Very often, professional services suffer from the “feast and famine” phenomenon where there is always either too much or not enough work. Developing the company’s sales team helps to prevent this and grow the business, however there are several pitfalls and challenges that need to be taken into consideration. While our portfolio is heavily focused on B2B SaaS companies, all of us at Takeoff Partners have also been involved in professional services companies or sales of consultancy services. This is the first part of a two-part article series where we share our learnings, focusing on practical organizing of professional services sales.
Disorganized sales inevitably
lead to unprofessional practices, there is no reason to sugarcoat it. While
good salespeople can often thrive and succeed even in a disorganized
environment, it is still vital for all growth-seeking consultancies to work out
how to organize the sales function professionally.
There are many reasons to
this, including the fact that it helps avoid the “feast and famine” phenomenon.
professional, organized sales functions ensure that the company genuinely
owns the client relationships – because the other option is that they are
owned by a single salesperson and lost if that person moves away from the
account or the company.
Here are our three key tips on
how to organize sales in a professional services company.
Tip 1: Clearly separate hunter
and farmer roles from each other
Hunters and farmers is a popular sales term referring to hunters who find new leads and
farmers who nurture existing clients. Hunters are usually interested in the
quantity of sales and like to close as many deals as fast as possible. Farmers tend
to build lasting relationships with clients and cultivate customer loyalty.
As these ways of selling are
different, there should be separate work positions for these types of
salespeople. Even in a small consultancy, at least the hunter role should be
assigned to a salesperson who only focuses on new sales. This is the only way
to ensure there is a steady flow of work coming in.
- It is worth remembering that sales cycles tend to be rather long for professional
services, so despite the name, in this line of work the hunters are more in
the business of “marinating meat until tender” rather than simply catching prey.
Doing this successfully requires operating in a systematic way, which is much
easier to organize when the role is centralized to one person. Spreading this
work to several people is inefficient on many levels – it increases
administrative work, usually prevents effective utilization of digital tools
and can lead to lost opportunities due to lack of consistency.
- Taking care of existing clients could be either the responsibility of consultants
or designated Account Manager(s), depending on the size and industry of your
Tip 2: Make sure the entire organization supports new sales
At best, new sales are based
on three, fully utilized elements:
A functioning inbound lead
Active outbound sales
Personal network of the company’s
- Senior members can have a specific responsibility of creating new leads. Depending
on their expertise and use of time, they could also take the whole
responsibility of a single sale.
- Arranging sales support is important. The salesperson makes an initial
analysis of the needs of the customer and takes them through the sales process.
Relevant experts then participate in analyzing the needs of the customer in a
more specified way and offering them a deal, and often commit to executing the
project. It is important that the ownership of the sale stays with the
salesperson who is responsible for guiding the client through the buying
- Marketing should be integrated to sales and account management because the
message directed to future and existing clients is important. Marketing is not
a separate entity but supports sales and account management; it should create
concrete leads and build thought leadership that also keeps the existing
clients engaged and committed.
In the second part of this
article series, we further expand on what involving the entire organization
requires from a strategic point of view in order to be successful.
Tip 3: Organize account
management according to each customer segment
All professional services companies
should strive to create ongoing customer relationships and create ways to tie
customers to long-term contracts. The starting point for how to achieve this is
to organize customers into segments. This can be done in a variety of ways, for
- Customers according to current size / profitability
- Customers according to growth / profitability potential
Typically, the most optimal
model is to centralize the most important clients to a Key Account Manager who will
need to manage at least 1 MEUR annual revenue, presuming that client account
size can be grown by at least 10% annually.
The role of the Key Account
Manager is to:
- make sure the clients are happy
- make more sales to existing clients
- manage the clients of the organization
Often, it makes sense that the
consultants handle the accounts they are currently delivering work for, as long
as they are not key accounts in a Key Account Manager’s portfolio. Project
Managers or Client Managers can also be assigned some of the existing accounts,
provided they have interest and capacity and can be given some upskilling if
Leadership is what makes the
This article handles
organizing sales of professional services purely from a practical perspective.
That alone is naturally not enough. Any restructuring of the sales function
needs to be centrally led and managed.
The second part of our series,
to be published later this summer, focuses on this same topic on a strategic
level, suggesting long-term initiatives and policies to support a professional,
results-driven sales team.