with data. It is trying to get a full report of the entire pipeline.

Trish: That’s why RevOps is one of the hottest jobs there is now. A couple of years ago, marketing ops was the hottest job. Well, now it’s RevOps, the hottest jump because of these issues. People are saying, I’m looking for a RevOps person. Well, I think you have to grow your own because there aren’t that many great ones out there. Yeah, hot job.

Marylou: Definitely. We got the two models. What else have you discovered in your journey of talking to a ton of people about this? Any other insights that you want to share with us?

Trish: Yeah. People are struggling to pivot. They’re like, that sounds like a really good idea. I’m scared. No. What we’re saying to people is, don’t be scared, pilot. Pilot, enough to generate. You don’t pick up your whole strategy and move it over here. Pilots are a thing of beauty. Absolutely, a thing of beauty. You don’t pilot with your worst teams. You pilot with your best teams because they’re the people who get it. We’re just starting to talk to people about piloting these things so we can collect some more data. 

Marylou: Some more intel. Yes, I’m a fan of ramping. Definitely a fan of proof of concept, then ramp and scale based on that. We usually pick those areas of growth that if we need to go backward, we’re okay. Like we had to do with COVID. We had the phone. It was our main source of reaching people. Overnight, it was gone. Overnight, we realized, […] order numbers. We don’t have direct information. No one is there.

Trish: But it’s back. The phone is back for sure.

Marylou: You’re right. Finding a spot in your company where you think that this would work, we’ve seen the value of what I call going backward to the old ways of selling where we had a more value-driven approach and we took our time to build the relationship. Sometimes with the medium-sized businesses, relationships play a bigger part than the transactional, the smaller ones.

Trisha: Well said. 

Marylou: Yeah. especially this thing called lifetime value. The churn aspect of medium-sized enterprises, it’s devastating when you lose too many of those after all the work you put in to get them.

Trish: Here’s another benefit to team selling. You and I are selling partners. We’re selling some great accounts. We’re cranking along. I leave. Not team selling, those relationships…

Marylou: Gone.

Trish: Whaddup, right? Continuity is another blessing with team selling.

Marylou: I know it’s early on, but what about attrition?

Trish: You’re always going to have attrition, so that’s not going to change. You’re going to have attrition. You’re going to have chemistry issues. We’re talking humans interacting with humans. There’s going to be a whole bunch of funky issues. You’re always going to address that. 

I actually wrote something that I firmly believe in 2014, about if you’re doing something like this you need to have ranger reps. A ranger rep is someone you drop in when you have attrition. You’re inside sales rep leaves and two field partners don’t have anyone to partner with. Drop-in a ranger rep. Or a field person. Drop-in a ranger rep. They’re super senior. They love the challenge of jumping in with both feet. You pay them through the nose because they are worth their weight in gold. Why don’t we all do this? I don’t know.

Marylou: I think a lot of it is just our awareness around how these teams function effectively and efficiently. There’s a, not a huge learning curve, but there’s a learning curve here if you weren’t selling in the olden days. This is a precursor. You’re making it better, obviously, but this was a precursor to how we used to do it.

Trish: All you gray hairs out there that have been selling since the 80s. We’re back.

Marylou: I love the idea of leveraging technology where we can. I don’t know about you. If you remember those SDRs books that we used to go to the library and find leads, these big old books. We can leverage technology to help us have better conversations. We can leverage it to find how we should organize these teams because we have better market research. That’s not $5 million to get anymore. Someone with a good query tool or a good use of the Internet can find out a lot of information online that was never available.

Trish: In my first job in sales, I worked for IDC and I sold something called their computer installation data file. People would buy these reams of paper from me that told them where mainframes were installed so they could go sell them other stuff. I remember going to shipping and just shipping reams of paper. My CRM was a three-ring binder. 

Marylou: Yeah, mine was a Rolodex. Literally.

Trish: We’re so old. We need to stop talking about this. 

Marylou: The concepts are the same. When it’s time to call, it used to be waiting in the parking lot with the cup of coffee for the CEO to arrive. It’s still the same concept of catching people when they’re doing whatever they’re doing. When they’re in their office when they would be more likely to answer the phone.

Trish: Yeah, I’m huge on mobile. There are some great data providers out there who are doing a great job of providing mobile numbers. It’s not before you call people on mobile. Now, it’s our world. 

Marylou: Yeah, totally. I have a client that I know now and I get these texts. I know to key in STOP. That means I get off their list. If memory serves, we have the do not call list and there were some standard codes that you can use in texting. I’m finding out if you don’t want unsolicited texts and things. I think you’re right. All of these are attributes that you want to put into play when you’re building your team. How do your people, your audience, like to communicate? How can you best use each other’s talents to advance things in the pipeline? Should there be a D mark or not? Should you tag team it?

