This is a post by Susan Ershler co-author of Conquering the Seven Summits of Sales.
Neil Armstrong’s historic step onto the lunar surface was not his achievement alone, but the result of decades of effort by a team of thousands. In this, as in most complex human endeavors, teams outperform individuals.
Teams have also played a central role in my life by ensuring that I received the support needed to achieve two cherished goals: leading sales organizations at several of the nation’s largest technology firms and climbing the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
Along the way, I learned a great deal about team development and leadership. I saw that successful leaders compensate for their personal shortcomings by recruiting team members with complementary skills and temperaments. I observed how they motivated and inspired their teams to achieve something ambitious and meaningful. And then I put those lessons to work in my own business and climbing careers.
One of the most critical lessons I learned from climbing mountains and the corporate ladder is that every member of a well-constructed sales team should have a specific role, skillset, and set of responsibilities that aligns with the exigencies of the business being pursued. Equally important, each member should meet the essential “ROPE” criteria I developed over decades of climbing. In other words, they should be:
• Reliable and Responsible
• Opportunity-driven and Organized
• Professional and Practical
• Enthusiastic and Expert
Inside ROPE Teams
As a sales leader, I was responsible for assembling both “Inside” and “Outside” ROPE teams. Our Inside ROPE teams were comprised of colleagues in our company’s marketing, accounting, finance, engineering, support, purchasing, and other functional units. I knew I would need their cooperation and support in order to successfully orchestrate a complex, months-long sales campaign.
Inside ROPE teams provide another important benefit. In most companies today, employees are under constant pressure to do more with less. They may feel overburdened and resistant to shouldering new responsibilities. But the members of your team will be much more likely to go the extra mile if you demonstrate a sincere commitment to helping them succeed in their own careers. Once motivated in this way, your Inside ROPE team members will become invaluable assets in helping you to compete successfully for the scarce company resources you’ll need to bring a long and arduous sales campaign to a successful conclusion.
Outside ROPE Teams
Outside ROPE teams are equally essential to the success of any campaign. To recruit these team members, you’ll want to reach outside your company to forge mutually-beneficial relationships with industry experts, business executives, and other community leaders who can help you expand your industry knowledge, stay abreast of emerging business and technology trends, and secure personal referrals to new prospects. Your Outside ROPE team will play an essential role in helping you find and close business.
Keep in mind that Inside and Outside ROPE teams cannot be assembled instantaneously. They must be cultivated over time, using the same strategies you apply to nurture new client relationships. First, you’ll need to identify the most viable prospects, learn what motivates them, and help them become successful. Then, you’ll have to set specific team-building goals and track your progress.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to recruit Inside ROPE team members since you’ll be drawing from a limited pool of fellow employees and will have more opportunities for face-to-face interactions. However, you can create ongoing opportunities to build your Outside ROPE teams by networking with members of your local civic or business communities. Kemper Freeman, CEO of Kemper Development Corporation, for example, has been an active member of the Rotary Club for decades.
Finally, as a leader, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your relationship with every member of your Inside and Outside ROPE teams is positive and mutually beneficial. After completing a successful sales campaign, for example, I made sure to inform our executive leadership team about the contributions each of our Inside ROPE team members made to our collective success. I was also careful to fulfill every commitment I made to members of our Outside ROPE teams and to proactively pursue opportunities to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
By effectively leading your Inside and Outside ROPE teams, you will build enduring communities that will sustain you throughout your career. Kemper Freeman said it best: “My entire life, I’ve lived by the principle that building a community is one of life’s greatest rewards. To me, building a community means working together, understanding each other, and creating opportunities that are mutually beneficial for everyone.”
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Susan Ershler is co-author of Conquering the Seven Summits of Sales: From Everest to Every Business, which illustrates the principles that lead to high achievement with anecdotes drawn from her sales and climbing careers. In 2002, she and her husband, Phil, became the first couple in history to climb the Seven Summits—the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents. Today, Susan is a renowned keynote speaker, inspiring business professionals to push past perceived boundaries to achieve their most ambitious dreams and helping Fortune 500 companies transform their sales organizations into dynamic forces for revenue growth. For more information, visit her web site: Reaching New Heights