Every Sales Organization Must Eventually Make This Transformation

One of Henry Ford's greatest contributions to the world of industry was the development of the assembly line. The core concept of the assembly line is that the specialization of job functions leads to increased productivity and efficiency. Rather than having an individual own a process from start to finish, you have individuals specialize in smaller, specific micro-processes. The concept of the assembly line revolutionized the manufacturing industry but it also had a profound effect on other areas of business. In particular, many successful sales organizations have taken a page out of Mr. Ford's book.


During the maturation of a business, evitably, job functions become more and more specialized. Look at the job advertisements of a 10,000 employee organization vs a 10 employee organization. Often times, small companies will have a single person performing the same function as a team of hundreds in a large company. Side note: this is one reason why companies like to hire folks from other companies of similar size. Employees from large companies have a much more specialized skill set whereas employees from small companies have a more generalized skill set.


At a certain point in your business, you'll have to start specializing roles in sales. This is a good problem to have but it can be painful. Think about it, you started with a single salesperson who did everything. From building prospect lists, developing messaging, qualifying leads, demonstrating the product, managing the funnel, negotiating contracts, overseeing the delivery, and managing the relationship, this person owned it. Those different functions will each become their own roles when the business is mature enough. The challenge is that by that time, you will have already built a sales team and best practices around this model. This means your entire sales organization is about to undergo drastic changes.


Once you decide to specialize, you need to rethink everything. How will you hire? What skills and qualifications are you seeking for each role? How will you train for each role? What is the compensation package for each role? What are the KPI's for each role? What will you do with your existing personnel? These are all big important questions that, when answered, will inform the structure of your sales organization for years to come.


With all of these big important questions to answer, here are a few tips:


  • Think about the customer journey and experience as you develop these new roles. Consider how the handoff will work.

  • Start by writing down all of the individual tasks a single salesperson is responsible for then you can distribute those tasks among the different new positions.

  • Ask your existing team members where they'd like to be. It's likely that you'll have people self select into different roles.

  • Solicit ongoing, constant feedback from your team. They are the closest people to the individual roles and tasks.

  • Seek help from the outside, particularly people who have led teams with some of the same functions you're looking to expand to.

  • Make sure you have the foundation in place before making your first hire in a new role including the tools this new role would need.

  • Take this time to also reconsider how your sales team is segmented. Whether it be geographic, industry vertical, or market size this can be a good opportunity to further focus each segment.

  • Each new role will at some point require its own leader but that shouldn't necessarily be your first hire.

This transition can be a major challenge but it can also unlock the power to grow your sales team in a way you never thought possible. Again, this is a good problem to have. It means you've done such a good job that you've maxed out your current model. Growth can be hard but it's the most exciting time to be a part of a business. The transition from a craddle-to-grave model to a more specialized model is an important step in the growth of your team, even though it may be painful. That's why they call them growing pains!

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