We were talking before, I was a BDR—Business Development Rep—for three […]. Their average size was $250,000. Some people wanted a full qualification. Basically, they wanted to just write the order. There were some people who said, I don’t care, Marylou, find the money or not. I’ll find it. I know how to build a sense of urgency. 

I think that’s what you learn as being in a team where each of you can rise to the occasion and handle certain parts of the sale instead of it being so rigid the way predictable revenue was, where you hand it off and you’re sayonara.

Trish: Yeah. If I could say anything to your audience, it would be this. It’s time to think differently. Things are different. The world is a different place and it’s not going back. Think differently about your model. Don’t bring what you did at the last company forward to this company and think it’s going to work. Don’t go on to one of these sales communities and say, what should my sales strategy be? And 50 people who don’t even ask you a question start telling you what your sales strategy should be.

You really need to get together as a team and think it through, like what is the best way? Here’s the hardest question. It is the first question I ask people to answer and they struggle with it. It is, where do you want your revenue to come from? Then, like, well, we’re a horizontal plane. I’m like, wrong answer. Where do you want your revenue to come from? You keep asking yourself that question as an organization until you can answer it with incredible specificity. You have the answer, then go build your strategy.

Marylou: I can relate to that. I have something called the revenue quadrant. That thing is, are we in existing clients or new clients? Are we selling existing products or new products? There are four boxes that you fill in. We ask, okay, for this fiscal year, what’s the percentage? What’s the split of those four quadrants? By the way, what’s the revenue we’re trying to get in each of those four quadrants? Most of my clients don’t know that answer.

Trish: Obviously, you expressed it much more articulately than I did. Yes, I would agree with you. It’s a hard question to answer, but you’re going nowhere until you answer it.

Marylou: To your point, if you have been in business, you have the data that you can least point to as a baseline. It may be completely wrong if you got crappy data, but it’ll get you further than just guessing or gut. 

I try to get people away from the gut and more to data-driven if I can. Once we start executing, then everything starts to fall into place. Oh, we’re 95% to base. Oh, okay. For a 95% base and 5% net new market share growth, then that’s a whole different style of person we really need. But if we’re 70% new, 30% existing, then we need some good persuasive folks in there who can build that sense of urgency. Why change? Why now? Why us? That’s a whole different setup. I love that you say where are you? Where are you on this map?

What’s next? Where do we go from here, Trish? 

Trish: Oh, I don’t know. I’m just waiting for it to be wind time.

Where do we go from here? I don’t know. I’m still exploring. I am going to share ideas on LinkedIn, which is my platform of choice, only because I get so much great feedback from there. Anyone who’s interested in this topic, feel free to contribute. That is how I learn. I do not have all the answers, but I do have a lot of the questions.

Marylou: You have a lot of questions that get people to think and think outside the box, as they say. Kind of think about the new normal. What does that look like? 

Trish: What does it look like for you?

Marylou: Yeah, […].

Trish: Yeah, no frameworks. Don’t take someone else’s framework and slap it down on what you’re doing. Custom. The more custom you get, the better off you’re going to be.

Marylou: Where do we reach you? LinkedIn? The Bridge Group? […] the report pretty soon, right?

Trish: Yeah, I hope so. We are, Matt, right? If you’re listening. It should be coming out. LinkedIn’s the best. I’m so easy to reach.

Marylou: It’s nice, I really enjoy it. I don’t get on that very often, but when I do, you’re always front and center, so it’s a good thing.

Trish: Here’s the thing. People were like, you’re always on there. I’m like, no, I’m only there when I’m eating. If you see a post from me, I was eating.

Marylou: Here we go. Best time to LinkedIn with Trish. 

Trish: There you go. Yeah. 

Marylou: Thank you so much for being a guest. It’s been so great to talk to you. We haven’t talked with each other forever.

Trish: Always a pleasure. Always a pleasure. I think the last time we were together was a Dreamforce and you had a broken leg, maybe?

Marylou: My knee, yes. I was in a cast and you were gracious and gave me a ride to the event. Otherwise, I was on my crutches. It was a nightmare.

Trish: Not an event that I would miss. How about you?

Marylou: I haven’t been to anything lately.

Trish: Yeah, well, there’s nothing to go to, but yeah. That’s one that I’m not missing.

Marylou: Yeah, me too. I’m pretty well spoken for over the next few years with this company in Europe, so I’m trying to get them to go public. Danish public, which I know nothing about the Danish Stock Exchange, so this will be interesting. 

Very good. Well, you take care. Thank you so much for being with us today. 

Trish: My pleasure. Bye, now.

Marylou: Bye.