Why This Topic Is Important
The professional services industry is marked with intense competition. In the
1990s alone, the United States added a net of 2,600 new accounting firms and
2,300 advertising firms.2 Add to this competitive environment an increased
pressure to perform. The partner ownership business model is shifting, and
more professional services firms are now accountable to shareholders. Share-
holders demand results in the form of increased profits, and this requires new
business. On top of these two pressures, the professional services firm faces a
unique challenge: Professional services firms traditionally look to their â€śprod-
uct,â€ť the experts, as the salesforce. Because of increased pressure to generate
new revenue, the professional consultant is faced with a critical question:
How do I give excellent client service and grow my practice at the same time?
Exhibit 4.1 shows the answer to this dilemma.
80 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth
A separate sales organization addresses the â€śjuggling platesâ€ť (juggling of client and
sales responsibilities) dilemma faced by professional consultants and delivers great
benefit at the same time:
1. A sales organization is an effective tool for revenue generation.
2. A sales organization is an extremely targeted, low cost solution to acquiring new
3. A sales organization sells the service and the consultants that best fit the client need.
Exhibit 4.1 The Formation of a Separate Sales Organization
A Sales Organization Is an Effective and Essential
Tool for Revenue Generation
â€˘ A strong sales organization gives professionals increased sales opportu-
â€˘ A strong sales organization enables professionals to focus on the deliv-
ery of your core productâ€”fanatical client service.
â€˘ A strong sales organization helps your firm to reach its revenue poten-
tial. When integrated with the professionals, your firm, and your clients,
you will get the benefit of all playing at the top of their game.
One Door Leads to Four Opportunities
Jeff Litvak, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, Inc., shares a
revenue success story related to his willingness to work with the internal
sales organization. Jeff â€™s involvement on the lecture circuit put him in
contact with many legal industry leaders, one of whom was the general
counsel for a large retail corporation. A strong practice leader, Jeff was
keen to new business opportunities and thus telephoned a particular attor-
ney to request a background meeting. After securing the appointment,
Jeff asked a sales professional to accompany him on the call. During the
initial meeting, the general counsel referenced a large suit that the corpo-
ration was involved in and provided the names of the attorneys FTI would
meet to pitch the business. As Jeff tells the story, the sales professional
was organized and tenacious about his follow-up, contacted everyone
named in the meeting, and secured meetings with the four key decision
makersâ€”translated, he got FTI the next â€śat-bat.â€ť On his own, Jeff would
not have had the time to dedicate to this new business process; he already
had too many client responsibilities. The sales professional organized an
FTI team appropriate to the needs of the contacts, brought this team on
the subsequent sales calls, and managed the process. The quality of the
team presented to the client, the sales management, proposal development
and follow-up skills of the sales professional, and Jeff â€™s willingness to
work with the sales organization, resulted in FTIâ€™s closing the deal, form-
ing a new client relationship, and generating revenue.
A Sales Organization Is an Extremely Targeted, Low-
Cost Solution for Acquiring New Business
Traditionally, professional services organizations acquire business via two
methodsâ€”marketing programs and consultant sales efforts. Although mar-
keting programs are essential, they can be costly and the return on invest-
ment can be difficult to measure; and while consultants possess deep
knowledge of their service lines, they must juggle client service with sales re-
sponsibilities and are not always trained to sell outside their area of expertise.
When integrated across your firm, the sales organization provides a high re-
turn on investment:
â€˘ A sales organization is highly trackable. Sales effectiveness can be ac-
curately measured, tracked, and improved with the right tools and
â€˘ If a sales organization targets effectively, it minimizes wasted effort or
expense. An advertisement might reach 15,000 individuals, with only a
small percentage of those targets being qualified. Sales professionals
target only those individuals who buy your service.
â€˘ A sales organization is f lexible. Sales professionals can be quickly rede-
ployed to launch a new service, unlike consulting professionals who are
trained to sell within one practice area.
