Optimizing Part Of The Selling Function, Sub-Optimizing The Whole
By Dave Brock
Recently, I read an article in which the position was put forth, “Inside sales does not have the responsibility for creating pipeline, only the responsibility for selling. They should never pick up the phone and make a prospecting call!” Many of you can imagine what my knee-jerk reaction was to this statement. But for a moment, I managed to contain myself. The speaker was clearly smart and had been very successful in selling, perhaps there was something I misunderstood.
As I got into the article, the question was posed, “Who is responsible for developing pipeline?” The response was, “Someone else….”
The article went on, I realized the speaker was arguing for a very high degree of specialization within the sales function. Specialization makes sense—where it makes sense.
Specialization has been around for decades. We’ve long had product line specialists, organizations where sales is oriented around different product lines, each sales team responsible for the sale of a specific product line. A terrific strategy for driving product line growth. But then the questions come, Who is responsible for the customer relationship? Who is responsible for maximizing our share of customer? What experience do we want to create, how do we want the customer to “think” of our company? Where product lines are very diverse, with different and unrelated buyers within the account, this issue may not be important (But I’m still driven by my mantra, “It’s our God-given right to 100% share of customer and territory…”). But as buying teams start to overlap, this issue becomes critical.
Enter the realm of account management/territory. Often, the way we solved the inherent challenges of a product-oriented sales force, is we shifted to account/territory management, with sales people responsible for selling the entire product line to their customers. There are some clear advantages to this, but also limitations—particularly if you have a large, diverse, and complex product line. No one person could be expert in each.
Organizations solve this by creating hybrid/overlay sales organizations. Perhaps account/territory managers for core product lines and managing the overall customer relationship, with specialists for the more complex product lines. The idea here is for the account/territory people to work collaboratively with the specialists. The concept of “team selling” arose. Variations started being introduced as partners and channels became part of the go to customer model.
Then, the idea of specialization by simple/transactional versus complex sales arose. We started segmenting the sales process with people focused on the simpler/transactional sales (usually inside sales) and those that focused on complex sales (usually the field/territory people and specialists). There were still challenges from the customer point of view (if it wasn’t for those pesky customers worried about their experience and how they want to buy), but this specialization was another turn of the crank in making the sales organization very efficient. Often, the idea being, inside sales was a lower cost of selling than field sales, they could more cost effectively handle the transactional/lower margin product lines.
As selling becomes more complex (though I think at least in Go to the full article.