In the first part of this series, we discussed the overall approach and framework involved in building high performing sales organizations. Here, we begin breaking down the key elements to explore “what” and “how” to address Sales Structure. From a contextual standpoint, in the framework of this post, I am including the following sub-factors as part of structure:
- Sales Methodology and Process
- Critical Role Analysis and Role Excellence Profiles
Before building each of these pieces of the sales structure, sales leaders need first to ensure the vision for the sales organization maps directly to the goals of the overall organization. You may be surprised how many times sales teams have goals that are not tied to and aligned with the goals of marketing, operations, and even the overarching organizational goals. This is why we start with a rigorous Intent Workshop (see Part 1 for more detail on Intent). Assuming an organization has appropriate Intent, the next step is to gain clarity around structure:
Sales Methodology and Process
There are a number of sales methodologies – SPIN Selling, Solution Selling, Trusted Advisor, Sandler, to name only a few, and this does not include the multitude of home grown approaches – and all have certain merits. What is critical in choosing a methodology and approach to selling is that it aligns with the mission and goals of the organization. For example, if an organization has long, complex sales cycles that require deep relationship building, strong advocacy and selling in teams, a methodology that espouses very transactional approaches will not provide a framework that enables sustainable sales success.
Chosen methodologies also directly connect to the selection process of current and future sales professionals in the organization. Although some sales professionals have been top quota producers in their past lives, this is not a guarantee they will thrive in your organization in the ways that you define success.
When it comes to sales processes, many organizations build an approach that maps to how they want to sell to customers. For example: generate leads, qualify, create opportunities, generate proposal, and close the sale. CRM systems are then configured to measure these stages, incentives, and compensation plans are built to support these processes (which are typically very heavily weighted on closed business). The challenge is that there is one key factor missing from this type of process: THE CUSTOMER!
A “best practice” or “best approach” to sales process is to map the process to the prospect’s buying cycle, not to the seller’s. Understanding how your prospects like to buy does require some thought and research. This can be done through quantitative and qualitative methods, and how much work goes into this area depends on how much accuracy is desired and how much risk is tolerable. In an exercise like this, a sales leader may find different customer segments require different processes, and that is ok – actually, that is great insight to have, as this may drive staffing models, compensation decisions and leading and lagging indicators of success that the organization can measure.
Critical Role Analysis and Role Excellence Profiles
Connected to the methodology and process is the roles needed to fulfill the sales mission of the organization. There is no “one right way” to build the sales force, it all points back to mission and goals of the organization and how the company is going to marketing in building a profitable business. Options include:
- Outside Sales People (employees, contractors or both)
- Inside Sales People (employees, contractors or both)
- Channel Relationships
- Sales Management
- Key Account Managers (or, Strategic Account Managers)
- Client Advocates
Certainly, there are more options, and an endless blend of possibilities in constructing a firm’s model. What can help a sales leader determine the right mix is a blend of analytics, experience and seasoned intuition. Based on qualitative and quantitative data, an organization will uncover buying tendencies and potential of the current and future client base, they types of connections and relationships that are likely to influence buying habits and customer loyalty, and where the biggest areas of opportunity for profitable growth lie for the firm. Based on key factors uncovered during research, the sales leader can then build the roles necessary to drive revenue and profit appropriately. Adding headcount under the premise of “more feet on the street will add more profitable business” without the strategic thought attached would seem to create the potential for wasting money and possibly creating more harm than good.
Once the roles are defined, it then becomes time to create the profiles that define excellence in each role. This stage gets to the core of defining what “good” looks like for each role. In this, I am not referring to just personality types and skills and competencies that map to each role. Rather, I am speaking of the key outcomes of value produced in each role. This is where most organizations fall short. In different business units, regions and territories there are varying definitions of good, and this not only creates tremendous variability in sales results, but also creates a lack of transparency and clarity for a sales leader who aspires to scale the successful sales organization. (More on this topic to come in future posts)
Stay plugged in to this series. In our next post, we will dig into the element of Sales Operations, and how this area plays a critical function in building the high performing sales organization.