Member Anthony Sperling Speaks: Let Your Hunters Hunt

The Challenge:

The case at hand was brought by a fellow Alliance member who presented a sales team structuring challenge. The firm, which sells bundled hardware and software, had two dozen salespeople who each handled all sales opportunities in their geographic areas, large and small direct customers, channel development and OEM resellers. However, each member of the sales team had trouble focusing and was not capturing any of these opportunities particular well.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

As I step into your shoes, it's clear that "my" sales team is putting out a huge amount of effort. And deploying salespeople geographically often makes sense. But we both know the results could be better.

In my opinion, the sales team has too many duties and is spread too thin. They are constantly bouncing between large and small customers with wildly different needs. For example, salespeople who find and close big deals are "hunters," and they are compensated for hunting. But "my" entire sales staff is performing up-selling and cross-selling tasks, which are basically account management functions. To the "hunters" on "my" team, these are distractions. They need to hunt!

You already said it, your sales function needs structure. If it was me, I would create two separate sales units: a channel team and a direct sales team. The first group would focus on finding and up-selling my channel partners, or the resellers of my products. The second group, my "hunters", would handle direct sales for large opportunities, which takes an entirely different set of skills. Similarly, I would separate my customers into low-profile, most likely, my channels, and high-profile customers. This takes up-selling and cross-selling off the radar of my "hunters."

Another thing I noticed is that you have hundreds of channel partners. That's a lot! I would cut back the partners to only the best ones and bring on an expert to manage this customer group. This would help prevent a drain of resources from the direct sales team.

You already have the team. Give it structure, and you'll start seeing what your people are actually capable of.