There’s very little science gone into how salesforces decide to divide up their target market between their various sales channels. It tends to change every time there’s a change of sales director or chief exec.
I’ve run a two-man band up through a fifty employee company in my time. And when I think about how my approach to purchasing changed between the two, I realize it wasn’t anything to do with headcount. It was to do with responsibility.
I was in a discussion recently with a prospective client – an organization targeting companies with 10-50 employees. We got to talking about why their boundary point was 50 employees. “Because after that our partners are best (at selling in to them). They start getting complex and we don’t have the sales time to devote to them.” I wondered how true this really was.
Over the years I’ve had a special interest in how sales forces are structured to address different markets. It’s not uncommon for vendors to divide their prospects into five or more sales approaches – varying from online to retail, from direct end-user sales to ‘house accounts’, from third-party channels to strategic consulting partners. Almost always the dividing lines between these approaches are based on the prospect’s employee numbers. It’s an obvious and easily accessible number to access from the outset. But increasingly it makes little sense. So why is it still so prevalent?
How responsibility is placed across a company’s management levels is a far more significant indicator of how any purchasing decision will be made, and who will likely be involved to make it. Vendors have traditionally argued that this information would rarely be known from the outset, and may be too difficult to comprehend at any stage of the sales process.
But what if it wasn’t difficult to ascertain? What if a salesteam could know this on day one, and allocate their various sales resources accordingly? A vendor’s sales prospects would be divided up very differently than the current model, and possibly lead to a very different sales success rate.
The issue is that no one vendor has a picture of how every new prospect is organized in terms of management and budget responsibility. But I don’t think we’re too far away from that day. The application of a little science, plus the technology of crowdsourcing and a willingness to discard traditional practices, could lead to make a very major breakthrough in how vendors approach their whole sales process. But I haven’t heard anyone pursuing this.