A prevalent opinion often held in the business world is that sales is a world apart. Sale “teams” are more like groups of individuals working towards a common goal yet competing with one another. “Rockstar” sales leaders, the closers who ring the bells, get there independently. They live or die, in career terms, on the back of their skills, personalities, and ability to persuade others.
Maybe that’s how it is in particular movies and how it may have been decades ago, but those days have faded. Today, a good sales team is an integrated part of the business, and every conversion is the combined work of an entire team of people leading up to it. No one is an island, and credit should be distributed across the team.
If you’re looking to put together a high-performance sales team, you need at least seven crucial roles filled with talented specialists. What are those seven roles? Read on to find out.
Columns Vs. Rows
Before we get into the specific roles that make up a good sales team, let’s take a moment to talk about team structures.
In sales and business, there are generally two kinds of organization. One is a vertical structure, and the other is horizontal.
Each individual sales team member is a jack of all trades in a vertical structure. One person handles generating leads, nurturing those leads, and closing the sale. Businesses that operate with this kind of sales team structure often push marketing into its own department, often with little interaction with sales beyond metrics and some feedback. Likewise, the same is true of support; once a sales member has closed a deal, any further support is handled by a support and account management team.
While this can function just fine, it relies on hiring and training exceptional sales team members who can handle every part of the sales process, start to finish. That is a tall order; while these people exist, they often command a premium in salary or commissions, and they are in high demand. Alternatively, you can hire people with some of the qualities you need and train the rest, but this requires very efficient training.
In a horizontal structure – which is what the team roles listed below fulfill – a team handles each phase of a customer conversion. You have a marketing team to build awareness, a lead generation team, a lead nurturing team, etc.
In this structure, each phase of a customer journey is handled by a different person, typically one who is exceptionally well-trained to do that one thing. It’s what they do, day in and day out. With the proper structure and hand-offs, this form can be exceptionally high-performing. It’s also easier to hire or train people for a narrower set of skills than to find someone who can do everything.
In reality, most businesses use some variation of the two combined. You rarely find a company with a rigid seven-role structure or a wholly siloed structure. However, knowing the divisions can help you decide on your structure and hire the right people for the job.
Role 1: The Sales Manager
The first role is the pack leader, the person who guides the collective efforts of everyone else on the team. They’re often responsible for interfacing with other teams as necessary, providing the resources and information other roles need to succeed, and communicating with executives and C-levels who have influence over the operation of the sales team.
These are, of course, the managers. The managers have a bird’s-eye view of the operations of the sales team and can make adjustments as necessary to adapt to changing circumstances. They’re also responsible for managing the people in the other roles, though often with the help of human resources personnel.
There may be multiple tiers of sales managers on large teams or in large businesses. A Sales Director might guide a whole team of managers, with Senior Sales Managers at the top, Sales Managers in the middle, and Assistant Sales Managers at the bottom of the pyramid. It all depends on how broad and deep the teams are, how much management is necessary, and what duties the managers perform.
Role 2: The Marketer
Many of you may already object to this list on the grounds that marketing isn’t part of sales. This is both true and false. Without marketers, sales falls flat. Marketing creates warm leads and builds awareness of a business and its products. Without marketing, sales is left with cold calls and mass marketing, which are poorly targeted and largely ineffective.
Marketers, though, come in many forms. A sales marketer is different from, say, a content marketer. Sales marketers specifically focus on things like paid advertising, landing page generation, and direct customer interfacing like social media. They aren’t necessarily limited to these – and they may be part of a marketing team that handles much more – but these are the core focuses of a sales marketer.
Critically, sales marketers generally do little to no direct interacting with potential leads or customers. They create content for publication, whether it’s via outreach, landing pages, ads, or social media. Other team members take the leads generated by the marketers and pursue them. The marketer is the first and broadest role, essentially tasked with filtering the total audience of “everyone who could potentially see messaging related to the business” and narrowing it down to “people who could be turned into leads.”
Role 3: The Lead Generator
The lead generators are the people who take the list of potential leads handed to them by various marketing channels and take the opportunity to qualify them as leads. They take a mailing list and turn them into warm leads.
They verify any information to make sure the prospects are real people to prevent sales members further along the chain from wasting their time.
“These are your first-touch sales reps. They’re responsible for gathering leads and making sure that you have enough data—especially key contact details—to be able to qualify said leads later on. Whether or not they have to manually build up a leads list via both offline and online means depends entirely on you.” – Internal Results.
