Why a larger sales team is not the key to selling more

Justin Roff-Marsh
Justin Roff-Marsh

By Justin Roff-Marsh

Assuming that a business has a compelling product (or service), and the ability to execute flawlessly, then growth should be simple. All that business must do is out-communicate its competitors.

Now, some communication can be automated. Advertising, online activities and the like. But once mass communication hits diminishing returns, direct outreach is often required.

Salespeople, in other words.

Once a business reaches that point, it will maximise growth by ensuring that its sales team participates in more selling conversations than its competitors’ teams do, when adjusted for market share.

Note, what moves the needle here is selling conversations. Not salespeople.

If a business wants to participate in more than its fair share of selling conversations, it has two choices. Hire more salespeople. Or, figure out how to get its existing sales team to perform more selling conversations.

The latter is where the true potential is. A typical salesperson spends only a tiny percentage (single digits) of their time engaged in selling conversations. The balance of their time is dedicated to customer service, administration, prospecting, project management, and the like.

The key to get salespeople selling then, is to remove ALL responsibilities other than selling conversations. This requires upgrades to other organisational functions to take over these responsibilities from sales: customer service, marketing and engineering.

The good news it turns out that customers want to communicate online and by phone to the maximum possible extent. Even where major deals are concerned, video conferences are almost always a better alternative than face-to-face visits.

Of course, a few critical activities do still need to occur in the field: and that’s fine.

This fundamental change in market dynamics requires that we make an ideological shift. The salesperson’s pragmatism won’t cut it. We need to embrace this change and recognise that, today, sales is essentially an inside activity supported by discrete field activities on an as-needed basis.

The good news is that this new, inside-out approach to sales enables you to exploit economies of scale.

Running a large field sales team is incredibly expensive (on a per-selling-conversation basis) relative to inside sales.  An inside salesperson can have up to 30 meaningful selling conversations a day, where a field salesperson will work hard to average four meetings.

Moreover, if you insist all sales interactions are held with a field salesperson, you are turning your back on selling conversations that you could have had but will not have if you insist that each prospect accepts a field visit.

This is a critical point!

It’s easy for sales managers to argue (as they do) that field meetings are more effective than phone conversations. However, this argument ignores the fact that, an insistence on field meetings results in salespeople having fewer selling conversations overall.


Justin Roff-Marsh is the author of the book, The Machine: A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function. You can get the first four chapters of this book free here:







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