Business Growth Structure: Trending Toward an Inside Job
By: Mark Frasco
Professional sales has come a long way over the past generation. There has been a revolution of sorts in business growth structure and process. As Harvard Business Review notes in their article, “The Trend that is Changing Sales,” of the 100 vice presidents of sales interviewed, 46% reported that they were shifting more resources away from field sales to inside sales.
Field sales talent shouldn’t be concerned, but rather relieved. Help is on the way. More is becoming understood about specialization of task in the sales profession. Gone are the days of the “gun-slinging” lone sales star who carries the enormous pressure of growing their territory or business. Distributed responsibilities based on mindsets and skill sets – including leveraging each to lower the cost of sale – are gaining attention.
Let’s take a look at mindsets and skill sets involved in the sales process:
Let’s face it: we’re all built differently. Different is good. It is important to understand the mindsets of buying personnel and processes in order to better allocate sales personnel that will produce the best outcomes as an opportunity moves through the funnel.
Generally, insides sales and field sales personnel have different sales mindsets.
Simplistically, inside sales personnel tend to be more detail-oriented, conscientious and collaborative – a long-term, farmer mentality.
Field sales, on the other hand, are a bit more impatient, competitive and independent – a short-term, hunter mentality.
Both mindsets are required in almost any successful sales structure.
A feature of high-performing teams is that they are made up of complementary skill sets. It is no different for sales teams.
Inside sales personnel tend to have higher skills in organization of multiple variables, planning, and research. Field sales personnel tend to be higher-level problem solvers, more technical, and have refined negotiating skills.
To further inform the conversation on the mix and structure of inside sales and field sales personnel, the product or service being sold needs to be considered. Here’s a brief description of three product or service models:
1) Expertise Model
Focused on solving frontier-type problems with innovative solutions or products. These problems are not able to be addressed by most of your competition. Pricing is based on the value supplied to the client. This work requires a high level of diagnosis and collaboration. The seller often has far more expertise on the product or service than the buyer. Selling opportunities are sporadic or discrete and feature a level of complexity and/or risk to the buying organization that is high.
2) Experience Model
Focused on bringing to bear the accumulated experience that you have gathered from past projects on certain types of problems. You are selected because of your specialized knowledge. Little diagnosis, but more time is spent on executing increasingly predictable tasks. Competition is healthy, but your delivery experience often differentiates you. The buyer determines that it is more advantageous to buy these products and services than to build them internally. Selling opportunities are more predictable and regular. Buying systems are organized to evaluate selling organizations’ experience and create competition.
3) Efficiency Model
Focused on low-risk work, solving familiar types of problems that the client can do themselves yet not as efficiently as you can. Pricing is very competitive, requiring low sales cost, reliability, and a discipline for speed. Here, your delivery process is highly refined. You are most often selected due to your service efficiencies. The buyer often knows as much about the product or service as the seller. Typically, these products or services are bought continuously–budgeted items. The buying system is built to identify the lowest cost provider.
(Adapted from Managing the Professional Service Firm, by David Maister)
The following charts should help clarify, or at a minimum, help you and your organization think about your product or service type and the sales structure that will best serve your business growth goals:
One of the more important jobs of a leader is to determine those growth strategies that leverage his or her organization’s competitive advantages while matching them to a market need that can be converted to long-term profit.
To move those ideas to action, he or she next needs to structure the organization to deliver the results expected, improving effectiveness and efficiency across the sales continuum.
*Note: This article was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated and revised for relevance.