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As the owner of a SaaS company, it's important to structure your sales team in a way that maximizes its potential.
These are fair questions that require thoughtful consideration.
In this guide, we'll try to answer them all.
We'll also discuss the types of processes, tools, and methodologies that can help you create an effective sales team.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of sales team structure, we need to take a look at what's required for an effective team.
Even though every team will be different, depending on the company's size, sales environment, market dynamics, and product offering, here are some elements that every team should consider:
In today's world, it's possible to be working on four or five different projects at once. With so much access to customers and other members of the team, it's important to maintain centralized communications.
Centralized communications ensure that there is one location for all conversations. This will help the team prioritize better, communicate more effectively, and identify opportunities faster.
Ideally, this includes a dedicated chat for the sales team that is accessible to everyone involved in the sales process.
For example, Slack is a great tool for centralizing the sales team's communications. It allows team members to create private channels, which can be used for things like customer conversations, relationship building, processes, and best practices.
But, of course, you can also use email, Basecamp, or any other method that works best for your team.
Having solid sales operations can be the difference between a great year and an awful one. This can be especially true for brands that operate in a sales-driven environment.
Having the right tools and processes in place ensures everyone stays on top of their goals, customers, and internal initiatives.
For example, everyone on the sales team needs to know what their quota is each month, how they're performing against it, and if they're above or below the average.
They need to know if their quota has changed and what the new metrics are.
All of this information should be clearly outlined in your sales ops tools.
Ideally, these tools should be exclusively for team use, and sales ops should have access to provide important updates whenever necessary.
Some of the most crucial operations you should consider include:
In short, sales operations should provide transparency and clear communication for the entire team.
This might seem obvious, but the right people are crucial to an effective sales team. Every organization has a unique culture, so it's important to hire people that fit.
That said, there are certain traits and skills that everyone on the team should have:
No matter how you structure your sales team, sales operations tools and processes will always help everyone stay on track.
Having the right people in place means you're more likely to be successful. If someone isn't the right fit for your team, it's better to find out early and make a change.
As companies scale, it can be tempting to hand off tasks like reporting and pipeline management. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, it might not be the best fit for your organization.
For example, when sales teams are small and scrappy, they can use everyday technology to manage day-to-day tasks like customer data, forecasts, and reporting.
However, when you scale to dozens of reps across multiple locations, all of that data can get lost in translation.
The right technology ensures data accuracy and consistency, as well as seamless communication across the entire team.
At the very list, you should have:
Finally, it's crucial to create a sales process that's effective and easy to follow. The right process is crucial for managing customers from start to finish, as well as identifying deals that might be ready for a demo.
There should be a system in place that helps reps work efficiently and meet their targets.
Reps should know exactly what they need to do and when. This means that you should break down every step into individual tasks.
For example, many sales reps start by sending an email. Once the customer replies, they'll follow up and try to set up a phone call.
Many reps might only know about these two steps, but there's a lot that happens before and after — like qualifying the lead to see if they're a good fit.
Beyond knowing what to do, reps need to know when to do it. This means scheduling tasks in advance, so they're prepared for critical deadlines — like sending a monthly update to customers.
If your reps are getting everything done on time, you'll be ready to take on more customers.
Now that we know what a successful sales team looks like, we can look at how you should structure your team. Ideally, there should be at least three people on your team:
While this setup might be the most traditional, there are plenty of options for how to structure your team. For example, you might want to include a customer-success manager instead of a sales manager — or you might want to hire more than one deal-closer.
Whatever team you decide to build, it's important that everyone has a clear role and knows what they need to do.
The only way that your team will be successful is if everyone works together. This means setting clear goals, holding each other accountable, and celebrating wins together as a team.
That said, let's explore a few different sales team structures you can implement:
This is the most common structure for most SaaS sales teams. It's pretty straightforward since everyone has a specific role.
Typically, you'll have one sales manager and two to three other reps and sales assistants. The simplest version of this structure is a V-shape inverted, where the reps report to the manager.
There's also an option to make the structure a hockey stick (also called a “stair-step”), where the manager reports to a VP of Sales. This business structure is good when you want to split up the manager's job into two parts.
For example, in the hockey-stick structure, your sales manager can focus on training and sales coaching. Meanwhile, the VP of Sales is responsible for finding new customers and managing the sales process from start to finish.
This is an interesting way to structure your sales team. Instead of splitting up responsibilities by function (like the hockey-stick), it assigns tasks by tier.
For example, you could have an “Acquisition Manager” who manages the lead-generation specialist and a “Business Development Manager” who manages the deal-closer.
This structure works best when your team is consistently bringing in new deals. It also works if your team tends to close deals more quickly — since you can delegate some of the legwork to lead-generation specialists.
This is a common structure for large companies with a lot of sales reps. Instead of micromanaging each rep, you let them manage themselves.
You'll need to set up some sort of hierarchy for this structure. For example, you can organize your reps into “regions” and give each region its own leader.
This approach is only recommended for companies with a really big sales team. Otherwise, it's too difficult for one manager to keep track of — and you'll end up with a disorganized sales team.
This structure is similar to the team of teams, but it's more complex. Since it organizes reps into “teams” and “tiers,” it's often used when you have reps that are good at different things.
For example, if you had a team of great lead-eneration specialists, you could put them all on the same team. Then, your top deal-closer would be part of a separate tier so they could focus on closing the biggest deals.
This is another structure that only works if you have a moderately big sales team.
This structure puts a bigger emphasis on expertise rather than workflow.
For example, you might have one rep that specializes in lead generation and another rep who specializes in closing deals. You could combine these task-specialists into a “Sales Team” with one manager, but they would still report directly to you.
This structure works best if you have a lot of different types of deals coming in. For example, if you're selling to very different types of customers, you might need different types of reps.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Which structure should I use?”
The answer depends heavily on the size of your company and what type of deals you're bringing in.
For example, if you have a really small sales team (like two or three reps), you can probably get away with a “hockey-stick” structure. That way, your manager can split up his or her time between selling and training.
If you have a lot of reps (10-15), you might need to organize them into multiple tiers or regions.
As your sales team grows, you'll probably want to experiment with different structures and try to find the one that fits your business best.
When you find a structure that works, try to stick with it for at least six months before making any changes.
After all, change takes time. And it can be tough to go back once you've settled on a structure that works.
Just remember; there's no “perfect” structure.
The best system is the one that makes your team more productive.
So, you'll need to experiment with several different structures before finding the one that works best.
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