Increasingly, I have seen Sales influencers on LinkedIn call for a move away from role specialization in sales and towards full-cycle sellers. The idea behind the full-cycle seller is that customers and prospects enjoy a sales experience more if they are only dealing with one person during the buying process and then that person sticks around to manage the account after the sale. I have run both types of teams, so I thought I would share my experience on the matter.
Every industry segment is different and your sales approach should be tailored accordingly. What works in one space might not work in another. There may be some market segments where full-cycle sellers are the right long-term answer. However, if you are in an industry where deals are complex, a full-cycle seller is probably not the best fit as you scale.
Earlier in my sales management career at a Cloud Hosting company, my team started out as full-cycle sellers. Their job responsibilities included handling leads, closing the deals, and managing the accounts after the sale. This worked well while our deals were smaller and less complex. As we grew, so did our deal sizes and complexity increased. It became necessary to start specializing roles to make sure we were giving prospects and customers the best sales experience.
A more complex sale required engineering expertise to ensure that what was sold to the customer would fulfill their needs once it was installed (and beyond). Adding a Sales Engineering role helped us not only design solutions properly but enabled us to impress upon more sophisticated buyers that our technical expertise was more than sufficient to meet their needs.
As the deals became more complex, not every one of my sellers was able to excel at persuading more sophisticated prospects to buy. Yet some of those who struggled in the more complex close were very strong when it came to growing an installed base. Rather than terminate otherwise good employees looking for unicorns that could do it all in a more complex environment, it made sense to split the hunting and farming tasks, creating separate Account Executive and Customer Success roles.
Likewise, when it became time to diversify our lead generation channels and add an outbound function, the folks who were good at closing the deals did not have the time or inclination to do the grunt work of hundreds of cold outreach touches per week to drum up leads. It was much more effective to break that function off into a separate Sales Development role which served as a great career on-ramp for hungry up and coming salespeople.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to designing your sales force. Even within the same company, what is right at one stage of growth will likely need to change at another stage. If you are starting off and your deals are small, a full-cycle seller can often be the most pragmatic approach to get going. Heck, that full-cycle seller may just be the Founder herself for quite a while. If you can scale the business in such a way that your deal complexity stays relatively straightforward, it may still work as you grow. However, if your deals get complex and you are growing fast, role specialization can better ensure you have people who are the best at what they do helping the prospect and customer each step of the way.