A Double-Dog Dare to Relook at Your Sales Roles

Editor’s note: This is the fifth post in a new series devoted to helping new sales managers survive and thrive in their new role. For more essential tips and tactics, sign up for our free email course,The First 90 Days: A Sales Manager Survival Course.  

Last week Dave Brock shared the importance of creating an “ideal candidate profile” prior to filling a sales position. Further, he warned us about the grave danger and extremely high cost of hiring the wrong person. I could not agree more with his perspective, and in this installment I’d like to continue the challenge by asking you to take a long, hard look at how clearly you’ve defined the different sales roles in your organization.

A good percentage of the sales performance issues I observe in companies revolve around lack of sales role clarity and not having the right people in the right roles.

The truth is that a salesperson is not a salesperson. There are as many different types of sales roles as there are colors of crayons. We’ve got territory managers, sales engineers, big game hunters, BDRs, BDMs and BDEs, insider servicers, outside route guys, industry specialists, account managers, merchandisers, retail floor salespeople, and many more!

Yet most executives lack the insight, desire and patience to invest the time and energy to properly define the various sales roles in their company.

Take a few minutes to relook at the job description for the sales position in your organization. Then take it another step and list out everything you’re asking your typical “salesperson” to do. I mean it. List every task and responsibility you expect people in that role to handle – all the while keeping in mind that the primary job / objective of your sales force is to drive new sales (increase revenue).

My hope is that exercise causes you to pause. Quite often, executives are struck by two fresh realities:

  1. They are asking way too much of their salespeople. How in the world can one person be expected to effectively prospect, follow-up leads, conduct discovery conversations, present, demo, propose, negotiate, close, onboard, project-manage, service, account manage, firefight, entertain, troubleshoot, renew, cross-sell, upsell, etc…?
  2. No one person excels at such a wide variety of tasks. There is nothing similar about prospecting and managing existing business. Nothing. And most true sales hunters are awful when it comes to managing projects and details, while most zookeepers / account managers would rather clean the restrooms than push a prospect into a discovery meeting.

There is nothing radical or controversial about these two observations. In fact, most executives and sales managers wholeheartedly agree. Yet, they still default to a one size fits all approach to sales talent and are unwilling to do the hard work to better / further define sales roles.

My passion is new business development, and I’m convinced that one the biggest impediments to sales teams picking up more new business is management’s refusal to create “specialized” sales roles. Instead, they take the easy / lazy way out and stick with the standard catchall sales position used by most companies. And that easy way out not only produces less than optimal results, it also creates perpetual frustration for both sales managers and salespeople!

Think what might happen if you freed up the precious few true sales hunters on your team so they could double, or even triple, the amount of time dedicated to hunting for new business? Can you imagine how many more opportunities they’d find and how happy they’d be not having to deal with as many administrative details and service issues? And picture how much more fun sales management would be if you didn’t have to beg, cajole and threaten your farmers / zookeepers to pick up a weapon and hunt for new accounts (something they’re terrible at and hate doing)?

Are these really radical thoughts?

  1. Define the sales roles more clearly
  2. Put people with natural talent and affinity for those specific roles in the positions
  3. Raise the activity and performance bar for what you expect from your people in these better-defined, best-fit sales roles
  4. Reap the benefits of happier, more productive, and more effective salespeople (which includes your company acquiring more new customers and better serving existing ones)

Don’t settle for what’s easy or what everyone else is doing and be forced to live with sales management talent frustration forever. Go to the whiteboard. Start from scratch; look at your sales roles and talent requirements with a fresh perspective. I promise the effort will pay huge dividends in the future.

More Tips for New Sales Managers

Get caught up by reading any previous posts in the series you may have missed:

  1. So You’re a New Sales Manager: The Biggest Change to Expect
  2. Your #1 Priority as Sales Manager (Plus 3 Things to Stop Doing Now)
  3. 10 Questions for Assessing Your Sales Reps (& What to Do Next)
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