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Think Like an NFL Coach: Do Your Players Fit Your Sales Coverage Model?


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Sales PlaysIf you were announced today as the new head coach of your favorite NFL team (I’ll insert Arizona Cardinals here), what are the biggest decisions you would need to make?

I don’t claim to be a closet football coach, but the top two things for me are the type of offense/defense I want to run and the right players to do it.

But in what order? Does personnel dictate the style of offense or vice versa?

Well, it depends.

Let’s move back closer to reality. If you were named the new head of your company’s inside sales org (and for a lot of you, that is probably your current reality), how would you approach it?

I’d like to propose that for sales orgs your style of offense or defense is your “go-to-market strategy.” And at the heart of that strategy is your sales coverage model.

How do you most effectively and efficiently cover your addressable market?

  • Do you have both field and inside reps?
  • Do you segment by geography, industry, or something else?
  • How do technology and systems play into your coverage model?

Viewing the question through this lens, I’ll ask it again: Does personnel dictate your coverage model or does your coverage model tell you what kinds of people to hire?

Sales leaders often use one of these two approaches:

  1. Build it and they will come
  2. Play to your strengths

Build it and they will come

The ideal scenario is to build a coverage model that suits your strategy, products and competitive landscape. Then hire personnel who fit your model.

But most leaders don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch. Your current personnel may not fit your new model.

Rebuilding the plane while flying it doesn’t get any trickier than with a sales team. You have to reconfigure the backend, reorganize the frontend, and potentially retrain reps … all without missing quota.

The decision to switch from a Spread Offense to a Pro-Style Offense shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Here are a few factors that could necessitate a rebuild:

  • New product launch
  • Entry into a new market
  • Revised company strategy
  • Change in size or structure of sales force

At the very least, you should re-evaluate your coverage model every two years to see if it’s still the right fit.

You may decide not to make a major change, but at least you are deliberately making that decision. And you can start putting pieces in place for a future change.

If you do take on a rebuild or if you are in a situation for a new build, be very clear about the types of players your offense needs. This is incredibly important for your existing reps and will help you avoid confusion and chaos.

Your current reps will either need to adjust and conform to the new model or find new jobs. Clearly articulate the skills, experience, and attributes needed to make your model work and then hire to that profile. And don’t compromise!

If you build a consistent and aligned model, you will attract the right players who will thrive in that environment.

One of our customers made a significant model change and actually offered their employees a $2,000 quitting bonus when they rolled out the changes.

They were happy to work with you and help you adjust to the new model, but if you were going to be a detractor, they would prefer that you happily leave with some cash in hand.

Play to your strengths

You may be in a situation where it is difficult to transition people out or you don’t have funds to recruit and hire new talent. Or maybe you have a strong team that you want to build around. In this case, you could build your model around your current players.

Imagine Tom Brady running an option offense where the quarterback often runs the ball himself. It just wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, that might be happening on your sales floor.

Playing to your strengths means aligning your coverage model to your organization, strategy, product AND reps.

Start by mapping out the strengths of your sales reps and your current sales org.

  • Are your reps strong technically?
  • Are they analytical?
  • Do they have specific industry experience?
  • Do they come from a variety of geographies where they know the culture and context?
  • Are they good team players or are they lone wolves?

If you see strong patterns, consider adjusting your model to align with those strengths.

For example, if you have a group of reps with deep technical knowledge, you may want to consider assigning them to your new highly technical product. And assign the other reps to your more standard products.

Or if you have reps who worked in specific industries, you could carve up territories, accounts and leads by industry. Just be careful not to over-adjust or fit your entire model to a small subset of reps.

Now it’s time to run some of the plays we’ve covered here. When your GM calls you into her office tomorrow and hands you the whistle and clipboard, you’ll know where to start and the right questions to ask.

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