Justin Roff-Marsh has a serious passion for the sales function in business - reinventing and making it into a machine for growth. I've heard him at previous TOCICO conferences, and he participates in a number of discussion forums.
His talk this time described a version of the content of his "sales process engineering" approach. He framed the conversation as a story: what if everyone in the marketing and sales organization were on a ski trip and their bus skidded off the mountain? What would the company do? What if they could only hire one person at a time, only every other week? How would you replace the things that those people did?
In particular, what are the most critical functions / activities that a company should restore in order to ensure its ongoing income? The conversation suggested that it should be those functions that ensure recurring business (existing customers) doesn't fall over. Activities like problem calls, entering new orders, dealing with issues. These are all things that should be handled by a customer service representative. And depending on the size of the company and the ratio of recurring to new business, the next several hires should probably be CSR's.
At some point the demand placed on these CSR's will guide the company to hire a different role, but what should that be? This time, the suggestion is that the company needs to generate new business. Should that be a field sales representative, or something else? His suggestion is that rather than hiring field sales which might make ~20 in-person business calls / week, could one hire an inside sales person who could do 20-30 sales calls PER DAY? What conditions would need to be true to make that happen? Where would the potential customers come from? Some may come from the CSR conversations with customers, but very quickly there will be demand for some kind of campaign coordinator to create the various campaigns that feed the inside salespeople with potential customers. As that grows, there may be need for a research analyst as well.
But is there no one out in the field, talking to customers? Eventually, the need to make in-person demonstrations or collect physical / technical requirements or provide dog-and-pony shows will become evident. This is the realm of the field specialist or technical sales person. Their work is managed from the home office, based on all the connections made by CSR's and the inside salespeople.
And what about some kind of business development person? The person who can stand in front of potential customers and present the higher-level opportunities - OEM relationships, more abstract business relationships. This is the realm of the business development manager or enterprise sales. It is not focused on transactions, but on creating a business relationship. There are rarely purchase agreements signed at these discussions - those things are handled at the back office.
In the end, in this model there are very few people out in the field, and most of these are not doing what looks like "sales." They are supporting existing customers and occasionally supporting opportunities that have arisen through the inside salespeople. In the hypothetical story of the presentation, there were ten or more people at the office before the first field specialist was hired. He said that companies which implement this concept find their customers are much happier with the rapid response time and they have significantly MORE conversations with the comapny than they've had with field sales organizations.
Justin dove into a lot of the challenges to this kind of sales process arrangement. What about commissions (don't use them)? What about the autonomy of the field salespeople? His focus is on creating more opportunity - and in his model, this happens with inside sales far above what field salespeople can do. etc. etc. He also opened with some discussion checking the claim that "sales is broken" where he described what companies see as the typical challenges in Sales generally and with field sales organizations specifically. The short form is that salespeople find themselves doing lot of things that don't directly bring in new customers. In fact, Justin suggested that salespeople "exist to buffer against the mistakes created by their involvement in the sales process.."
Sounds like I have another book to read - it's been on my list for a while.