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April 16, 2019

Why the Seller-Doer Model is So Challenging

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 prevalent sales structure in professional services industries like ours.

So, why is the seller-doer model the most dominant sales structure?

  • For one, our industry is made up mostly of small and mid-size firms, not to mention all of the solo operators. And it’s these firms that can’t or won’t invest in full-time (or even part-time) sales help. So, the responsibility for revenue growth falls to the leaders of those firms.
  • In addition, there is an assumption that only ‘technical experts’ are capable of selling whatever complex service/product they’re selling. This is, by the way, a VERY WRONG assumption – which I’ll get into in a later blog post – but for now, it is a key rationale behind the seller-doer model.

It’s because of these reasons that our industry is full of business owners & managers, practice leaders and department heads who are tasked with revenue growth… in addition to their “full-time” jobs (of running businesses, managing employees and taking care of clients).

And even though it is the most common sales structure, it is rife with challenges and problems, including:

1) It’s impossible to serve two masters. Being a seller-doer is like having two different 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 to be accomplished at the same time? Regardless of your choice, one of your bosses will not be happy.

2) ‘Selling’ activities always 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 request, for example. 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.

But in both cases, the more you have to choose between selling and doing, the more that the ‘doing’ activities become elevated in their priority… while the ‘selling’ activities do just the opposite. Over time, your level of selling activity will slow to a crawl… it’s almost inevitable.

3) Most leaders in our industry did not get into it to be in sales. But by virtue of the critical need to grow revenue – and perhaps because of their ‘friendly’ personality – they were thrust into it. Likely, 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.

4) If someone has the skills to be a ‘technical expert’ in their field AND an expert in the art & science of selling… it would make them a true unicorn. But people in these two roles are generally cut from different cloth… and each trying to be the other only dilutes what they can do well.

What about you?

I started this article by asking if your firm subscribed to the seller-doer model. Here’s my follow-up question…

Are YOU a seller-doer?

If you are, you’re likely a “doer” who’s been asked to take on some selling responsibility. And while we’ve high-lighted a number of challenges with this model, if it is your firm’s current structure, there are a few things you can do to improve your selling skills and the resulting outcomes:

  1. 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. Activity breeds results… and practice makes perfect!
  2. Start a sales diary. Keep detailed notes of your various sales situations… i.e. what happened with each sales prospect, how you responded to it and what the outcome was (and not just the end result, but in the steps along the way). Over time, you’ll start to see success patterns emerge (that is… what works when). These patterns provide a roadmap for how you’ll need to behave in the future to be successful.
  3. Take the time to learn. While on-the-job training is often necessary, find the time to absorb some ‘book knowledge’… subscribe to blogs and newsletters, attend webinars, participate in workshops, etc. And while there are thousands of resources available to you online, to help you get started, here are few that we make available:
  • Click here to read our Blog.
  • Click here to download our Tip Sheets.
  • Click here to register for one of our Webinars.

While being a seller-doer is a big challenge… you can be successful. It boils down to three key elements: a commitment to selling, time management and skills enhancement.

Good luck and good selling!

Stay tuned for information about our new Seller-Doer Sales Training Workshop coming soon.

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