Lead generators may also be tasked with the thankless work of cold calling or reaching out to prospects who, often, may have forgotten they signed up for contact. They may hunt down contact information for decision-makers in other businesses in the case of B2B sales teams.
Lead generators may have a lot of overlap with marketers in many teams. Lead generation may be considered solely the task of marketing, and only qualified leads are handed to sales to make their job easier. Alternatively, lead generation may be the first point of direct contact from the business to the lead, whereas marketing prior is from the lead to the business. This is one of the most variable roles and is least likely to be defined as its own role in a sales team.
Role 4: The Lead Nurturer
The lead nurturer is one of the most critical sales team members. These are the people who encourage leads to ask questions, dig deeper, and think about how the company’s products might be able to solve the problems the lead experiences. The nurturers are the ones who qualify leads, answer questions, and develop a set of contact information into a potential sale.
Lead nurturers are often also known as Sales Development Representatives and variations on the title. They communicate with leads directly, gauging interest and ability to make a purchase. They filter leads into categories, disregarding some, feeding some directly to the next step on the chain, and keeping others to nurture to the point where they can be ferried along.
Some companies combine the lead generator and lead nurturer roles. Others combine the lead nurturer and the closer. Some combine all three – those are more likely to be the vertical organizations mentioned above.
Lead nurturers may also work with marketers specifically for running a particular kind of advertising. This is the remarketing ad, a type of ad that explicitly targets people the lead generators have identified, continuing to build awareness and draw in additional potential leads.
Role 5: The Closer
The rockstar sales agent is the closer; the person who takes the lead and gets the paperwork signed, closes the deal, and takes the money. In movies, you might think these are the only people on a sales team. Sometimes, even they believe they’re the only people on the sales team. The reality is, however, their job is the “easy” part.
It’s not easy, of course. They have the groundwork laid for them, but they still need to use their expertise and powers of persuasion to close the deal.
Often, closers are on the move. They travel and show off demos, set up temporary installations, or showcase how a product can be used to solve a problem. They ask important questions, lead their prospects to conclusions, and convince them to make the leap.
Closers can function independently, but they need nurtured, qualified leads to truly excel and avoid wasting their time. Otherwise, they’ll spend more time on prospects with less chance of closing and make for a less efficient sales team overall.
Role 6: The Customer Supporter
As mentioned above, customer service and support are segmented into their own department in many organizations. Sales is concerned with taking leads and turning them into customers, and at that point, the burden of sales ends, right?
Modern, effective companies are concerned about continuity of attention. Customers are never left feeling as if they’ve been abandoned once they sign the deal.
Remember, modern business relies much more on live service models, monthly payments, and subscriptions rather than one-time sales. That means ongoing support. If you sell a product but don’t teach the buyer how to use it, they’re as likely to return it and leave a bad review as they are to continue being a customer.
Customer support is a crucial aspect of sales because it helps to guarantee continued payments and subscriptions, can help push for upsells, cross-sells, and other beneficial sales, and can help leverage existing customers to feed back into marketing with testimonials and other reviews.
Role 7: The Account Manager
A good sales team’s seventh and final role is the account manager. The account manager is an overarching role, comparable to sales managers, but focused less on the sales team and more on the customer. These people keep track of everything a customer has done in their interactions with the company. They know of any unique aspects of a customer’s situation, past issues, service requests, and communications with other sales team members.
Different companies assign account managers at different stages in the process. Often, they overlap with customer support and are part of the post-close team. Other times they may be assigned when a lead is qualified, though they may not do much to interact with the customer until a close.
Building Your Sales Team
If you’re looking to build, restructure, or expand a sales team, it can be worthwhile to examine your sales process. Determine who is responsible for what parts of the process and where you may need more people, more skill, or more experience in the equation. As long as marketing is doing its job, there should be no shortage of qualified leads; expanding a sales team to close more sales should be pretty easy when you can identify who you need to hire.
Of course, sales isn’t the only team that needs support. Hiring high-performance teams for every department in your organization is the key to success in modern business. Whether you’re starting from the top down with experienced VPs, or from the ground up with entry-level candidates, recruitment is the foundation of business success.
Do you have any questions about the roles needed to build an effective sales team or what they do? If so, please feel free to leave a comment down below, and we’ll get a conversation started! We’d be more than happy to answer any of your questions and assist you however we possibly can!
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.