We’re living in a time where transformation and information fly faster than ever before. To keep up, diverse teams are needed — and as many as 94% of companies globally agree: agility and collaboration are critical for success.
So having a collaborative culture embedded in your sales team is a must. In a truly collaborative environment, everyone feels like they have a voice. Team members engage more fully, contribute their best, and are more productive. This paves the way for improvements across the board.
One way to guide your team into a more collaborative culture is to encourage them to develop relationships with each other outside of work. We’re not talking stuffy team-building events — we’re talking casual social interactions. But how do you get your sales team to do this?
How to get your team to socialize outside of work
The problem with making socialization mandatory is in the name — it can feel forced. And while we say can, we should say do. It doesn’t take long for forced activities to fizzle out.
So forcing everyone to go out every Friday night isn’t necessarily the best option for every team — and if there are non-drinkers or parents who need to get home to their kids, you’ll wind up excluding people. Not that weekly happy hours is a bad idea (we suggest it later), but each team is different.
That said, you can do a few things to encourage your sales team to socialize outside of the office building, like:
- Encourage them to celebrate big wins by going out — like that new client Jim closed;
- And to take new hires out after work hours. Getting to know the new guy — or gal — can help spur relationship growth all around; what Daryl did last night can give the team something to laugh about the next day.
- Celebrate team member birthdays. Whether on-site or off, it provides a welcome break for socializing.
- Consider your role as manager — sometimes people resist doing things simply because it came from “the boss.” If that’s the dynamic in your team, make your suggestions to a receptive team member, then let them suggest it to the team like it’s their idea.
- Don’t force it. If need be, you can kick things off with some planned social events, but let things occur as naturally as possible.
If your team has never been one to mingle after the clock hits 5, then it’s likely going to take a concerted effort on your part to get things started. With that in mind, here are 5 ideas you can try out to help your sales team socialize outside of work:
1. Team lunches/happy hour
Encourage your team to take a few hours in the afternoon to go to lunch together. This can help your team relax and connect on a personal level outside of work. They spend as much as 35% of their waking hours together — so connecting and being able to relate to each other is important, regardless of the benefits of collaboration.
You can also try out a happy hour, instead of lunch — whatever works best for your team. But the important thing is that you make these shared meals or drinks outside of work into regular occurrences. Weekly is a good goal to aim for.
2. Kickball/softball league
Seeing each other sweat and compete together in an organized sport, like kickball or softball or otherwise, can do wonders for bringing your team together. Your team learns new things about each other that they wouldn’t otherwise and get to see each other in a different light.
Not only that, but it can provide a welcome stress-reliever if it’s scheduled for partway through the week. Your teams’ inner children can come out in a fun, active, competitive environment. Afterward, if they want to relax for a meal or drink, then bonus — it’s a 2-for-1 in the socialization game.
If you’ve got some foodies on your team, this activity could be the perfect way to spur socialization between your team members. Gather your team together at one person’s house, or at a business that hosts cooking classes — then get started.
Creating new dishes together challenges creativity and leadership skills — and can just be fun. Break your team into smaller teams or pairs and choose a food category. When everything is done, there’ll be space to socialize over some delicious dishes — or order pizza instead and laugh about the disastrous results of the night’s creations.
Volunteering is an “oldy but goody.” And lest you get images of building houses together, it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Simply ask team members to sign up to ring Salvation Army bells in small groups around the holidays. Something about huddling in cold weather around a small plastic red bucket tends to bring people together.
And when they have a few hours to kill while doing so, it gives the (sneaky) opportunity for them to get to know each other. If you organize a day of it — with the team split up over multiple locations simultaneously — then you can gather everyone together at the end for a drink or bite to eat.
5. Shared learning opportunity
This last activity does double-duty: encourages team members to bond, and provides them with an opportunity to learn and grow in their career. A shared learning opportunity can come in many forms: an on-site experience or an off-site workshop or conference.
It could be something specifically related to their job, or something of broader scope — like a negotiation skills workshop. Either way, it’s a win-win on multiple levels.
Creating a collaborative culture is key in the modern, evolving business world — and that includes in your sales team. When your team members socialize outside of work, they get to know each other on more personal levels. This helps them relate, connect, and work better together.
But it’s a fine line to walk between mandating forced post-work social activities, and allowing them to occur naturally. You want your team’s socialization with each other to come about organically, but many times they require some gentle guidance to get them started.