A Sales Organization Sells the Service and
Consultants That Best Fit the Client Need
A sales organization, composed of professionals who are conversationally
competent across a full range of consulting services, can focus on delivering
what is best for the client. An effective sales professional will sell the right
service and the best consultants every time.
The rewards associated with establishing a sales organization are signifi-
cant for both your firm and your clientsâ€™ business. This chapter outlines the
questions to consider and the steps to take to establish a strategic sales organi-
zation in your professional services firm. It is not enough to simply hire sales-
people and to then expect results; an understanding of management and
coaching, sales processes, and technological needs is essential.
Organizing Your Sales Team
If you can find a way to create a sales organization that belongs to the entire
company, you will have unbelievable velocity in the marketplace.
The American Marketing Association defines salesforce organization
as an arrangement of activities and job positions involving the salesforce.
82 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth
The starting point in organizing a salesforce is determining the goals or ob-
jectives to be accomplished; these are specified in the firmâ€™s overall mar-
keting plan. The selling activities necessary to accomplish the firmâ€™s
marketing objectives can then be divided in such a way that the objectives
can be achieved with as little duplication of effort as possible. The organi-
zational structure provides for specialization of labor, stability, and conti-
nuity in selling efforts and coordination of the various activities assigned
to different salespeople and departments within the firm.3 Two key words
to pull from this definition are continuity and coordinationâ€”these allude
Many professional services firms have experimented in creating a sales or-
ganization, and some have been successful in some places. In general, how-
ever, professional services firms that set out to establish a firmwide sales
organization have not been very successful. Two common characteristics
that plague these organizations are the inability to gain support at a high
level, whether at the partner or executive management level, and the inabil-
ity to figure out how to do it together or, in other words, how to get the pro-
fessional consultants and sales professionals to partner. Jeff Litvak, who was
previously a partner with KPMG, highlights integration between the consul-
tants and the sales professionals as one of the top three critical items in en-
suring your sales approach is successful. Litvak observed that while KPMG
had a sales organization, the organization was not as integrated with the pro-
fessionals like the salesforce at FTI; a level of independence still existed and
this sales structure was not very successful. Where increased independence
equates to less effectiveness, it is clear that to succeed, consultants and sales
professionals must â€śmarry up.â€ť4
In learning from this experience, we can confidently state that to estab-
lish a successful sales organization in a professional services firm, four criti-
cal success factors exist:
1. You must have support for your sales organization at the highest level,
even if that support lies in only one individual who is willing to keep
the objectors away until you have a chance to be successful.
2. Your sales professionals must belong to the entire company. Your sales
professionals cannot work for one consultant or one service line. Orga-
nizing your sales organization by a particular service line will lead to
competition, or â€śfiefdoms,â€ť and a lack of continuity and coordination
in the sales effort.
3. You must integrate your sales and marketing organizations. Branding,
creating high quality, relevant content, and reaching the customer via
multiple channels is the value marketers bring; however, this can be
leveraged only if efforts are closely aligned with sales objectives and
an understanding of the buyer.
4. Over time, your sales professionals and your consulting professionals
must marry up. Independence equates to a decrease in effectiveness.
If sales professionals commit themselves to learning the business and
professional consultants commit to respecting and understanding sales,
a true partnership can form.
Assuming you are moving toward meeting the four critical success factors,
then, what makes a good sales organization? Characteristics of any good
sales organization include:5
â€˘ An organizational structure that ref lects a market orientation
â€˘ An organization that is built around activities and not around the peo-
ple performing these activities
â€˘ Responsibilities that are clearly spelled out and sufficient authority
granted to meet the responsibility
â€˘ A reasonable span of executive control
â€˘ Stability combined with f lexibility
â€˘ Balanced and coordinated activities both within the sales department
and between sales and nonmarketing departments
The following sections provide insight into integrating sales and market-
ing, establishing territories, determining the size of your team, and creating
a compensation plan.
