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Building a Sales Team: 4 Sales Team Structures That Maximize Performance

Sales supports your business’ survival. Regardless of your industry, product or market, undertaking sales activity is what brings customers – and their money – through the door.

But how businesses frame and deliver sales differs. Smaller businesses may deliver sales across a number of their business’ processes. For example, selling through word of mouth or taking a consultative approach.

Other, businesses, will often dedicate focused resources on bringing in and closing new leads. This is usually done with a dedicated sales or sales and marketing team.

Your sales organization structure can have a large impact on your overall sales performance. With different structures often working better given certain industries and sales processes.

So, which sales team structure is best for your business? Here are four structures to consider:

Sales Team Structure 1 – The Island

Let’s start with a traditional sales structure: the island. The simplest sales team structure, this has a leader-driven team and is known as the island.

Although sometimes considered old-fashioned, the island model can be found in many organizations today. For example, many hard-driven sales organizations with dedicated sales representatives still use this approach This structure is often adopted by industries such as medical device sales, where each sales rep is responsible for your full sales process and reports to one head of the sales department.

island with blue sea and palm tree

You’ll also often find this structure being used in new businesses that are yet to establish a more performance-driven structure. These businesses will often have the founder at the top of the structure with a handful of individuals driving sales and reporting directly to them.

No matter your product or service, this structure can be beneficial in the early days of a business, as it allows your founder or head of sales to maintain a clear view of all sales activity and the health of the sales pipeline. It also requires very little input from the sales manager, saving precious resources during the most crucial part of a business’s life.

However, this sales model can result in an aggressive, sales-driven environment. This, in turn, can mean that selling becomes more important than serving the customer, leading to poor business longevity and the potential for blame culture.f you’re adopting an island structure, be mindful of:

  • Championing well-maintained customer relationships
  • Complying with company ethics at all times
  • Establishing a culture of teamwork with goals and rewards

Sales Team Structure 2 – The Assembly Line

The assembly line sales team structure appeals to a more modern way of doing sales than the island approach. It is often adopted in small and medium-sized businesses that want to drive better sales performance.

Adopting this organized structure will force you to take a good look at your sales cycle. Your process will be broken up like an assembly line with prospects being handed from one specialist team member to another depending on which part of the sales pipeline they currently sit.

team of people sat in a line

Although these specialist areas can vary depending on your business and industry, they usually break down into four key areas. These include:

Lead Generation

This individual or team is responsible for getting physical leads through the door. This is often defined within a business as marketing rather than sales, but it is a crucial first step in The assembly line sales process.

Lead Generation teams will differ in their skills, which can range from social media advertising and content creation to telesales, depending on the business approach.

Sales Development

Sales Development teams are often put in charge of assessing the overall quality of each lead generated by your Lead Generation team. For example, if ten leads are passed to the Sales Development team, it is their job to assess each of these, identifying the opportunity size, the potential of converting the lead and the business’s ability to deliver.

The activities of this team can span from desktop research to qualifying calls with potential customers.

Closers

Often labelled as account, business development or sales executives, this team is in charge of closing deals with the leads qualified by sales development.

This team will undertake the majority of your day-to-day sales activities answering concerns and negotiating the final deal. They may also be required to deliver product demos or presentations.

Customer Development

Once the sale has been closed, the customer will be passed on to the Customer Success Team. This team is responsible for delivering in two key areas.

Firstly, they are tasked with maintaining the customer relationship to ensure repeat business. Like an account manager, they are also tasked with improving the customer relationship over time, allowing them to identify and close opportunities for upselling.

Sales Team Structure 3 – The Pod

Similar in many ways to the assembly line approach, the pod structure relies on prospects being passed from specialist to specialist depending on which part of the sales process they are in.

However, where the assembly line structure passes all sales through the same process, the pod model breaks sales up based on certain criteria and passes them to smaller dedicated teams.

woman browsing books

This means that each small team — or pod — is focused on the entire sales process, with each having specialists in lead generation, lead qualification, closing deals and development. This is in contrast to the assembly line where teams are separated by their specialization.

The pod sales team structure can be beneficial in two scenarios. In large sales teams, the pod structure can promote healthy competition between pods, driving better results. In businesses where leads may be very technical, using the pod structure can allow teams to specialize in specific opportunities, again increasing both efficiency and success.

Sales Team Structure 4 – The Hybrid

Most sales teams actually follow a hybrid of these three structures. For example, a business that adopts the assembly line approach is also likely to place one director or head of department at the top to monitor and project manage all teams to ensure a united approach.

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Equally, the pod structure is also likely to see cross-pollination between teams, with the goal of overarching business success outweighing the success of any individual team.

Pick Your Structure

The way you structure your sales team can have a big impact on the sales performance of your organization. What works for you will depend on the size of your business and the nature of your industry. Which sales structure are you using? Let us know in the comments.

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