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The Different Roles of a Sales Organization

The roles of a sales organization range from simple and diverse to specific and complex. The diversity and complexity of sales organizations tend to depend on the company’s maturity and the number of markets it services.

Young companies follow a relatively basic business model, usually as a result of having fewer employees and a lower hiring budget than larger companies. Some smaller businesses try to mimic the structures of larger organizations which only adds unnecessary complexity. I usually recommend they simplify.

Adjusting to Growth

Roles of sales representatives in small businesses are diversified, requiring multi-skilled and efficient personnel who will grow alongside the business. As the company expands, the role of these salespeople must evolve to better accommodate and serve your organization’s expansion into different markets and channels.

In other words, their roles will specialize. Opening up to new markets and adopting innovative business strategies will necessitate more specific job profiles, created to reflect for example different levels of difficulty or skills. Salespeople now find themselves assigned to positions that reflect their specialties, interests, backgrounds, and career goals.

The Roles of a Sales Department

The Basic Structure

At its most basic, a company will have two roles – a sales leader and representatives who are responsible for all of the tasks related to finding and closing new clients.

The Next Phase

As the company grows, it might start separating the roles among the salespeople who are Hunters, those who are Farmers and Account Managers.


Hunters will be in charge of finding new prospects (cold calling, emailing, social selling) and booking meetings for the rest of the sales team.


Farmers will look to grow existing accounts by finding opportunities within. They aren’t Account Managers who are responsible for the overall stability of the accounts. They’re there to sell.

Account Managers

Account Managers actively work to ensure that the client, once the deal is closed, remains satisfied with his or her decision to sign, so the competition doesn’t lure them away.

Outside Sales

They will also be responsible for finding and signing new clients, but typically they will be in charge of larger, more strategic accounts. Outside Sales will often be on the road or travel frequently. They are the ones doing the consultative selling.

Inside Sales

Inside Sales will also be responsible for finding new clients, but they’ll be in charge of more transactional deals. They usually stay at the office and conduct most of their activities on the phone and by email.

What’s Next

Sales Support

As companies continue to grow, they will specialize further and separate sales roles from more administrative ones. Sales Support will often be responsible for the more operational aspects of the sales process such as preparing quotes, proposals, and other administrative tasks.

Adding these types of support roles brings a lot more focus to sales and requires preparation and a transition phase.

Technical Sales or Sales Engineer

They will be on the sales side. While the Outside team will work with decision-makers, the Sales Engineer will support them. They are usually more technical or specialized and involved further down in the sales process – somewhere around the 3rd base if we refer back to the Baseline Selling Process

Spec Sales

While this doesn’t apply to all business, speculative work is required in companies selling products that need to be specified by architects, engineers, etc. for clients that need to see prototypes or finished designs before agreeing to pay.

Customer Service

Their role is really to service clients with technical questions.

A Case Study

One client we worked with had one role. They had 12 sales representatives doing a bit of everything – selling to consumers, selling to dealers, doing customer service, preparing quotes, etc. We separated everything: the quoting was centralized, customer service was also centralized. We also identified several different markets and an equal number of different sales roles.

In a case like this one, you might also want to specialize your sales representatives based on different markets and your strategy – they will all be selling, but will have different sales profiles. For example, reps for distributors, others for direct sales, others for international sales.

Sales Leadership

Specialization also affects leadership roles. Sales Managers who in the past had responsibility for every aspect of the sales department might find themselves reporting to a VP of Sales.

When to Specialize

Steering your sales force into specific roles depends on your strategy. As you fine-tune it, as it gets more subtle, as it gets more targeted, grows, matures and evolves, so must your sales organization.

While corporate strategy is the lead indicator that it’s time to specialize, other might be that :

  • you’re no longer hitting growth targets,
  • your competitors have specialized roles. 

The growth process must occur organically. Be careful not to make the mistake of trying to force it.