Want a Collaborative Team? Watch Out for Communication Silos


New leaders often take the reins of their Sales or Revenue team with one thing on their mind: Delivering results. What win rate will they have to achieve or maintain to hit their target each quarter? How long will it take to get everyone strategically aligned and ready to execute? Who are the top performers on the team, and how will the new leader elevate the others to their level?

But even after they answer these questions and get everything lined up, they often hit a wall. The team starts falling short of their targets. Confusion abounds. What went wrong?

If squadron leaders don’t focus just as much on creating a culture of collaboration and communication as they do on individual execution, their chances of successfully completing that mission are close to nil.

On elite military teams, it doesn’t matter how well each member is prepared for a mission – if squadron leaders don’t focus just as much on creating a culture of collaboration and communication as they do on individual execution, their chances of successfully completing that mission are close to nil. The same is true in the business world – but while many leaders understand this, and mount serious efforts to build that culture of communication, they often hit roadblocks when it comes to bridging communication gaps between product verticals. What they end up with is a culture in which reps are locked in with their colleagues serving the same industry, territory, or company size, but that these verticals are siloed and don’t talk to each other. And these communication siloes can have a serious adverse impact on the broader team.

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How communication silos make talented organizations fail

The test of a successful organization is whether they’re able to create a holistic experience for their customers. A software company, for example, would never want their customers to love their product but feel disappointed with the customer support experience, or to be impressed with some modules in the platform but find that the others fail to deliver value.

To create that holistic experience, verticals need to go beyond creating their own culture of communication and collaboration and break down communication barriers across the broader team. Each vertical, through its internal and external work, gains insights that can empower others to boost their own performance – a rep might, for example, learn that a prospect’s company is merging with a company in a different vertical, creating a potential upsell or cross-sell opportunity. It’s essential that they have the means and wisdom to share those insights. That’s what true situational awareness and mutual support look like.

Two steps to break down communication barriers

Here are some ways to establish inter-vertical lines of communication, so that leaders can build a broader culture of collaboration that benefits the entire team – and, by extension, the rest of the organization.

Create the right mechanisms

There’s no shortage of resources enabling verticals to share insights and lessons with one another – and at a time when so many companies are still fully or partially remote, these resources are more valuable than ever.

Sometimes, leveraging these resources can be as simple as creating designated Slack channels that different verticals can use to stay connected. Other times, it’s a matter of creating a culture in which verticals are more disciplined and rigorous about using existing resources. How helpful would it be if, for example, your reps were in the habit of leaving robust notes in SFDC and appropriately tagging them to make them more accessible across your team?

Build solid communication protocols

Making resources available is one thing. But that alone isn’t enough to make sure communication occurs frequently enough, or at a big enough scale, to be beneficial. It’s also a good idea to set up recurring meetings between different verticals, and to make sure those meetings have a well-defined structure. In the remote-work era, some leaders may also find that, if they occur over Zoom, even frequent meetings don’t go far enough in enabling the necessary exchange of insights – these leaders may decide to invest in quarterly or even monthly in-person gatherings.

Helping teams build a strong culture of collaboration and communication, through a framework informed by the ideals of elite military teams, is one of the central pillars of Afterburner’s mission. Get in touch to learn how you can break down communication silos across your organization.