What Kind of Sales Force do You Want?

Much of the Roundtable time in Inner Circle meetings is devoted to discussing the issues associated with hiring and keeping good people and what to do with the bad ones. The problems sound especially acute in building and managing the sales force. Several patterns have emerged from facilitating these many discussions: There are two different strengths in sales people and there are two different overall sales strategies. The strengths are “opening doors,” (also known as business development) and closing the sale. It sounds like most sales people are good at one or the other but not at both. Business owners are often exceptions to this because they have to be in the early stages of their companies. Otherwise, nothing would be sold. The indicators to these strengths are as follows.


The door openers are consummate networkers. They have a big contact lists and get meetings. They naturally develop leads and exploit them. But, their closing ratios are below expectations. We can leave it to the psychologists to analyze their behavior, but it is what it is. Improved closing can be taught, but what can you put in place to get better results if the training wears off? Many IT firms have the business development person (BD) out there opening the doors and then they bring in the “sales engineer” to close the deal and start the project.

The closers are often lousy at developing leads. In fact they are constantly asking that the company generate the leads for them. So, what do you do? You could pair them with a good BD person. You could improve your marketing programs to generate warm leads. Many companies are learning to do this with sophisticated web sites.

The two overall sales strategies are transactional and relationship building. if you are a business that is selling with the expectation of few if any repeat buys or additional product or services sold to each customer, then you are likely employing transactional selling. get it sold, verify customer satisfaction and then move on to the next one. If you are relationship oriented, then you are willing to sell something in the beginning that may not be a big revenue booster because you know it will lead to additional sales that make the relationship with each customer profitable over a long period of time-the joy of recurring revenue. The point is you have to build your sales force with the right kind of people for each strategy.