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How to Get More Out of Your Cross-Functional Team

March 3, 2021

Jackie Goudreault

Top sales managers today understand the value that cross-functional teams can yield. Channeling a mix of different skill sets, responsibilities, and approaches towards a common goal can transform a sales effort. It makes for easier knowledge-sharing, fewer information silos, and faster problem-solving.

Of course, bringing out the best in cross-functional teams requires dedicated, skilled sales management. Team members may struggle to relate to one another initially. They need to build a team rapport and stay connected.

There are challenges beyond cross-functional organization too. As the global community tackles the threat of COVID-19, the sales process is becoming more and more difficult. Prospects are becoming more demanding when it comes to ROI, and there are more buyer-side stakeholders to please than ever. Professionals throughout sales organizations are having to adjust to this new environment and a volatile economy.

In this situation, keeping close to best practices is critical to maintaining sales motivation and building your organization's momentum again. Remote cross-functional team management doesn't need to be intimidating. When done right, it can unlock new degrees of productivity from within your squad.

What Is A Cross-Functional Team? #

'Cross-functional' refers to a style of project management that brings people from different teams in an organization together in one team.

A cross-functional unit is made up of individuals from the various functional areas in your company, including:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Product development
  • Finance
  • Customer success
Cross Functional Teams copy

Benefits Of A Cross-Functional Team #

A cross-functional team can prioritize a multitude of goals, from closing a complicated enterprise-level deal to a long-term arrangement for team-selling.

Overall, the point of cross-functional teams is to optimize customer relationships and deal success. It's done by pooling knowledge resources and pairing subject matter experts in different areas of your business. These teams can answer more questions quickly and address a wider variety of client pain points and needs than a single account executive or traditional sales team can. The result is faster, more informed decision-making.

The cross-functional team design is especially helpful when dealing with SaaS buyers, who tend to know a lot about the product they're seeking. They're making long-term investments, not one-off purchases. Our research shows that the more a SaaS buyer knows, the more likely they are to be buy-ready and a high-value potential customer.

As a result of the soaring degree of knowledge required to succeed in SaaS sales, cross-functional philosophy is a natural development. Its collaborative approach means that cross-functional teams are better able to share knowledge with one another and with SaaS buyers

The Challenges of Remote Cross-Functional Team Management #

It takes a lot of effort and strong management skills to get a group of people with different functional expertise working well together.

Avoiding clashes of responsibility and interest is one of your primary responsibilities when assembling a remote cross-functional collaboration.

Given those varying responsibilities, you may encounter frequent timetable clashes when managing a cross-functional remote team. They may have multiple commitments (with the cross-functional team and their main department). If your cross-functional unit comprises, say, a junior sales rep with a mid-weight product manager and a senior VP of finance, it may also be the case that some team members have more individual responsibilities than others.

If your selling structure isn't fully cross-functional you may have to prioritize certain roles at different points throughout the selling process. For instance, you may find an AE or sales rep is needed more throughout a process than a product dev, who is there for innovation meetings and essential calls only.

Of course, many of the same universal concerns across remote working will affect cross-functional teams.

These include:

  • Motivation, notably for sales reps who are used to high supervision and a competitive environment to fire them up.
  • A feeling of distancing from company objectives and colleagues through the lack of physical proximity.
  • Sharing of knowledge beyond the team. Knowledge silos happen in companies, and your cross-functional team members may not have existing familiarity with one another. It can be harder to build up that familiarity when everyone’s remote. Encouraging good communication is a pillar of cross-functional teamwork.

To address these challenges, cross-functional management must be goal-oriented, communicative, and place plenty of importance on the creation of team rapport.

Cross-Functional Team Best Practices #

Making some key resolutions as you change to remote work can help your cross-functional teams maintain their caliber of performance and rise higher following the switch.

Convey Clear Goals & role responsibilities #

The first step to integrating your cross-functional team is to get them pointed in the same direction.

Your team members need to have a clear set of KPIs, whether you're trying to increase average contract value or build-up to an enterprise contract revenue target. Just as importantly, the team needs to understand how their different skill sets will come in handy when they reach that goal.

For instance:

  • Your development team representative knows that they are there to tailor custom-feature packages to highly selective enterprise prospects with specific pain points.
  • Your finance professional knows that they should are on the team to answer difficult questions from buyer-side CFOs.
  • Your customer success specialist knows that they are responsible for the team to customize the onboarding process to meet the prospect's ROI needs.

Cross-functional teams work best when there is no ambiguity about the nature of their objective, what each team member can provide, and when they need to deliver it.

Play By the Calendar #

Once your remote cross-functional team structures are in place, daily management involves keeping their performances at optimal levels. Because cross-functional teams' activities are broad by design, this requires a particular degree of care and diligence from remote management.

