Avoiding the Pitfalls of Internal Misalignment

In Posts by Craig by Craig Jones

You need resources for a strategic opportunity, and you’re relying on your internal team to provide you with critical information. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same priorities or sense of urgency that you do. You don’t have the authority to demand they take action, and the clock is ticking. How can you resolve the problem, win the business, and maintain trust and credibility with your customer?

In strategic, complex sales situations, many organizations admit to having two different sales cycles: one externally with their customers and another internally within their own companies. Managing the customer relationship during the sales cycle tends to garner lots of attention, but your relationships within your organization can have a significant impact on your outcomes, and they often pose a thornier challenge. You may need support from someone in another department, for instance, but they have their own pressures, responsibilities, and deadlines. You may have to rely on someone whose motivation is his or her own short-term win, not your long-term customer relationship.

Whatever your situation, the day will come when multiple parties in your organization need to be on the same page—and you’re the one who has to make it happen.

Internal alignment matters, according to Steve Andersen and Dave Stein, authors of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World, “because if the customer senses your internal misalignment, they will feel uncomfortable and may believe they are being put at unnecessary risk, because you and your team don’t have your act together.”

When it’s time to lead and collaborate with people who don’t report to you, you’ll be much more effective—and you’ll create greater value for your customer more often—when you use the same approach internally with your colleagues that you do externally with your customer. One of my clients, who was grappling a similar situation, collaborated with me to develop three simple steps, which changed the nature of his relationship with his colleagues:

  • Think about your internal team members like you think about your customers. Your team will become exponentially more cooperative when you seek to understand their motivations, objectives, and priorities; when you clarify the obstacles that stand in their way; and when you validate their options for overcoming those obstacles.
  • Create a value proposition for your internal team members. Once you understand what’s going on in your colleagues’ world, you can repurpose the framework you used for your customer to create a value proposition for your colleagues. Focus on what’s in it for the individual stakeholders, as well as on the benefits to your company and to the account.
  • Obtain internal executive-level sponsorship. When multiple internal entities are involved, you may need someone at a higher level to step in and make clear that this activity is important both to the account and to your company. If you’ve completed Steps 1 and 2, you may not need this kind of sponsorship, but if you have the support of the executive who has authority over the entities you’re working with, he or she can clear the path for you, if necessary.

Internal misalignment is inevitable at times in any organization, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. Incorporating these three activities into your approach before there’s an urgency can help you build internal trust, enhance your credibility, and create more value for your customers.

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