A company’s sales force structure can mean the difference between quota-smashing revenue and a struggle for returns. Stellar teams don’t just happen, they’re built from the first hire, crafted over time, and perfected with a lot of hard work.
“Sales leaders often do not notice structural problems because they evolve over time,” writes John Kenney, at SBI, who goes on to give some example. “An overlay team is added to launch a new product. Some specialists are added to address a new industry opportunity. A telephone and Internet team is added to reduce travel costs. Over time the result is Frankenstein — a collection of good intentions bolted together.”
Good intentions don’t close deals, however. And nobody wants to work inside a monster.
To build and keep your sales force strong — as well as racking up conversions — consider the advice of experts working with their own teams, their own goals, and measuring their own success when sales force structure is just right. Read on for a refresher on strong teams, key approaches, and strategies to front-load your future quarters for success.
- Match the team structure to the type of job. At their most focused, the makeup of a sales team reflects the kind of sales it’s trying to achieve. Your team might be working with commodities — fulfilling demand and converting on a short cycle. It could be centered on consultation, long-term accounts, custom-engineered products, or retail. Your approaches to structure should start with identifying what category (or categories) of sales apply to your force.
- Identify your ‘hunters’. Within your sales team structure are the analysts who understand your potential buyers. As John McTigue describes it, at Kuno Creative, your hunters “attract them with relevant, helpful content, convert them with valuable offers, [and] nurture them with more helpful content.” They’re able to groom and prepare new candidates; your “hunters” are one half of a powerful team segment.
- Fine-tune the relationship between outbound ‘hunters’ and closers. The other half of the hunter segment is the outbound component. This element of sales force structure represents the team members to whom you turn when you’ve identified the buyers you want to bring into the mix. They can be closers, too, or they can hand off to closers within your team. “In an ideal word that is what should happen,” said Rudy Joggerst, digital marketing manager at Janek Performance Group. “There’s one person that's very role specific — making outbound calls, developing leads, and passing it along to a closer or sales person.” This approach can apply to inbound hunters as well.
- Define territories to keep your sales force on task (and happy). A well structured team can be a competitive organism, but defining ownership is part of what sales leaders can do to ensure that talent stays focused — always perceiving achievable goals and a common cause in the process. Design your team so that territories are assigned, and so they reflect a balance of potential, size (geography), and needed attention. “If there is a large difference between territories, or they change over time, sales people may have either too much or not enough work,” according to a recent report at Boundless. “Too much work can cause the sales person to neglect some customers, while too little could lead to over-servicing … Both actions can cost the firm revenue.”
- Sales force structure changes as company life-cycles evolve. One bottom line that sales leaders will always have to acknowledge is that nothing about sales is static. Structure your team just right, and six months later you’re re-structuring to adapt to a client and business milieu that’s evolved into something new. “Shifts in the sales force’s structure are essential if a company wants to keep winning the race for customers,” write Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer, at Harvard Business Review. “Specifically, companies must alter four factors over time: the roles that the sales force and selling partners play; the size of the sales force; the sales force’s degree of specialization; and how salespeople apportion their efforts among different customers, products, and activities.”
Solid sales force structure is about hard work and constant attention. As a sales leader you can never take your eye off the moving target of structure. As your company evolves, so do the potential challenges to strong and well-built teams.
Follow the steps above, keeping in mind the strategic points our cited experts recommend, and your sales team stands to become an ever-more interlocking, balanced, and evolving instrument. Strong sales force structure drives your company’s revenue-growth and success. It’s the difference between a well-oiled machine and having to deal with a Frankenstein monster.