Yesterday I read a White Paper about structuring sales forces and it got my blood boiling. It wasn't that it was a study about sales forces, and it wasn't that it was a study using large companies. I got upset because of the conclusion - that you should structure your sales force like the big companies.
When I say big companies I'm talking about technology companies like, IBM, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft, Apple, Dell and HP; I'm talking about financial services companies like, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America. I'm talking about automakers like, GM, Toyota, Chrysler and Ford. I'm talking about manufacturers like Stanley, Sony, Parker-Hanifin, Gillette and Proctor Gamble.
When I say structure, I'm talking about the maze of roles (inside incoming, inside outgoing, telesales, account management, business development, major account sales, national account sales, field sales, territory sales, product experts, channel sales, market-specific sales, etc.), responsibilities (job description, account description, quotas and requirements) and traits (personality traits and you know how that upsets me) required to perform effectively in those roles; and how those requirements match up to customer requirements.
You must understand why the big companies complicate and detail sales force requirements so. Usually, it is the result of inadequate performance and a consultant (from another big company) doing a redesign based on what they think customers need from the sales force. The funny thing is that these redesigns don't increase sales, they simply add unnecessary layers of sales leadership, and the resulting increase in sales occurs only because attention was paid to the sales force, metrics were put in place, training was provided and new expectations were set. All of other complications are just that.
So what's wrong with all of that you ask? Nothing - if you are one of the big companies in the Fortune 1000. But if you have a small or mid-market business, which most of you do, it doesn't work. Why it won't work for you is simple. The big companies? They are all brand leaders. Selling their products and services is really easy compared to selling your products and services. They have instant recognition, easily get audiences with their prospects, face little resistance, can buy market share to land desired accounts, spend millions on advertising and awareness, and prospects can't go wrong making a decision to do business with them - it's usually a decision that can be made without risk.
In other words, their salespeople will have success with their prospects regardless of the structure of the sales force and more surprisingly, regardless of whether those salespeople are effective! And your company? Just have your salespeople focus on finding, selling and closing business every waking moment and make sure you have the right people in those roles, thoroughly train them, hold them accountable to high expectations, coach them every day and the results will come.