Whether it be a matter of sales strategy or perhaps sales force design, many sales leaders are exploring future investments in key account programs or inside sales functions. Some are even exploring both, which begs the question, why is field sales getting squeezed?
Before we look at field sales, let’s examine:
- Key Account Programs – Sellers are enabled to take a proactive and customized approach to manage key customer relationships. These interactions can be very effective – in terms of maximizing commercial outcomes – but are not very efficient. Simply, it is not a scalable model. Many sales leaders are challenged to port this level of engagement to smaller customer relationships.
- Inside Sales – Inside sales execution is extremely efficient but cannot always deliver the same level of sales effectiveness. Moreover, pushing more accounts or prospects into the inside sales tier improves the costs of sales. However, many sales leaders experience a moment of pause as they internally question if sales growth can be sustained in smaller territory sales relationships if they are dropped to the inside sales force.
In most organizations, key accounts result in higher costs of sales. Therefore, as key account programs expand, sales leaders can combat increasing sales costs with greater utilization of cost-efficient, inside sales. In practice, key account programs absorb the larger field accounts, while inside sales work upstream to take on smaller field accounts. As a result, field sales get squeezed.
How should field sales leaders approach this new paradigm?
Field sales leaders have a challenge. If they defend their current position, they may be deemed defensive or “too married to the status quo.” However, if they just concede these accounts, their field sales teams will lose many opportunities?
Here are 3 recommendations on how field sales leaders can approach the “squeeze”:
- Collaborate – Field sales leaders should partner with key account leaders and inside sales leaders on an assessment guide that can serve as an objective rubric for account tiering decisions.
- Know the facts – Many objective sales metrics will inform account tiering decisions. These include the cost of sales, historic growth, sales coverage ratio, etc. Certainly, field sales leaders should know these numbers for their sales team. However, it’s also valuable to know these metrics for the key accounts and inside sales teams.
- Value the field sales value proposition – From the onset, we discussed how key account programs are extremely effective and inside sales are extremely efficient. Importantly, field sales strike a balance. Field sales are more efficient than key account sales, and perhaps more effective than inside sales.
Nearly all sales organizations are mindful of the need for change. Either because of the economic uncertainty or the rapid changes enabled by technology, there is a continual push for greater sales effectiveness and improved efficiency. Field sales leaders must be ready for these changes, and ready to face the challenges of the “squeeze.”
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Dave, this has echoes of the trends highlighted by DeVincentis and Rackham in their McKinsey paper ‘Breadth of a Salesman’, and their later book ‘Rethinking the Salesforce’ in the late 1990s.
I suspect that the the growth of inside sales since then has made us even more aware of the difficulty of managing those accounts which are nether too complex for GAM, KAM, SAM attention, nor too simple for an ADR, SDR, or BDR.