How to Define Your Company's Sales Job - Part 1

March 04, 2018

Would you agree that every sales job is unique?

After all, aren't there significant differences in products and services sold, target markets, target geographies, company cultures, lead sources, sales cycle lengths, and more?

Since every sales job is different, it is important to define your company's sales job (or jobs) in considerable detail. The more detailed understanding you have of a sales job, the easier it will be to define the talents and skills required to succeed in that particular sales job. This information will help you make fewer hiring mistakes when you're recruiting new salespeople.

The following list of factors is not intended to be all-inclusive, but it is a great start! If you develop a carefully considered answer for each question, you will have a sharper understanding of the kind(s) of salespeople you should recruit for your team.

If you are a salesperson, you can also benefit from considering these factors, as they can help you identify target prospects and further refine your sales approach.

1. Nature of the Customer

  • What are your target markets?

  • Are they horizontal or vertical?

  • Do you sell to consumers, corporations, schools, state and local governments, etc.?

  • What level(s) in the organization do you want your salespeople to target?

    • C-Level Executives (CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.)

    • Department Managers

    • Business Unit Managers

    • Purchasing

Target markets drive numerous sales job parameters that include typical sales cycle length, prime selling seasons, and specific knowledge or experience that may be required to earn credibility with prospects and customers. For example, selling to C-level executives and other high-ranking decision makers requires different talents and skills than selling to purchasing agents.

2. Nature of the Products and Services

  • Are your products and services complex or relatively simple?

  • Are they tangible or intangible?

  • Do they consist of stand-alone products or services or combinations of products and services?

  • Does your company have a small portfolio of products and services or a large portfolio of products and services?

The nature of the products and services will help determine the most productive Sales Style(s) and the desirability of specific talents such as the ability to ask insightful questions and pick out important pieces of information from the answers.

3. Sales Environment

  • What is your salespeople's work environment?

  • Are they office-based or home based?

  • Is most of their selling done over the telephone or in person?

Salespeople that work from a home office usually need to have pretty strong Internal Motivation to be successful. Office-based salespeople can usually expect to receive more frequent direction and support from their sales manager.

4. Geography

  • How many sales locations does your company have?

  • Where are they located?

Different sales approaches are usually required to sell successfully in different locales such as downtown Manhattan (NY), Baton Rouge (LA), and Los Angeles (CA).

5. Selling Style

  • Which selling styles (Consultative, Relationship, Display, Hard Closer) are most effective in your target markets?

The nature of the customer and the complexity of your company's products and services should be considered when answering this question.

6. Relationship Preference

  • Is your company more concerned about:

    • Adding new customers (Hunter)

    • Increasing account penetration and managing long-term relationships (Farmer)

    • Both (Hybrid)

  • If "Both", please identify desired percentages for Hunter vs. Farmer

It is rare for a salesperson's relationship preference to be a toss-up between Hunting and Farming. Usually salespeople prefer one type of relationship to the other. If your company truly wants to achieve both new business and account penetration sales goals, you may want to consider staffing separate Hunter and Farmer sales positions.

7. Sales Cycle Length

  • How often do your salespeople have opportunities to close sales?

    • Several per day?

    • Several per month?

    • Several per year?

Some salespeople are better suited to selling products and services that have short sales cycles. Other salespeople are better suited to managing long, more complex sales cycles.

8. Prospecting

  • Do prospects come to your salespeople, or must your salespeople seek them out?

  • If the answer is "both", estimate a percentage for each.

If a sales position requires a lot of prospecting, the salesperson needs to be energetic and emotionally tough. If the sales job is more reactive than proactive, these qualities are much less important.

Seven additional parameters are examined in How to Define Your Company's Sales Job - Part 2.