Firstly, ensure that you're observing cycle times. Managing stakeholders from disparate departments, who may well have other responsibilities to handle, means getting members involved precisely when they can provide the most value. Consider how you can best use your cross-functional team's capabilities. Should you prioritize customer requests? Or does instinct tell you that it would be better to spend that time developing a new feature to address an emerging pain point?

To ensure that cross-functional duties aren't obstructed by your team's physical separation, demarcate time for specific cross-functional activities, such as the following:

  • Time for new business focus: A meeting to review leads offered by your in-team SDR, for example.
  • Customer retention/expansion focus: A meeting led by your AE/customer success team member to review where you're losing customers and where you might regain them.
  • Product innovation focus: A workshop, brainstorm, or demo session led by your product development pro to discuss new pain points and talk about how you could modify your product to respond.

Communicate Effectively #

If they don't already exist in your company, create standardized communications channels that make both in-team and out-of-team communication accessible and visible. Tools like Slack are good for this. Create customized channels your cross-functional team members can use to quickly jump between their cross-functional and in-department duties. Shared workspaces and dashboards are also vital components of cross-functional sales.

Maintain a company wiki, too, or a knowledge base. Emphasize to your team that this is essential for communicating asynchronously about processes and larger project goals.

Encourage your team to use Slack or your favored communication tool to interact socially, too, perhaps via sport- or music-oriented conversation channels. Set up these interest-focused channels in Slack (or other similar tools) to encourage team building during downtime.

Additionally, host individual check-ins, team clinics (e.g. on the latest sales best practices), and whole department meetings via a video platform, like Zoom. These meetings will help keep your team members feeling connected to one another and company goals while remote.

Invest in A Tracking Plan #

A tracking plan gives your cross-functional team visibility over the progress you're making toward your sales goals based on the KPIs you've selected to govern performance. Using transcripts from your Conversation Intelligence platform, your tracking plan can also include information about deal drivers in your sales approach. What social proof, what features, what case studies, in particular, are driving prospect interest and leading to more follow-up meetings and closed-won deals?

This plan allows your cross-functional team to fetch data that can be as valuable for product devs and marketing as for sales reps trying to land a deal. By noting your product features that have the highest value for prospects, your marketing stakeholder can place them front and center in promotional materials. By noting frequently-asked-about features missing from your product array, your product team can make more informed decisions about valuable feature additions to your new product.

Of course, a tracking plan of any kind demands disciplined maintenance.

To make sure this happens, establish suitable processes:

  1. Schedule time in the week for your cross-functional team to ensure that your plan, as well as pertinent wikis and CRMs, are updated.
  2. Ensure that the team's common Github/Tettra, etc., are regularly reviewed and are made available to other teams in your organization.
  3. Elect someone in the team to handle tracking plan updates or reporting each week, and assign a delivery deadline.

With a tracking plan, team members from all departments benefit from valuable sales process information, preventing siloing.

Be Agile #

The Agile philosophy is a product development approach aimed at minimizing waste and putting customer experience, flexibility, and continuous product improvement first. It's also a product development strategy intended to bring different departments closer, making it well suited to cross-functional working.

Agile teams are perfect for addressing customer support issues, especially when there’s a high risk of churn. Given the current turmoil in the market, your cross-functional teams are likely to work well under Agile methods.

Take care of your Your Team #

Do everything in your power to make sure your cross-functional team is stable and happy—especially now that they’re remote. Our research shows increased mentions of burnout on sales calls throughout 2020 as the selling day got longer. A team leader must address these possibilities before they become an issue for their cross-functional team.

Consistently make time for one-to-one meetings with your team members, and listen to any concerns they might have. Ask for feedback on how your newly transitioned processes are (or aren't) working for them.

Shape your cross-functional team's calendar to help them manage stress and stay fresh. Things like lunch slots that no one is allowed to schedule over (“Everybody eats!”) and book-ended days might seem like small things, but they go a long way.

A team that is always on and laden with Zoom fatigue is a team destined for burnout. To avoid that outcome, take steps to keep your cross-functional team happy and destressed.

Getting Your Team Flying in Formation #

The key to getting the best out of cross-functional teams in remote environments is to help them manage their time and allocate resources effectively. Depending on your sales organization's status and cash flow, you may wish to have them sprint ahead with high-volume selling. Otherwise, you might want to have them target tough deals or task them with steadying the ship. All those options can be successful.

As their remote manager, your focus should be to maintain balance, encourage regular contact, and promote a sense of togetherness within the team. Purposed correctly, the cross-functional team's versatility and closeness can bring unprecedented results for your company, in good times and bad.

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