Integrating Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing are both engines of revenue generation; thus it is imper-
ative that these organizations be aligned with the firmâ€™s overall business
strategy and with each other. So, how does a firm align sales and marketing?
Before understanding how to move forward, it is important to understand
from where weâ€™re starting. Letâ€™s take a step back and look at a fairly univer-
sal marketing and sales model:6
â€˘ Marketingâ€™s responsibility is build brand awareness, generate leads, and
provide sales tools.
â€˘ Marketing generates leads through a number of vehicles.
â€˘ As leads come in, the leads are handed off to sales.
â€˘ At that point, marketingâ€™s role has been fulfilled and they disengage.
â€˘ Sales takes over by a field sales lead maturation process.
This approach toward lead generation and selling does work; however, this
traditional model has some drawbacks, most noteworthy the lack of continu-
ous teamwork. In the preceding process outline, sales and marketing do not
84 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth
operate as a unified, long-term client team, with a common goal of selling and
servicing the client and the overall firm. There is a hands-off process once
the lead shifts hands from marketing to sales. While this model is based on a
product-centric company, it can be applied to professional services as well.
An integrated sales and marketing organization and approach, focused on
serving the whole company and the client will reduce, or even eliminate, the
animosity and finger pointing that sometimes exist between sales and market-
ing. And, in the end, both the client and your revenue stream will benefit.
As you strategize the organization of your salesforce, remember to inte-
grate sales and marketing. Three key areas to keep in mind are:
1. Reporting structure: Create an organizational reporting structure in
which the heads of both organizations report to one individual. Ideally,
this individual is a marketing generalist with a strong sales background.
This reporting structure facilitates communication and cooperation.
2. Sell the way your customers want to buy: Your sales and marketing or-
ganizations should focus on the customer and facilitate the buying pro-
cess. The goal of any sales organization is to sell the way your customers
want to buy; in other words, assume an â€śoutside looking inâ€ť view of
your sales process. Regular communication between the sales and mar-
keting organizations is thus essential in understanding the client and
developing the right tools to touch the customer and facilitate the sales
3. Understand each otherâ€™s role: To truly work as a team, both sales and
marketing need to understand what each function does and then learn
to balance and coordinate those activities. Marketing needs to under-
stand the sales process, and sales needs to understand how marketing
works and have knowledge of the resources available to help generate
leads and close business.
A sales organization, integrated with marketing, will strengthen your
firmâ€™s ability to generate revenue and build sustainable client and industry
The word territories suggests the division of a salesforce on some basis of
specialization, whether geography, type of product or service sold, class of
customer, or some combination of these or other meaningful categories. In
the professional services environment, two key criteria must exist as you es-
tablish your sales territories:
1. The salesforce must belong to the whole company. To belong to the
whole company, your salesforce must represent the firmâ€™s entire range
of services and not a single professional. Your salesforce must be
trained to cross-sell. This approach contrasts with the standard consul-
tant sales model, in which the professional sells only his or her particu-
lar service line to a wide range of clients. This model is inwardly
focused because the selling mirrors the firmâ€™s internal structure. The
consultant sales model often promotes an organization based on fief-
doms, as practice leaders are faced with a pressure that says, â€śI have to
sell in order to feed the people in my pyramid.â€ť Establishing a sales or-
ganization, if done correctly, will help your firm operate as a consis-
tent, consolidated team, selling and providing the full benefits of all
service offerings to clients. The firm and the client will benefit as the
sales professional will sell in a wider set of services and the right con-
sultant team every time.
2. The salesforce must be organized by the external marketplace. Territo-
ries are collections of people who buy your firmâ€™s services; thus, orga-
nize your territories as your client groups are organized. For example,
FTIâ€™s buyers are law firms and corporations, and sales professionals
are assigned prospective accounts within these two markets. Training
your sales professionals to sell the firmâ€™s complete line of services is
also characteristic of organizing by the external marketplace, because
a clientâ€™s service need is often broad, encompassing much or all of
what the firm offers.