Many Fortune 1000 sales leaders are working to drive more high-value selling from field sales. To do so, they are empowering inside sales and/or new specialist sales roles to free up more field time for high-value activities. Great idea – these coverage model changes when done correctly can produce significant productivity gains. But watch out for inevitable conflicts about who does what. When accounts shift from outside to inside sales, for instance, field sales often doesn’t want to lose ownership. Likewise, shared accounts, where inside and outside team, can fall prey to sellers who “coast.” Turf battles and fumbled hand-offs will happen.
Clear goals, roles and rules. The mantra for resolving these conflicts should be: “Clear goals, clear roles, clear rules.” Recent client insights from an Alexander Group Executive Roundtable reinforce this wisdom. During sales coverage transitions, when accounts are re-assigned through different channels and to different sellers or teams, a new set of rules (or guidelines) is required. And everyone involved must understand and accept the new rules. For this to occur, sales leaders must enforce the new rules in a transparent and consistent way. For example, a key role in many higher value sales models is the role of an over-arching Account Manager or “Quarterback.” The QB is an evolution of the strategic account manager, with authority to pull together inside, outside and specialists to articulate customer value. If the quarterback’s role and authority are not accepted throughout the sales organization, the team will fumble.
Hands-on guidance. To avoid these and other short-term teaming problems, sales leaders must play a very hands-on role, particularly in the beginning of a new coverage model rollout. Picture them acting as “marriage counselors,” who are firm and fair, and helping the team members see a bright future by working together. These leaders make it a daily priority to resolve teamwork problems and efforts to game the system. They strive to grow and maintain trust between all members of the team whether they be inside or outside sales, hunters, farmers, specialists or other support roles.
Keep it simple. Moreover, making clear rules does not mean a 100-page rule book. As one AGI client noted, “We have a five page PowerPoint that sums up all the rules, responsibilities, and guidelines…and it works.” It is clearly impossible to write a rule for every contingency. Instead, successful sales organizations tend to establish basic rules of engagement for different roles. For example, they might mandate that paired inside and outside sales reps talk to each other several times a day, so that opportunities are seized and issues resolved dynamically.
Quick action and resolution. When “fumbles” happen or conflicts arise, it is key to address them quickly before they have a chance to generate negative momentum. For example, when new inside sales reps are paired with field sales, they can be ignored, or worse, get turned into glorified customer service reps. That’s not their role in today’s high-value models; rather, they should be a sales person in and of themselves, allowing the field to focus on articulating superior value. A recent AGI client shared a success story from pairing inside with field. They took great pains to set clear roles and expectations up front. After some initial jockeying and monitoring, the relationship between field and inside began to take shape. “We planned around each customer as an account team, co-managing the account, and we shared our goals as part of the customer planning experience. We said, ‘This is what we need from each of you, and what each of you brings.’ When it works, it works because everybody has clear-cut goals and these goals are shared.”
Another AGI client rolled out new specialists that were met with skepticism: “When we embarked on a new sales model a year and a half ago, the field reps were very reluctant. They looked at the new specialists as somebody who could compromise their position with their largest accounts. And what was kind of nice to see was that after a short amount of time, they realized that the specialists actually knew what they were doing and brought tremendous value to the process. Now the field reps wholly embrace the new system.”
Flexibility. However, having clear goals, roles and rules does not mean inflexibility. Realistically, accounts may have to be shifted more than once before they find their best match in a new sales coverage model. For example, a strict separation between inside and outside sales may have to be replaced with a more teamed approach. Territories may have to be realigned so that inside and outside sales match up better. It’s always a balancing act, but one that with proper monitoring, is well worth the effort.
With deliberate effort you can apply the guidelines above to help you speed your sales organization’s transition to your higher-value sales model of the future.
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