How to Define Sales Roles to Ensure More Success

Well-defined roles allow your salespeople’s true talents to shine through.

The security integration business can be complex, challenging and a bit slow to change. Even as technology, competitors and customer buying habits change rapidly around us, many systems integrators struggle to be perhaps more nimble in their markets.

If agility is a strategic advantage — and I believe that it is — we must then avoid job ambiguity or worse, unprioritized “to do” lists of responsibilities.

I had a large client with nationwide offices that was struggling with three sales managers in one region. I asked the regional vice president and regional sales manager to make a list of the job responsibilities of a sales manager.

Want to guess the number of responsibilities they noted? Twenty-six. This occurs because we often find there is a lack of clarity of an individual’s real role and ample ambiguity in their responsibilities.

It’s a lot of ground to cover in one column, so this month I’m going to address role clarity and next month I will tackle building realistic responsibilities.

Understanding your role on a team allows you to make company contributions in a prioritized and synergistic way. In other words, you won’t get confused about how you help a company accomplish its mission.

Do you know the top three priorities that ensure success? Role clarity, expectations and decision authority levels enable departments to work more closely together and communicate much more effectively.

The result is less office drama, more initiative, and tactical productivity. How do I define a role?

Figure Out Your Salespeople’s Singular Talents

Think of the movie “City Slickers” — I know, old school but still pretty fun to go back and rewatch. Curly, the grizzled, tough protagonist for which Jack Palance’s performance earned him an Oscar, tells Billy Crystal’s character to find “the one thing.”

Crystal asks what the one thing is. Curly stoically replies, “That’s for you to figure out.” For each of your associates, what is their one thing to contribute to the organization?

Do they have to figure it out on their own? That sounds messy don’t you think? Let’s take a salesperson for example. Is their one thing being a sales hunter who brings brand new clients and fresh revenue flow into your company, or do they manage current account care and feeding?

Perhaps you want them to wear multiple sales hats and do both, especially when you have a “squeaky wheel” customer.

While I can understand how people can often label tasks as “sales,” they may not realize how roles can gradually, unintentionally and ultimately kill real revenue growth and worse, much worse.

Role clarity in this example relates to degrading hunting sales skills. Almost all outside salespeople start their sales careers in search of suspects, prospects and qualified sales opportunities.

Successful hunting that will feed and sustain them, their company and their family. For these folks, there’s a simple and primal urge to survive, adapt and prevail.

When a company has sales role glaucoma, decision-makers will let their sales teams start to feed from a different table of domesticated opportunities — existing customers. Is this so bad?

What’s really the harm? I am short-handed here! Somebody has to do it! I have heard all the reasons over the past 20 years of consulting. Here is what I can share.

It doesn’t take long for a hunter who must daily brave the elements and master hunting instincts and fears to begin to appreciate the life of a gentleman farmer: regular hours; less stress; higher closing rates … same money, just easier.

If their economic needs are met and are no longer driven by the fire in their bellies, your cost to service existing customers just doubled! Your marketing costs will need to double. New sales revenue and new customers? Forget about it.

Company Leadership Must Lay Out Expectations

What does this have to do with role clarity? If you as a leader or owner don’t clearly set expectations on roles, then situations and sales will do it for you without a pretty ending.

Clarity of specific selling roles improves customer service, efficiency and profitability. Separate the roles of servicing and maintaining customers who are adding equipment to existing systems or adding inspections/ maintenance agreements by the service department from acquiring commitments from new customers.

While I can understand how people can often label tasks as “sales,” they may not realize how roles can gradually, unintentionally and ultimately kill real revenue growth and worse, much worse.

If existing customers want a whole new class or service, which includes new systems, then I will buy the argument of using sales in a highly focused scenario.

Selling a new class of systems does take closing skills that most in-side salespeople struggle with developing. This takes hunting skills.

Special thanks to my friend and client of many years, ENE Systems President Lindsay Drisko, whose conversations with me have inspired the important subject matter of this and next month’s Business Fitness.

Hopefully it can help guide you in reviewing and revising your company job descriptions, especially during the new hiring process. We’ll turn to the responsibilities side of the coin in August.

READ: Get sales and marketing inspiration from this year’s SAMMY Award winners.

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About the Author


Paul C. Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is Security Sales & Integration’s “Business Fitness” columnist. A principal of Matterhorn Consulting, he has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience including UL central station operations, risk-vulnerability assessments, strategic security program design and management of industry convergence challenges. Boucherle has successfully guided top-tier companies in achieving enhanced ROI resulting from improved sales and operational management techniques. He is a charismatic speaker and educator on a wide range of critical topics relating to the security industry of today and an accomplished corporate strategist and marketer whose vision and expertise in business performance have driven notable enterprise growth in the security industry sector.

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