There are many, many issues and considerations when building a successful sales organization. The most important thing is to understand this and go about the design and construction in a coherent way. You wouldn’t design and build your product without a clear plan. The same holds true for the organization that carries that product to the market. So, in no particular order:
Direct vs. Indirect. Is your sales staff your own or do you delegate this critical activity? Cash flow and instant market presence argue for an outside sales channel. Customer relations and sales focus say a direct sales staff. The answer might be any combination of these and depends on your product, market, resources, and goals.
Inside vs. Outside. Can you economically and effectively park your sales reps in front of the customer? Or does a phone or web site buffer you? Both can be effective, but the process is very different.
Marketing vs. Sales. Where does marketing end and sales begin? And at the nexus, who is in control? Usually late stage marketing activities are early stage sales activities, and the consistent message must be clear or the customer loses confidence.
Salary vs. Commission. Incentive compensation is a complex issue and often settled for the convenience of the administrators. The key to incentive compensation is to make sure you understand exactly the behavior you want, and then measure and reward that behavior. Usually this is much more complex than just a straight commission.
The Star vs. The Process. Star sales people are a resource to be coveted and coddled. But how far do you go? The goal is to raise the performance of all the sales staff without lowering the performance of the stars. Here process plays an important role. The successful process must be identified and defined and taught. And each sales person must adapt to it while at the same time the process must be flexible enough to adapt to their style.
Horizontal vs. Vertical. How do you allocate your valuable and usually insufficient sales resources? Geography? Then they are the local “jack of all trades”. Functionally? Time and distance becomes a hindrance. The answer lies in understanding your products, market, and goals. And understanding the unique characteristics of your resources.
Sales vs. Admin. As companies grow, the tail begins to wag the dog. Focus turns to what is easiest or best for the company, not the customer. Non-sales problems are given to sales people to solve. Late payment? Have the sale rep badger the customer for a check. Lost shipment? Let the sales rep track it down. This is very important: sales people sell. Let them sell. Set up your organization to make it easy for them to sell.
Volume vs. Focus. It is important to understand where your customers come from and how best to access them. Do you use a shotgun or a sniper’s rifle? The organization and infrastructure are very different for each.
Planning & Measurement. The saying goes: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you are lost? It’s no different with sales. You must plan what you are going to do, understand the pressure points, and measure results at each one. Then you know where you are, and can refine and correct your direction.
Sales manager vs. sales person. The top sales person may not be the best manager. In fact, such a promotion might damage two positions by depleting your sales resources and diluting effective leadership. The best sales manager understands the issues of selling, your specific business environment, the goals, and the resources. And he or she is able to lead the sales staff without an “us vs. them” attitude toward management.
Success = implementation. Everything above is useless if you don’t implement well. Inadequacies can be neutralized by good implementation. The best plans and teams can be defeated by bad implementation. Implementation is everything.
Plan your sales organization, build your sales organization, and apply your sales organization with the future in mind. Not the past.