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July 16, 2019

How to Maximize Your Time as a Seller-Doer

Does your firm subscribe to the seller-doer model for business development? That is, are there leaders and managers in your firm who, in addition to their primary roles, are also tasked with responsibility for revenue growth? If you answered ‘yes,’ then your firm is like the vast majority of others… the seller-doer model is, by far, the most popular sales structure in the MR industry among small and mid-sized firms.

Popular, yes. But also, incredibly challenging because…

  • It’s difficult to serve two masters. Being a seller-doer is like having two bosses… Which one do you listen to on any given day/at any given time? Which boss is more important? How do you prioritize if given conflicting directives? Regardless of your choice, one of your ‘bosses’ will not be happy.
  • More often than not, ‘selling’ activities take a back to seat to ‘doing’ activities, for two reasons:
  • You choose what’s urgent. At any given time, as a seller-doer, you will be asked to choose between a selling activity and a client/project activity. Which one takes precedence? Your current clients, of course… and they should! It’s those clients that make you successful. You can get to that “sales stuff” later.
  • You like what you like. If you had to pick one, which would you rather do – A) spend time selling or B) spend time doing what you were hired to do? 100% of seller-doers will pick option B… it’s what they like to do and what they’re more comfortable with. So that’s what they default to. Every time.
  • Most leaders in Market Research did not get into it to be in sales. But by virtue of the critical need to grow revenue, they were thrust into it. Often, they don’t want to do sales, don’t like to do sales and, frankly, don’t know how to do it effectively… not a strong recipe for success.

Even with all of those challenges, there are some activities all seller-doers can employ to ensure they’re making progress on the ‘selling’ part of their job…

Think activity, not results

You cannot control a buying decision… you can only hope to influence it. But what you can control is what you DO. Your activity. So, set and work to achieve a series of “Activity Goals.” For example:

  • # of phone calls and emails sent every day
  • # of capability presentations or demos each month
  • # leads generated at a networking event

Remember, “Activity breeds results!” So, focus on that!

Play in your own backyard

If you happen to be based in or near a reasonably large metropolitan area, spend an extra amount of your selling time there. With its close proximity, take advantage of the opportunity to meet with clients and prospects in-person… meet over coffee, deliver a lunch-n-learn presentation, get together for a drink after work, etc. Remember, people do business with people they like… and spending time with them in-person is a critical part of that.

Be persistent

Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts with a prospect, yet 80% of sales are made after five or more. Don’t give up! You need to stay in touch with your sales leads and not just for a week or two. Send frequent-but-not-too-frequent email “check ins,” share relevant articles, meet nearby contacts for coffee and pick up the phone every once-in-a-while for an update.

Get to know everyone

A primary reason a client is lost is because your relationship with that client was based on a relationship with just one key contact… and then that contact went away (resigned, retired, etc.). The solution? Get to know “everyone” there. Ask your key contact to introduce you to as many others as possible – in different departments and at different levels. And as you meet them, get their business cards, enter them into your CRM, connect with them on LinkedIn and begin to build those relationships.

Dance with those that brought ya!

Most salespeople spend their time focused on developing business from new prospects. But the fact is, it’s more effective and more efficient to grow revenue from existing clients. Think about all of the companies you’ve done business with in the past 12-24 months. Do you have 100% of their business? Probably not. Are there opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell? Probably so. So, start with them… they know you, like you and are already spending money with you – not a bad jumping off point!

Say ‘thank you’

Enough already with those unoriginal, thank you emails. Get in the habit of sending handwritten notes instead. Each will take less than 5 minutes and will help you stand out from virtually every other supplier. is a good source for low-cost, personalized stationery. Also, don’t discount the idea of sending tangible gifts as a show of gratitude. Think about it – if a company spends $30-40-50,000 with your firm, isn’t that worth the price of a small gift? Two of my favorite gift sources are: and

Make sales a habit

Get in the habit of selling. Block off some time every day – without exception – to send out emails, make a few phone calls, respond to inquiries, follow-up on conference leads, etc. First thing in the morning, over your first cup of coffee, is often best – before you get overwhelmed by the details of your ‘day job.’ And if daily isn’t doable, then set aside a 2-3-hour block of time once or twice a week.

Personal development

Most importantly, continue to learn and develop your selling skills. While on-the-job training is often necessary, there are plenty of other resources available… books, blogs, magazines, newsletters and webinars.

Speaking of personal development, our upcoming workshop might be of interest to you… The Seller-Doer Workshop has been designed to enhance the selling skills and techniques of researchers, project managers, practice leaders and firm owners who have gotten ‘stuck’ with the responsibility of growing revenue. Delivered online over 3 weeks, the workshop starts on July 26th. For complete details, visit:

Good luck and good selling!


This article first appeared on the Insights Association website in June, 2019.

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