Lean Sales and Marketing Team Roles

In a previous post, Identifying your Lean sales and marketing teams, I discussed how to choose the objectives and the team structure to match it. After that, you need to identify the team member roles which I describe below. This is part of the SALES PDCA framework that we use before starting the PDCA IMPROVEMENT LOOP.

One of the biggest obstacles to effective performance of a sales and marketing team is the lack of a clear vision of responsibilities within the team. Understanding how the team operates helps clarifies the individual team member roles to each other and more importantly externally and specifically to management. I relied heavily on the book Rapid Development as a guideline for the description of the different team models below and highly recommend the book for the depth of knowledge that it contains. This is not meant to be an all-encompassing list nor does it mean that you should utilize more than one team model. It should only be used to help identify your team model for yourself and others. 

Business Team: The most common team structure is where there is one lead person and all other team members have equal status. They are differentiated by the technical, customer relationships and social abilities. The team leader is the link to management and often responsible for making final decisions on unresolved issues. The business team structure looks like a typical hierarchi­cal structure. It is adaptable enough that it can work on all kinds of projects-problem resolution, creativity and tactical execution, but its generality is also its weakness, and in many cases a different structure can work better.

Sales Team: The Sales team takes advantage of the relationship that the salesperson has with the customer. In this concept, the salesperson is simply the superstar, much like the surgeon on a surgical-team. This person due to his intimate knowledge of the customer is ultimately responsible for virtually all of the decisions on a project. With the salesperson handling the bulk of the customer interaction, other team mem­bers are free to specialize but only in a supportive role. This structure can work quite well in the short term if from a tactical sense you need to get a project done fast or from a creative sense where a certain idea has been mandated.

Skunk-works Team: A skunkworks team takes a group of talented, creative people, puts them in an area where they will be freed of the organization’s normal bureaucratic restrictions, and turns them loose to develop and innovate. These teams are most appropriate for exploratory projects on which creativity is all-important. Skunkworks teams are rarely the most rapid struc­ture when you need to solve a narrowly defined problem or when you need to execute a well-understood plan.

Feature Team: In the feature-team approach marketing people report to marketing managers, developer report to development manager, and so on. Layered on top of this traditional organization are teams that draw one or more members from each of these groups and that are given responsibility for a chunk of the sales cycle functionality. The team becomes accountable. They have access to all the people they need to make good decisions. Feature teams are appropriate for problem-resolution projects because they have empowerment and accountability needed to resolve issues expe­diently. They are also good for creativity projects because interdiscipli­nary team composition can stimulate ideas. The additional overhead incurred with feature teams will be wasted on tactical-execution projects-if all me tasks are clearly-defined, feature teams have little to contribute.

Search-and-Rescue Team: In the search-and-rescue team model, the team acts like a group of emergency medical technicians who go looking for missing mountain climb­ers. The search-and-rescue team focuses on solving a specific problem. It is most appropriate for teams that need to focus on problem resolution. It is too bottom-line orientated to support much creativity and too short-term oriented to support tactical execution.

SWAT Team: The SWAT team model is based on military or police SWAT teams, in which “SWAT” stands for “special weapon and tactics.” The idea behind a SWAT team is to take a group of people who are highly skilled with a par­ticular tool or practice and turn them loose on a problem that is well suited to being solved by that tool or practice. SWAT teams are especially appropriate on tactical-execution projects. Their job is not to be creative but to implement a solution within the limits of a tool or a practice that they know well. SWAT teams can also work well on problem-resolution projects.

Professional Athletic Team: The athletes are the stars of the baseball team, and the salespeople are the stars of this team. The team leader and support staff’s role is to clear roadblocks and enable the salespeople to work efficiently. This specific model applies best to tactical-execution projects, which empha­size the highly specialized roles that individual players play. You can apply the model’s general idea that management plays a supporting role to devel­opment to all kinds of projects.

Theater Team: The theater team is characterized by strong direction and a lot of negotia­tion about team roles. The central role on the project is occupied by the director, who maintains the vision of the team and signs people responsibility for individual areas. Individual contributors can shape their roles, their parts of the project, as their own artistic instincts move them. But they can’t take their ideas so far that they clash with the director’ vision. The theater model is particularly appropriate for teams that are dominated by strong personalities. If a role is important enough, and a particular level that the only one who can play it, the director might decide that he or she is willing to put up with the prima-donna for the sake of the project. But if the rest of the cast is strong, the director might pass up a prima donna in order to have a smoother project.

Summary: Regardless of how the teams are organized, I think it is critical that there be a single person who is ultimately responsible for the product’s concep­tual integrity. That person can be cast as the architect, surgeon, director, or even sometimes the program manager, but there must be a person whose job it is to be sure that all the teams’ good local solutions add up to a good global solution.

Did I leave a team out?

Related Information:
Identifying your Lean sales and marketing teams
What will your workplace be like in 2020?
What’s behind Collaboration and Value Networks?
SALES PDCA Framework for Lean Sales and Marketing