This article will not be two things. Those are:
1- A customized sales process
2- The mechanics of Market Identification and Prospecting, which are the beginning of the sales process, or existing customer Account Management and Reporting, which are at the continuation of a repeatable process.
These are outside the scope of this article.
Instead let’s examine how sales organizations set up their sales departments and configure salesperson positions from a responsibility and resource perspective.
If the reader would forgive a slight exaggeration, in order to stimulate the mind, there are as many sales department formations out there as there are sales teams and companies. Moreover, admittedly many of these salespeople and companies are doing well, achieving their objectives and making themselves, their stakeholders and hopefully customers successful.
The article is assuming the organization has more than one or two salespersons. The math obviously does not apply to the mom and pop business with a part-time seller or a lone full-time salesperson, but as you can imagine if the number of sales folk to the size of market is out of proportion this in itself is a recipe for sales collapse. For now, let us assume a sales team (plural) exists.
Many companies have too large of (what they perceive is) an addressable market or have deployed their salespeople inefficiently. This issue is so prevalent that it boggles the mind. It is something that happens far too commonly and is a function of the sales management having not truly sold in the past, forgetting what it is like to be an individual contributor, have personal experience in only one type of sales or being subjugated to a larger force within the company. This is not meant to be condescending. After all, what did you have for lunch last week, day before yesterday or even yesterday? It is easy to forget, isn’t it?
When assigning dedicated salespeople to accounts, territories or solutions and verticals companies tend to create a strict demarcation between the job descriptions and focus of
- inside and outside or
- SMB and enterprise/major public-sector or
- Generalist and vertically/other specialized
representatives. The friction created as a result is one story. Much time and goodwill is expended mediating the issues that arise. Cooperation among team members is lessened and customer service suffers when service is slowed and coverage and responsiveness is decreased.
Challenge: Aside from the above, a bigger and more immediate issue is the inefficient deployment that results in what I have seen so often I have a term for it, namely inverage. It is ‘incomplete coverage.’ No account, territory or solution is completely covered. Instead, companies have spread their efforts in every step of the sales cycle/account management more thinly than is necessary. The employer is not even deriving complete value from its salespersons’ particular specialty and skills. What is meant by this?
- Enterprise/field salespeople who are best at, and need to be establishing deep relationships with customers, are spending an inordinate part of their time hunting new business from scratch, making cold calls or booking transactional and low value business for their major and existing customers.
- SMB sales reps are dialing into new accounts. Handling major accounts that the Enterprise team has not picked up and attempting to give C-levels at larger hierarchical accounts the same treatment as it does to smaller and SMB accounts. The truth, however, is that transactional activities do not leave room for an in-depth management of the customer. Yet, many customers need or demand that attention. The smaller accounts’ managers are also dialling/e-mailing for dollars and have more resources to canvass a larger set of customers’ employees.
- Business developers whose task should be attracting new accounts and sales are covering the trenches because no one else is handling the account or is not allowed to step outside the pre-defined boundary.
- At the aforementioned smaller companies, the (few) sellers have too large of a or practically undefined territory and are attempting to cover the proverbial phone book.
Anyone who steps outside his or her designated role and account does so voluntarily and may even be attracting the displeasure of management, which in many cases has its own immediate chain of command divided into outside/enterprise/major and inside/SMB/minor to begin with. There is likely an opportunity cost to doing so in terms of one’s own accounts and commission dollars for the seller.
Within this model no one is quite happy needing to go where they are least comfortable and less inclined. No one is truly exposed to anyone else’s business and professional life either furthering the segregation. Time is not utilized in optimal fashion.
As a manager of several sales teams at Microsoft several years ago I had instituted a variable pay system where a portion of the team members’ sales commission (20%) was based on team performance. The shared model made the comradery better, helped with cross territory and team cooperation and gave customers’ better coverage. It worked quite well. It was dismantled a fiscal year later when the senior management asked that the compensation be standardized to the global model.
Answer: What teams need is a sharing of account management duties.
- The flexibility for the Enterprise seller to devote (say) 20% of his or her time to assist the SMB representative and the flexibility of the SMB seller to devote a congruent 20% of time to the enterprise account he or she shares in a minor fashion with the enterprise representative is key.
- Both would be proportionally sharing in the variable rewards of their respective primary accounts as well thus rewarding them for their effort.
- Each seller would also focus on what his or her main job responsibility or forte is, while being exposed to the duties of his or her counterpart.
- Most importantly perhaps, it is the customers who are most thankful for the coverage, responsiveness, deepness of expertise and teamwork.
Again, and most importantly, the sellers would focus on what they do best most of time, but simultaneously there would be much less of a gap in selling and other necessary activity coverage.
This configuration addresses respective salespersons’ lack of time, lack of skillset, unwillingness, priorities and the quarterly nature of quota. Any company that can should pair sellers.
|Account Type||Major Role & Variable Compensation||Minor Role & Variable Compensation|
F/M = Field/Major Salesperson
I/T = Inside/Transactional Salesperson
G/U = Generalist/Unmanaged Accounts
*Things That Need To Go Away: he does this, she does that, they do not mix and if they do it is to their personal detriment.