Have you heard the old joke? A man asks a business owner: “How many salespeople work here?” “About half of them” the owner replies. The North Bay is predominately made up of small businesses whose owners have a different reply. When I meet with owners to help them optimize their sales operations, I ask, “How many salespeople work here?“ They frequently respond with, “Uh…one or two … or maybe three or you could say four … it depends. Steve is our salesman but he also does deliveries. Christina handles existing accounts and manages the books. Tim helps with sales in a pinch but his main job is building product and I still have a handful of accounts from the early days that I have not handed off.”
This situation is understandable in an early-stage company. Spreading multiple duties across limited human resources is a necessity when the business is starting out. Wearing multiple hats even helps build the tight-knit, one-for-all atmosphere that is a strength of a small company. The problem is that the company’s growth will be limited if it continues to operate the Sales Department in a “Jack-of-All-Trades, Master-of-None” mode. It just does not scale well.
If an owner wants his company to grow, salespeople should be dedicated to selling. There are three benefits to this approach:
1) The full-time salesperson will be more efficient because they avoid interruptions from unrelated activities. The increased focus leads to greater insight and confidence.
2) It is easier to establish clear goals and accountability when sales is a person’s only responsibility. Measurement is critical effective sales management.
3) It is more cost effective to invest in professional sales training for a smaller number of dedicated salespeople. A properly trained sales team is better equipped to outsell the competition and close business faster, thus resulting in a higher return on investment.
In the company example above, Steve should handle all sales. With the right sales training, management, and incentives, he will quickly be outselling the group of part-timer sellers. This additional business will create more work for the others in their primarily duties. As an additional benefit, they will all improve from specialization focus, too. Even the owner will win because he will have more time to focus on the strategic issues that determine his company’s future. If having a dedicated sales person does not fit your business, then at least give everyone involved in selling the benefit of proper sales training. That way everyone shares a common language and understanding of the process.
Sales specialization also benefits larger companies that already have a dedicated sales team. One mid-sized company I worked with for four years reorganized the sales team into greater specialization every year. In that time, the annual year-to-year sales increase was over 32% each year.
So, consider reorganizing your sales team according to areas of specialty. It will lead to increased sales. Then when someone asks you, “How many salespeople work here?” you can reply, “Every one of them.”