While the right sales structure is different for every organization, a successful sales team consists of specific role types that have unique skill sets. It takes a very different combination of skills to keep current customers happy versus landing new accounts, and let’s not forget the internal support needed to keep salespeople selling.

“Right People, Right Seats”, also applies to your sales department.

In this article, I cover several areas for consideration when restructuring your Sales Team:

  • Build your sales team around the markets/verticals you serve
  • Understand the difference between Hunters and Farmers
  • The benefit of separate Customer Service and Admin from Sales
  • Build your sales team with the right role structure so it’s ready to scale

The Ideal Sales Structure

In the small and mid-sized company settings I’m typically engaged in, a common difficulty is when the current stage of growth doesn’t justify the ideal quantity of specialized roles.

Even if you need to grow into your new sales structure, there is still significant value in mapping out the appropriate design and having some staff members fill dual roles initially.

How you organize your Sales Team depends on a myriad of factors. First you must consider the unique make-up of your sales environment. Start with these foundational elements to begin shedding light on what your structure needs to accommodate. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my product fit into multiple verticals?
  • What is the level of complexity of my product and sales process?
  • Which industries will my new accounts come from?
  • What percentage of my business is coming from returning customers vs new?
  • How broad are the geographic regions or territories my team focuses on?
  • …and many more!

The key is to have clarity on the differing roles to support your growth goals and to measure their performance individually. This will give you visibility to recognize when activity milestones have been achieved to justify staff expansion.

Hunter vs. Farmer Selling Roles

The key is to have clarity on the differing roles to support your growth goals and to measure their performance individually.

Just like one hardware tool isn’t right for every job, no one salesperson can effectively fulfill varying sales roles. For example, it is ideal to separate your Farmer and Hunter selling roles.

The Farmer maintains customer relationships and cultivates new opportunities within them. The Hunter creates entry points in new target accounts to grow your customer portfolio in alignment with your growth strategy.

These two roles typically work in tandem, yet have very different functions. Together, they secure, grow and retain customers.

The concepts for each role and their responsibilities aren’t very difficult to grasp. The challenge is getting the right person for each spot. The Farmer role is typically easier to fill than the Hunter. That’s because there are fewer people with the skills to be a successful Hunter.

The good Hunters will always be sought after so it’s a good idea to make sure you have a strong sales compensation plan to reward their efforts. If you need help in this area, check out my previous article, “How to Drive The Right Sales Behavior With Your Compensation Plan”.

The Hunter is usually a driven, resilient person. They have to handle adversity well because they face a lot of rejection. Going toe-to-toe with competition means they can shrug off lost opportunities and get back to work. The good ones will take those losses as learning opportunities and apply the lesson to the next target.

Effective positioning of the right Hunters can dramatically change the trajectory of your business.

The Farmer is usually known as an account manager or something similar. They cultivate existing relationships so your company can take a “land and expand” approach when an experienced account manager is at the helm.

The Farmer isn’t simply an order taker, they work their relationships to uncover upsell opportunities and are effective at generating referrals.

Great Farmers can have tremendous long-term benefits for an organization. After your Hunter lands a new account, your Farmer ensures they stick around.

By maximizing the volume coming from your current accounts, typically the most profitable revenue source, net new customer campaigning can be positioned as a supplement to meet growth goals.

Proper Support for Sales Teams

Retaining your customers and landing new ones requires teamwork. When salespeople get lost in customer service activity, they cannot hit their goals. Act fast to save your team if they are drowning in post-sales activity or highly technical product demos.

No sales structure is complete without accounting for the support needed to keep your salespeople focused on selling.No sales structure is complete without accounting for the support needed to keep your salespeople focused on selling. Roles such as a Customer Service Representative, Sales Administrator and potentially a Sales Engineer, can all be integral to your company’s success because they allow your Hunters and Farmers to remain focused on high value sales activities.

When budget is tight, I’ve found success by implementing these roles as dual positions to get the concept started. Not only is this practical from a financial standpoint but it creates career path opportunities for high performing members in other areas of the company.

The other key benefit of separating support functions from your selling roles is the customer’s perception of your business. It changes for the better when they have a dedicated sales, customer service, and solution representative team assigned to them. It projects organizational strength and gives the customer peace of mind that you truly have the resources to take care of their every need.

In addition, the reality of business is that sometimes you lose key employees. If you only have one person handling every aspect of a customer, that creates a vulnerability. Let’s say the salesperson handling the account leaves to join a competitor. There is little stopping the account from following them out the door if that’s the only close relationship they had within your organization.

Establishing sales organization structure for small teams and leading sales scaling initiatives is what I do. I have helped several business find the alignment they needed to meet their sales growth goals while keeping their current customers secure.

If you’d like to learn how this strategy could apply to your business, please feel welcome to reach out. I would be happy to discuss how these concepts can help you unlock your growth potential.  Contact me through any of these methods: (773) 203-7086 or jmcleod@salesxceleration.com.


I am part of a national group of Senior Sales Leaders who collaborate to share insights like the examples shown in this article. We formed because of our shared passion to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue.