Sales Management - How to Define Your Company's Sales Job - Part 1

Alan Rigg

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Wouldn't you agree that every sales job is unique? Aren't there significant differences in products and services sold, target markets, target geographies, company cultures, lead sources, sales cycle lengths, and more? Given these many differences, how can you accurately define the parameters that will produce success in your company's sales job?

The questions asked in this article do not identify every possible factor you should consider as you analyze your company's sales position(s). However, reviewing these questions should spark useful thoughts concerning desirable salesperson characteristics. At minimum, if you carefully consider each question, you will become more consciously aware of key requirements than you were previously.

If you are a salesperson, you can also benefit from considering these questions, as they can help you identify target prospects and further refine your sales approach.

1. Nature of the Customer

  • What are your target markets?

  • Are they horizontal or vertical?

  • Do you sell to consumers, corporations, schools, state and local governments, etc. ?

  • What level(s) in the organization do you sell to? (Purchasing, Engineering, Business Unit Manager, C-Level Executive, etc. )
Target markets drive numerous sales parameters including the typical sales cycle length, prime selling seasons, and specific knowledge or experience that may be required to earn credibility with prospects and customers. Wouldn't you agree that selling effectively to C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CIO, etc. ) and other high-ranking officials requires different attributes and skills than selling to purchasing agents?

2. Nature of the Offering

  • Are your offerings complex or relatively simple?

  • Are they tangible or intangible?

  • Do they consist of stand-alone products or services, or bundles of products and services?

  • Does your company have a small portfolio of offerings or a large portfolio of offerings?
The nature of the offering(s) will determine the most effective Sales Style (see item #5), the importance of Learning Rate to sales success, and desired prospecting and opportunity qualification approaches.

3. Sales Environment

  • What kind of environment do your salespeople work in?

  • Are they office-based or home based?

  • Is most of their selling done over the telephone or in person?
Salespeople that work from a home office usually perform best if they are independent self-starters, whereas office- based salespeople may have the option of receiving more frequent direction and support from their sales manager.

4. Geography

  • How many sales locations does your company have?

  • Where are they located?
Different sales approaches are usually required to sell successfully in different locales such as downtown Manhattan (NY), Baton Rouge (LA), and Los Angeles (CA).

5. Sales Style

  • Which sales styles (Consultative, Relationship, Display, Hard Closer) are most effective in your target markets?
The nature of the customer and the complexity of the offering(s) should be considered when answering this question.

6. Relationship Preference

  • Is your company more concerned about:

    • Finding new customers?

    • Increasing account penetration and/or managing long-term relationships?

    • Both?

  • If both, please estimate a percentage for each.
Salespeople usually prefer one type of sales role to the other. If you truly want to accomplish both new business and account penetration sales goals, you may want to consider staffing two different sales positions.

7. Sales Cycle Length

  • How often do your salespeople have opportunities to close sales?

    • Several per day?

    • Several per month?

    • Several per year?
If a salesperson receives gratification from closing sales, he or she won't be happy in a role that offers just a handful of opportunities per year to exercise this skill. This kind of salesperson is often better suited to selling products or services that have shorter sales cycles and higher volumes of opportunities.

8. Prospecting

  • Do prospects come to your salespeople, or must your salespeople seek them out?

  • If the answer is “both", estimate a percentage for each.
If your sales position requires a lot of outbound prospecting, your salespeople will need more energy, mental toughness, and a positive attitude.

Seven additional parameters are covered in Part 2 of this article.

Copyright 2005 - Alan Rigg

Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. His company, 80/20 Sales Performance, helps business owners, executives, and managers DOUBLE sales by implementing The Right Formula™ for building top-performing sales teams. For more information and more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit


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