We’re big believers in talent. And nothing confirms our trust in talent more than when we witness a direct connection between the talent level of a given salesperson and the success they achieve. When highly talented, that success happens more quickly and it lasts over the long haul—and when talent is softer, success is modest at best. Same is true for highly talented sales staffs versus those less talented.
But our confidence in the predictable relationship between strong sales talent and strong sales performance has confirmed something else: Talent is rare and precious. Talented salespeople are worth their weight in gold not only because they produce prodigious returns on the investment employers make in them, but also because they’re so darn hard to find. And a staff full of such salespeople? A sales manager should count him/herself an unusually outstanding recruiter and manager if half the staff is highly talented.
But part of the reason sales talent is so rare is that employers have traditionally expected so much of salespeople. I don’t mean that their expectations have been high—that’s appropriate. But rather that they’ve been broad. Except among large enterprises, business-to-business sales organizations have been built around the lone wolf, the type that works entirely by themselves, taking responsibility for every aspect of the sales process from finding and qualifying prospects to ongoing client satisfaction and everything in between.
Well, of course, that kind of salesperson is hard to find! They have to be as good at marketing as they are at sales. They have to be as good at appointment-setting as they are at analyzing prospect needs. They have to be as good at research as they are at relationships. They have to be as good at devising tailored solutions as they are at selling them in. They have to be as good at nailing a new client as they are at maintaining existing clients. If you know salespeople like that, you also know how few such people there are and how competitive the market is to employ talent like that.
Big companies long ago separated marketing from sales, and where applicable, they employed sales engineers to work alongside client relationship managers. But that sort of division of labor has been unusual in small- to mid-size businesses. Now there is a growing recognition that dividing up the various tasks and responsibilities of “sales” is a strategic approach with a ton of benefits—for a B2B firm of literally every size, from startup on up.
Your sales process already has a sequence, whether you’ve established it formally and given each step a name or not. If you formalize it, and assign each step in the sequence to a different specialist, one of the extraordinary benefits you’ll discover is in the realm of talent. Now, your performance expectations may be as high as ever, but they’re no longer absurdly broad.
When you staff each step with specialists, it’s far easier to find exceptionally talented people to handle those roles. Lead finders. Lead nurturers. Appointment setters. Needs analysts. Solution tailors. Long-term relationship managers. To be top-notch, each specialist would need to be highly talented in only his/her specific role. And because each specialist gets to focus on just the portion of the sales process that’s perfectly aligned with their specific talents, both productivity and job satisfaction zoom off the charts.
The benefits to moving away from the lone-wolf model and toward the division of labor or specialist model are many; finding great talent is just one! To get a sense of how this strategic approach works, walk yourself through our Seven Strategies for Sales Management Success in the 21st Century in the presentation below.