Architecting your Sales Force

How does a business owner or CEO go about setting up an effective sales force?  In “Architecting your Sales Force” I ask Jeff Schneider and Scott Gustaff for their insights.

Jeff suggests that a common practice — promoting a top sales person to be the sales manager — is not the wisest approach, and frequently fails.  That’s because the skill set required to sell, is different from the skill set required to manage and lead.

Sales people tend to be independent.  Sales managers have to be inter-dependent.
Sales people need to develop skills in themselves.  Sales managers gave to develop skills in others.
Sales people are focused outside the firm.  Sales managers are focused inside the firm.
Sales people can be unconscious of their strengths.  Sales managers must be conscious about how strengths work.
Sales people can be intuitive.  Sales managers have to be more analytical.
Sales people must constantly prospect.  Sales managers must constantly recruit.
Sales people nurture customer relationships.  Sales managers create a “sales culture” — based on their own leadership — that either retains or drives away good people.

Jeff currently teaches the Sandler sales system to both sales people and sales managers.  Many of his lessons are universal, and apply regardless of which sales system you use, or whether you use one.

On the people side, the sales force needs to be created and maintained by these basic three activities:

  • Recruit
  • Train
  • Retain

The best recruits are already employed, often with your competitors.  The time to work on recruiting them is well before needing them — so, socialize with them through trade associations and industry events.

As the CEO or business owner, you should be able to turn to your VP of Sales and ask to look at their recruitment “funnel.”  It’s just like going over a sales person’s sales funnel.  And as the CEO you should do so periodically.

One way to look at your sales culture is to ask the sales manager (and separately to ask each sales person) to provide a single word that would describe the sales culture.  Then, ask yourself why it’s that word, and whether it’s something you are deliberately shaping or are allowing to grow organically.

And finally you can identify a single word to describe the culture you want, and begin to make plans for how you might shape the culture deliberately in that direction.

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