Combating Sales Complexity Through Specialization: Part 1
POSTED : November 12, 2012

As companies look for more ways to diversify and expand upon offerings across their value chain, unwanted and typically unforeseen complexities reach the sales force.  A large product portfolio presents many new opportunities for revenue generation but can create an added burden to current sales frameworks and organizational structures. Without properly addressing this rapid product expansion, complexity reaches the line of sales and negatively impacts employee and customer satisfaction and poses a significant threat to revenue. Introducing specialization into the sales force is often a tactic that companies with large product offerings and solution sales models utilize to combat complexity.

But how do you know when you are ready to introduce specialization into your sales organization?  What key considerations should you keep in mind when designing your specialist model?  In this two-part blog series, we will first explore the tell-tale signs that your sellers are navigating an increasingly complex selling field.  Then we will look at how specialization can solve these issues and the key building blocks for designing a sales specialist strategy in part 2 of the series.

The tell-tale signs:

Who’s who in this zoo?

Selling a large product suite means more revenue, but also means more people – lots of people.  With the introduction of a new product, you are broadening the range of stakeholders that need to be engaged to close a sale internally but also within the customer.  Product managers, pricing analysts, contract desks, inventory managers: all of these roles are multiplied by the number of products being sold.  In addition, decision-makers within the customer are fragmented across buying departments, segments, and disciplines and often create the need to go further up the chain for approval.  Sellers have to coordinate across an increasing number of contributors, influencers, and decision-makers both internally and externally to close a multi-faceted deal.

Carrying more than just quota

Coordinating with internal stakeholders isn’t the only non-customer facing tax that comes with a complex product set.  As much as we want to believe that all new products are streamlined into current business platforms, processes, and tools before they launch – this is almost never the case.  For a seller, this means new training, new customer insights to be developed, a new process to learn, and new tools to work within whether it is CRM systems, inventory tools, contract templates, or proposal builders.  Sellers are overburdened with non-relationship activities and turn their focus away from the customer’s needs and into internal complexities.

Serving multiple masters

Every product in your portfolio is the MOST important product to sell – to that product group. A proliferation of your product set means there aren’t just a few products to prioritize, but 20, 50, 100+ that all have a revenue goal against them and an owner who relies on your sellers to reach that goal.  Stratifying compensation plans becomes burdensome and drives the wrong behaviors but without a concrete level of accountability for the product, sales targets may slip.  Sales priorities increase exponentially without any way for a sales professional to filter what is most important for the business while still selling a solution that addresses the customer’s needs.

The sale of least resistance

There often comes a point when the sales professional has to decide between being everything to everyone or answering their ultimate master – their quota. With so much complexity bombarding them, there is both a lack of mindshare that develops and seller exhaustion from being the last line of defense before it reaches the customer.  Sellers revert to what they know, where they have the best support, and what they know will bring them the largest contract – the sale of least resistance.

The impact of the above challenges can have significant ramifications for the short term and long term health of your organization.  Your business can see an increase in the cost of a sale, a decrease in revenue/contract, weakening product performance, and ultimately revenue left on the table.  Employee satisfaction and retention could deteriorate as sellers feel unsupported and increasingly challenged to meet their growing priorities and goals. And ultimately, the customer will begin to feel the same pain as the seller, whether it’s through irrelevant proposals, confused product value, or slow and disorganized buying cycles.

Specialization is one solution to fend off this complexity and in part 2 of this blog post, we will explore the many key considerations you need to take into account when designing and introducing it into your sales motions.

Are you seeing these same challenges in your organization?  Do you have additional pain points that have you exploring the idea of specialization?