Business Services

Unlocking Growth in the Seller-Doer Model

Challenges and Strategies for Revenue Growth in the Seller-Doer Model

In today’s competitive business landscape, professional service organizations are constantly seeking new ways to differentiate themselves from peers and improve margins. Shifting customer needs, AI advancements and digital service offerings, and the pressure to deliver value often consume leadership’s attention…but what about the sales and marketing engine? In professional services companies, fully dedicated sales teams are largely the exception, not the rule. Many organizations deploy the “seller-doer” model, where sellers are responsible for both selling and delivering services.

When seller-doers are empowered to take a more active role throughout the customer journey, firms can better tailor offerings to client needs and develop deeper customer relationships. However, this level of customer intimacy also makes the seller-doer model difficult to scale and often results in a lack of focus on new customer acquisition. Let’s examine the challenges organizations must address when deploying this model and highlight best practices to ensure successful adoption.

Top Three Challenges to the Seller-Doer Model

Because the seller-doer is a function and not a title, it can materialize differently across the professional services industry. While the titles and specific responsibilities of the seller-doer can vary, all seller-doers face a set of challenges unique to their larger function. To reap the benefits of the model, professional service organizations must be aware of these challenges and empower seller-doers to overcome them. Based on Alexander Group’s experience, here are the top three challenges in a seller-doer model:

Optimizing Time Management and Sales Bandwidth

Seller-doers may lack the time and capacity to fulfill their varied responsibilities. In some cases, the seller-doer may overexert efforts in one area of the role, such as customer service, which then comes at the cost of other tasks like cross-selling or upselling. Furthermore, seller-doers often feel forced to choose between selling and doing, and the urgency of delivery means it’s the motion that usually takes precedence. As a result, seller-doers often struggle to prioritize time for selling, especially with new and prospective buyers, which can pose significant consequences to a firm’s overall growth trajectory.

Lack of Sales Training and Enablement

Many seller-doers begin as just “doers,” with little-to-no formal sales training. They often lack sales and client management skills and require more guidance regarding pre-sales, opportunity development (e.g., pipeline management, forecasting) and sales negotiation (e.g., messaging and sales persuasion).

Firms must ensure their seller-doers are properly trained by offering effective coaching programs that develop the skills missing from their toolkit. Because business development is not bifurcated away from the delivery motion as it is in other models, the seller-doer model is also highly dependent on strong marketing and lead generation. Service organizations must build out effective machines in these two key areas to enable seller-doers and support their new logo acquisition efforts.

Misaligned Compensation and Incentive Plans

Pay philosophy and strategic growth goals vary greatly in this space, which means compensation can as well. Some organizations are salary only or salary plus bonus, while others are heavily commission-driven and emphasize a stronger sales mentality. Regardless of the philosophy, poorly designed compensation is a major roadblock when rolling out an effective seller-doer model.

Compensation plans should be strategically designed around what are the desired outcomes for the seller-doer, which differ across firms and even product or territory assignments. Professional service organizations should identify goals for their seller-doers, and then work from those assumptions to build out their compensation plans to ensure seller-doers are properly incentivized to perform.

Strategies to Unlock Growth in a Seller-Doer Model

In-Depth Time and Productivity Study

Because time management and responsibility segmentation are so important to this model, an in-depth time study is one of the best strategies to address its common challenges. To assess the success of the model, management must first be aware of how seller-doers’ time is being used. A deep analysis of current sales and delivery activities, internal processes and time allocation can identify issues and problem areas, which can then inform management decisions around how and when to course correct.

Example Time Profiling: Account Managers

Example Time Profiling: Account Managers

Whitespace Modeling and Account Prioritization

Most organizations fixate on segmenting customers based on existing spend without addressing whitespace opportunities. When leveraged properly, third-party firmographic data can not only help inform customer spend potential but also help prioritize “look-alike” or similar prospective clients. Seller-doers should be aware of why current customers are engaging with them and then look for similar whitespace opportunities where they have the right to win. By systematically approaching expansion, seller-doers can reduce the time spent trying to land new clients and increase the likelihood of a successful adoption.

Similarly, professional service organizations must also prioritize accounts around their potential value and their cost to serve. A higher effort will not always yield higher results, and a modeling exercise can identify accounts where efforts will be most fruitful and ensure seller-doers engage with them accordingly.

Compensation Plan Analysis and Design

Incentivizing compensation plans is another critical aspect of a successful seller-doer model. Some firms choose conservative salary-only plans; others implement more aggressive 60/40 salary-to-commission plans. While compensation philosophy and pay-for-performance culture differ by organization, Alexander Group’s experience suggests that a more aggressive pay-for-performance approach is instrumental in changing behaviors and jumpstarting focus on growth in seller-doer models. It is also critical to select plan metrics that participants can meaningfully impact (e.g., team vs. individual performance), are easy to track (e.g., revenue vs. margin) and align with business expectations. By systematically evaluating and revisiting compensation plans on an annual basis, organizations can identify and solve misalignment while also motivating their team’s daily priorities.

Although the model is complex, the advantages of the seller-doer model are clear: commercial organizations are empowered to strengthen existing client relationships, develop new relationships and drive long-term success in a progressively competitive market.


Need Help?

Alexander Group helps organizations achieve profitable topline growth and implement successful seller-doer models by providing in-depth time studies and sales compensation plan transformations to address nuances of the model. For more information, please contact an Alexander Group Business Services practice lead.

Back to Top