Is greater specialization the key to a more productive sales team?
How does division of labor and specialization affect productivity in sales?
Specialization of labor (also known as division of labor) could be the process that ignites your sales performance. But what is specialization, and can it really boost results?
What is specialization in sales?
In sales, specialization refers to the division of the sales process into individual tasks. All the functions that a salesperson might do are now accomplished by specialists. This may include research, prospecting, demonstration, negotiating, managing the sales pipeline, etc.
How does division of labor work?
Division of labor enables those workers with specific skills to do what they are best at, and this should improve productivity. When a specialist undertakes a task for which he or she is best qualified, and in which he or she is most experienced, that task should be accomplished more efficiently and with better results.
People who specialize are more productive than those who aren’t a specialist. That’s a fact, not fable. Consider that you wish to decorate your home. Will you do as good a job as a seasoned decorator, or will the finished product take you twice as long with a less satisfactory finish?
Consider an employee who spends their entire day researching potential clients, and compare their performance to a salesperson who spends an hour a day doing the same job. The specialist research is more efficient, more effective, and more productive. The salesperson’s results won’t even come close.
Does specialization really improve results?
Henry Ford developed the first moving assembly line, and this revolutionized manufacturing. Instead of taking 12 hours to build a car, the process – which relied on workers performing single tasks – reduced the time it took to around two hours 30 minutes.
While many organizations believe that their salespeople should undertake all the tasks considered as part of the sales process, this belief isn’t replicated in other business processes. Indeed, specialization is commonplace today. Accountants don’t write computer programs. Writers don’t edit their own work. Lawyers don’t type their own letters. Designers don’t manufacture the goods they design.
Clearly, utilizing people’s specific skills should improve results – though there is a caveat.
When the ‘best person for the task’ isn’t the ‘best person for the task’
One of the advantages of utilizing people’s best skills is that doing so reduces the time it takes to do specific tasks. Time is money, after all. If one person is responsible for designing and manufacturing products, the manufacturing process must wait until that person has designed the product. And while they are manufacturing the product, they can’t be designing the next.
However, in certain circumstances specialization could prove to be counterproductive – if the person with the best skills for a task is not the right person to do that task.
For example, let’s say that your salesperson types their own sales letters and contracts. They do this because they type faster than their assistant. While this saves time (and therefore more productive), it removes the salesperson from the task that adds most value – selling. While the salesperson’s productivity is higher when typing, the absolute impact is negative. There is also a cost implication to consider – the salesperson costs more than the assistant. It sometimes pays to trade productivity for time.
The sales cycle requires specialization throughout
The sales cycle begins with product research, moves through design, marketing, the process of sales, and continues with customer support and account management. It doesn’t end, unless the customer ends the relationship. One person cannot do all these tasks.
To sell successfully, division of labor is key. To do this effectively, an organization must:
Match products and services to customer needs
Identify the tasks associated with their sales cycles
Determine the requirements of each task
Hire specialists for those identified tasks
Continually develop the skills of its people
Develop a process in which prospects are moved seamlessly along the customer journey
The bottom line
Specialization enables an organization to make the best use out of their employees’ skillsets. The result is greater productivity. In the sales environment this means that customers are more effectively managed, and sales improve. A by-product of specialization is that your employees are happier in their work and more motivated to perform to the best of their ability.
How best can you divide your labor to support your sales team? How can you identify the best skills of your people? For the answers to these questions and more, contact Forward Focus today.