Go to Market Strategy: Why Role Clarity is Imperative

May 30, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Why do sales organizations tend to ignore role clarification as part of reinventing their Go to Market Strategy?  Role design mistakes are typically a result of cost cutting efforts or complacency. 

Cost Cutting:

Why did I use the term cost cutting instead of efficiency?  Efficiency is reducing cost while maintaining the revenue stream, whereas cost cutting is typically less strategic.  Cost cutting is more reactive and based on internal pressure that leads to lost revenue due to a reduction in key sales resources. Instead of hiring or keeping additional support resources, tasks are added to sales resources already on the payroll.  Sales Representatives are sometimes viewed as having extra bandwidth or as lazy because they spend little time in the office or work from home.   This perception can validate management’s hypothesis that sales reps can handle more work without a negative impact on job performance.  This is a mistake.


“We have always done it this way”.  This is my favorite excuse not to change.  As it applies to sales force structure, most organizations don’t objectively review their sales roles on a regular cadence.  Many times the management staff performing the review is the same management that created the roles.  It is not easy to point out that you made a costly mistake that needs to be changed.

Another excuse is that sales reps are lazy so we should give them more to do.  If sales reps that are truly lazy, why would you give them more to do?  Start sourcing their replacement.  If they do have extra bandwidth, find ways to tap their sales competencies to drive results.  Resist the urge to add non-selling tasks to your sales representative’s role.  Instead, do whatever you can to simplify their job and keep them focused on driving business results.   If you hired a hunter sales rep based on their hunting competency level, do not bog them down with non-selling tasks or account management activities. 

Below are a few common role design mistakes 

  • Corrupted Role: tasks from other departments contaminate the sales role.  (e.g. customer service, collections, lead generation)
  • Transformed Role: This job was designed to serve a purpose at a moment in time.  For example, a hunter rep was assigned to grow a new market.  After years of prospecting and growing the market share, the market is approaching saturation and the rep is now spending a disproportionate amount of time farming.  The Sales Rep in this territory is now performing a role that does not meet his competencies and is less effective.
  • Blended Job:  Multiple roles blended into one job.  Example:  Sell new business, Manage Channel Partners and existing customer relationships.  The lack of emphasis can lead to an inconsistent cadence and sales reps will end up thrashing between different job functions
  • Overloaded Job: assigning too many responsibilities to a role.  Sales Reps become overwhelmed with the job requirements and are unable to effectively execute within the role.  This can happen with Generalists that are spread across multiple industries or product lines that are complex in nature. 

Sales Froce Role Clarity

What to do? 

  1. Define a clear purpose for the role.  How does this role fit into your overall sales and corporate strategy?
  2. Cadence & Metrics: defined a clear cadence for execution and measurement metrics
    • What does this role do on a daily or weekly basis
    • Activity Expectations
    • Target customer base
    • Territory
    • What does success look like?
  3. Minimize non-selling tasks: to the extent it is possible, move non-selling task to support staff, customer service, etc.
  4. Match Sales Talent to appropriate sales roles:  measure sales rep competencies to determine what role they will excel in
  5. Clearly define processes:  Instill accountability within all sales roles and roles that interact with sales.  If accountability is not clear, Sales Reps will stay involved in non-selling tasks to ensure they are completed satisfactorily
  6. Listen to your customers:  They will tell you if your Sales Rep is overloaded and out of bandwidth.  If customers are complaining about Sales Reps lacking knowledge or not meeting their needs it is time to review what you are demanding from (Note: Look in the mirror before you blame the rep) 

Clearly defining roles and matching the appropriate talent to each role will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your sales force.  More time will be spent on activities that drive results.  If the talent was sourced and hired correctly this will allow each sales employee to focus on their strengths and derive more satisfaction from their role.  Roles are an integral part of executing an organization’s Sales Force Structure and should be reviewed every two years to ensure they are properly aligned with your Go to Market Strategy.

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Topics: Sales Force Structure, Go To Market Strategy

Posted by Scott Gruher

Scott Gruher
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