I spent about 15 years in the corporate world working in Human Resources, and have tons of experience teaching effective communication.
Why Are Team-Building Exercises Important?
Incorporating good team-building exercises into your business can help you stay ahead of the competition, something that is more important than ever in today's harsh economic climate.
The most effective and efficient teams are those who know what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it, how much leeway they have to push the boundaries, and the consequences of overstepping the mark.
Team-building activities provide a safe environment to in which to identify areas that can be improved and reinforce the consequences of getting things wrong.
Though there are loads of great activities out there, my two favorites are the question and question game and picture perfect. Keep scrolling for directions on how to play, desired outcomes for each exercise, and a discussion of the importance of good communication in sales and how these activities will help develop it.
My Two Favorite Team-Building Activities
People learn more when they're enjoying themselves, so try to make your activities as fun as possible.
Communication exercises need to be built around listening, collecting, or passing on information and being observant. Often, the best exercises are the ones you design yourself or adapt to your own circumstances.
Here are two ideas to get you started.
1. The Question and Question Game
How to Play: This is a twist on the yes / no game and is played with two people, one person asking questions and one person answering.
- Pick any object—ideally something non-work-related so it feels more fun.
- The questioner needs to keep a conversation going with the other person for at least one minute about the orange (or whatever object you've chosen), but the questioner cannot ask a question to which a yes / no answer would be appropriate or they lose the game.
- Aggressive questions (as judged by an observer) result in an immediate loss for the questioner.
Let's say the chosen object is an orange. The question 'Do you like oranges?' would be no good, whereas 'What's the best orange you've ever had' would be okay as it demands more than a yes/no answer.
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Takeaway: This is remarkably difficult to do, and that's its point; it makes a sales team think hard about what questions to ask and how to ask them.
2. Picture Perfect
How to Play: This game is played with four people and highlights the need for clarity in communication. The two picture creators need to be at opposite ends of a room or even in separate rooms—far enough away that they cannot communicate at all. Each has an assistant who will pass information between them.
- One person is given a simply drawn picture. It needs to be something that can be fairly easily recreated (e.g. a box with a bow on top).
- The person who draws the initial picture has to give instructions to their assistant on what needs to be drawn using only descriptions of shapes (i.e. they can't say 'draw a box with a bow on it.' They'd have to start with 'draw a square,' etc.).
- They give the first instruction to their assistant who then goes to the middle of the room (or the separate room) and passes the information to the drawer's assistant.
- The drawer's assistant then tells the drawer what to draw. The drawer's goal is to recreate the picture without actually seeing it.
- Questions from the drawer (e.g. 'what size is the square?') are carried back by the same method.
- This process continues one shape at a time until the drawing is complete and can be compared with the original.
- Often, the end result is two images that bear no resemblance to each other.
Takeaway: This exercise highlights how easy it is for the simplest instruction (e.g. draw a square) to be interpreted differently by different people, and therefore demonstrate just how important clarity in communication is. This includes the need to ask the right questions and respond accordingly.
Team Building Improves Communication
A good sales team needs to be able to convince their customer that they need what is being sold to them. A really good sales team is able to do that without the customer realising that they've just been part of a sales job. An excellent sales team will not only be able to do the above but will also ensure that the customer returns to them when they next need the product or service and recommends them to their friends and colleagues.
Unfortunately, not only do many sales teams fail to meet the standard required to be good (let alone excellent), they excel at being bad with in-your-face, pushy, or ill-thought-out arguments.
Take, for example, the poor, unfortunate salesperson who phoned me not long ago to ask why I hadn't taken out the repair cover guarantee for some product I'd bought. I replied (quite reasonably, I thought) that I hadn't taken out the cover as I didn't expect the product to break down—unless he knew something I didn't. There were a few moments of silence on his end of the line (I don't think they'd covered faith in the product in the telephone script), then he said goodbye and hung up.
The problem with that scenario was that he asked me a question that just begged for a negative answer, whereas starting with 'Are you enjoying the product and would you like to protect against the unlikely event of...' etc. would have gotten a different response.
Sales is all about communication—communication with customers, communication with the rest of the sales team, communication with support staff—communication, communication, communication. If things aren't being done right, customers are not buying (assuming your product or service is not at fault), and goods are not being delivered as stated, you guessed it—the problem is likely poor communication.
So how do you fix it? You integrate sales team-building activities and exercises into your company calendar on a regular basis.
In general, employees produce their best work when they are happy with their working environment. This includes both the physical environment (e.g. there are always enough coffee cups in the canteen) and the emotional environment (i.e. company culture and coworkers). In addition to helping your employees work more effectively, activities like the two above can also foster a healthy emotional environment in the workplace.
Hopefully, this has given you a starting point for your team-building plan. Plenty of other ideas can be found online or by perusing some of the many books on the subject. It's always good to get a wide range of ideas and suggestions before you start so you can put together a program that is well-suited to your team.
Now that you've gotten started, go forth and build!