Understanding the sales people you need…. and when!

SalesSales people come in all shapes and sizes. Some sales people are really adept at only one style of selling; others can adapt according to circumstances.

Based on my experiences there are four main types, organised along two axes: Transactional to Relationship-based client conversations; and  Tactical or Strategic sales techniques.

The Ambulance Chasers take their cue from personal injury lawyers who literally follow the stretcher into the emergency room. These sales people are almost entirely reactive, and only ever think about the next “chase”. They are less interested in building client relationships, and more focused on how much they can get from a single sale. Such sales people can often be relied upon to achieve short-term sales targets, but they don’t necessarily generate a lot of repeat business. If they develop a good nose for where more opportunities may be found, and if they can engage in more systematic sales planning, they may be able to transition into the Tree Shaker.

Tree Shakers are skilled in tapping into existing networks and markets, and uncovering latent opportunities – at times it’s simply a question of knowing how to harvest the low hanging fruit, at others it’s knowing when to dig deeper into an established client account. These sales people can usually find an extra sale or two when their colleagues might have given up – but beware of Tree Shakers who are really sand baggers, holding back those deals for when they really need them.

A skilled Tree Shaker or even an experienced Ambulance Chaser will know that leveraging industry contacts can help them get to more opportunities – but in order to cultivate deep client relationships that yield returns time after time, or to build long-term pipeline potential, you really need strong Networkers. These sales people play the long game (not always helpful when short-term sales goal need to be met….) because they know that having a strong strategic plan and resilient relationship skills will pay off in the end. Networkers are great at leading by example when it comes to account management and updating the CRM system – but they can infuriate if they become too reliant on too few contacts. (Tip: check their expense reports to see if they are having coffee with the same people every month…)

However, the type of sales people who can leave all others in their wake are the Rainmakers – those that can literally conjure something up out of nothing. At times, the Rainmaker may appear to be totally opportunistic – pulling a rabbit from a hat just when it was needed (again, beware the sand bagger) – but their forte is going into uncharted waters and coming back with the catch of the season; and while their colleagues may resent their skills (or question their methods?), secretly they admire the Rainmaker because they show what can be done in seemingly difficult or untested markets. The downside is that Rainmakers might only have one big deal in them, unless they can build sales momentum and sustain interest in the market – otherwise, they quickly move on.

In reality, every sales person probably needs to demonstrate each of these styles at different times; and like any balanced team, a sales organisation needs to have all four styles on their bench. The real insights are knowing where and when to deploy these different skills, and understanding what the results mean when doing a breakdown of the sales reports.

NEXT WEEK: Revisiting geo-blocking in light of the Competition Policy Review Draft Report

2 thoughts on “Understanding the sales people you need…. and when!

  1. This is a good framework, and will work for most situations.
    Over the years I have tended to place sales people on a continuum, which has at one end “Hunters” which roughly equates to your “rainmakers” I guess, but goes more to the psychology of the sales person for whom the hunt and first success is the ‘rush” after which it is mundane, account service is not their skill. At the other end there are order takers, they turn up reliably, and take the order. In between are those with elements of both in differing amounts.
    The competitive and commercial preferences and practices of a businesses marketplace, along with their strategic priorities dictate the mix that best delivers the optimum revenue outcomes.

    • More than one way to skin this particular cat! I was prompted to post this article in response to the challenge I see facing many start-ups – great product, decent value proposition, whizz-bang marketing plan, but lacking in sales execution…. I’m hoping this will further the debate

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