We consistently see many organisations in the business to business professional services space (eg law, accountancy, engineering, consulting, IT solutions, recruitment, advertising and more) struggle with the choices of best marshalling and deploying their sales and business development effort, as they grow from small enterprises. Here we explore the two primary models, their benefits and liabilities.
We would all be familiar with the two fundamental and generally opposing models……….. one, the ‘Seller-Doer’ model, is based on the concept that you have to be technically hands-on delivering service to be able to sell, and therefore selling can only ever be part time for each individual. The other, ‘Dedicated Seller’ model, is based on the concept that you do not have to be technically hands-on to be able to sell, and therefore the sales professional in this scenario is usually fully dedicated to sales, either as an account manager, a new client hunter, or a combination of the two. There are many variations on both themes, the most common being a hybrid of the two, ie a fully dedicated sales professional who previously was technically hands-on.
Which model is best for any professional services organisation at any point in time? Somewhat obviously, there is no right or wrong answer. We can say however that the organisations that seem to get it right more than those that don’t tend to nail a few critical success factors.
The Seller-Doer model
For those firms opting to pursue the “seller-doer” model, the trap is that the doing usually takes precedence over the selling in periods of high service delivery demand. Most organisations fall for the trap, and their business development suffers too often. The select few that get it right find a way to set and adhere to annually, calendarised, multi-level account management meeting schedules that regularly cover the key business, relationship and development factors in the supplier-customer partnership. These programs are collaboratively set with the customer and then executed and reviewed together as partners. Most importantly, they find a way to keep the program going despite the ebbs and flows of the service delivery demands. Additionally, they keep the heat on their prospecting as well, because they similarly recognise that, like account management, prospecting needs to be prepared on an annual cycle as a program of planned activities. The select few that get it right have worked out how many initial outbound phone calls, how many first up meetings, how many pitches, how many proposals, how many proposal follow ups etc etc that they need to make – every week. They allocate the accountabilities at the outset, and they find a way to facilitate accountable people to maintain the consistency of critical weekly contacts despite the ebbs and flows of the service delivery demands.
Dedicated Seller Model
For those firms opting to pursue the “dedicated seller” model, the trap is that the seller becomes marginalised by the technocrats as a mere client or prospect meeting co-ordinator and/or tactical marketing resource. An ordinary seller stays in this environment and the firm achieves ordinary results. A good seller leaves this environment quickly, and the firm shakes its collective head and blames the model or the exiting person. The select few that get it right (beyond recruiting the right profile and competency set person at the outset), charge the seller with the responsibility to lead fluid account management teams to plan and execute annually, calendarised, multi-level account management meetings that regularly cover the key business, relationship and development factors in the supplier-customer partnership. The seller leads the technocrats and the customer key personnel to collaboratively set these programs, execute and review them together as partners. Most importantly, these firms find a way to balance and co-ordinate the skills and responsibilities of the seller and the technocrats in such meetings – just as a good team should. Additionally, the seller co-ordinates with the technocrats, bringing them in and out, much like a conductor does with the players in an orchestra when it comes to keeping the heat on their annually planned prospecting activities. The select few firms that get it right have worked out how many initial outbound phone calls, how many first up meetings, how many pitches, how many proposals, how many proposal follow ups etc that the seller needs to make every week and how to mix and match the relevant technocrats role in collaborating with the seller for successful prospecting, despite the ebbs and flows of the service delivery demands.
I trust that the main thrust is evident……………….. success is less about picking the right model for your firm at any point in your evolution. It is more about getting the critical success factors right……………. and you can see that these critical success factors are remarkably similar despite resourcing models that are diametrically opposed to each other.
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