Sales Team Structures: Organizing Your Sales Department
June 15, 2018
Your product launch was well received, you’ve got traction in your market, and now you’re looking to go even further. Naturally, you start by expanding your sales team. You hire amazing sales talent and let them hit the ground running, but your business doesn’t seem to be growing any faster than it did before you had all these expensive new hires. What gives?
There are a lot of reasons sales teams struggle—inexperience, lack of training, low-quality leads—but one of the biggest reasons is poor structure. A study published by Harvard Business Review shows that 50 percent of high-performing sales organizations have well-documented sales processes that are explicitly structured, compared to 28 percent of under-performing organizations. Only 29 percent of participants from high-performing sales organizations indicated they had nonexistent or loosely structured sales processes.
As a business owner or sales manager, it’s your responsibility to establish an organizational structure that will enable your sales force to do what they should do best: close more deals. What that structure looks like will depend on the size of your sales force and the experience of your reps, in addition to many other factors. However, you may start by learning about some of the most common sales team structures.
The island model of sales organization is the most basic structure. In this model, sales reps are essentially responsible for each step of the sales process on their own. The system owner, or sales manager, provides the team with some basic back-end services—training, a commission structure, an office—but it’s mostly up to the salespeople to generate, qualify, and close their own leads.
- Minimal oversight required
- Good for simple sales processes and/ , or services whose sales processes are fairly basic Competition among sales reps may increase the volume/quality of deals
- Could contribute to a hostile working environment which could impact morale
- Less control over how your brand is represented in the market (messaging is dependent upon each rep’s individual style)
- Could be difficult to track key sales metrics and benchmarks
The assembly line was the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution. It drove efficiency through specialization of labor and sequential production processes. The same principles can also be applied to your sales team.
In this model the “raw materials” are your prospective clients, who are cultivated and refined as they move along the “assembly line” that is your organization’s sales process. The sales force is also broken down into groups, or areas of specializations, responsible for different stages of the buyer’s journey:
- The lead generation team is responsible for developing quality leads
- Sales development representatives, also commonly referred to as prospectors, qualify prospects and mine for additional information about their needs and decision-making process
- An account executive is responsible for closing the deal
- The client success team is focused on keeping new clients happy and increasing each client’s lifetime value through upselling and/or reactivation
- Specialization makes it possible to isolate underperformers and inefficiencies in your sales process
- Easier to hold each team accountable to the sales metrics and KPIs for which they are responsible
- Creates predictability for your business
- The prospect gets a chance to know more people in the company
- Requires at least four reps or staff as wearing multiple hats defeats the purpose of specialization
- Prospects may experience friction and confusion as they travel through the funnel and pass through different hands at each stage
- Team members may focus too heavily on their own specific metrics and KPIs instead of the company’s overall goals
The pod structure is similar to the assembly line sales model, except the specialist roles (sales development reps, account executives, etc.) are grouped into teams, or “pods,” that compete with other pods to drive new business. The pod structure is more fluid and allows the sales specialists within each team to come up with ideas independently. These close-knit teams are also more concerned about the entire customer journey and not just about their own step in the sales process.
- Because each pod is a self-contained sales team, there is more focus on the entire customer journey instead of individual components
- The pod structure improves communication between different “specialists” on the team (appointment setters/lead generators, sales development representatives, account executives, and customer success agents)
- Less opportunity within each pod for individual sales reps to compete and push each other to excel
- Each role within the pod is less
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