SBI recently spoke with Todd Skiles, the senior vice president of sales at Ryder. Ryder is a Fortune 500 company in the commercial fleet management and supply chain solutions business with approximately $6.5 billion in annual revenue. Todd leads the sales and solutions team for the supply chain business. The topic of conversation was implementing a hunter/farmer sales organizational structure, something Todd has recently done. He shared what he learned along the way.
Why A Hunter/Farmer Sales Model?
The first question we asked was why the decision to move to a hunter/farmer sales model? “We really spent some time looking at the way that our customers buy, how they value relationships, how we expand business with them, and what challenges we were experiencing with retention,” explained Todd. Based on this research they were able to determine that the hunter/farmer model would best serve the needs of the customers.
Todd also looked at the goals and objectives of the business. At Ryder, they have a very clear goal of growth, so they needed a sales org chart design to support that in both gross sales and net sales. And finally, he considered their reps. Todd found that over time, many of them had naturally developed into either hunters or farmers. The reality was that some had developed larger account bases, and others had developed smaller account bases but more new names. Ultimately, the decision to move to this model was easy, as it almost had developed naturally.
Filling the New Roles
To pull off a move to this organizational design, did Todd need to hire more reps? “We did not hire a bunch,” explained Todd. “However, we did take a look at new positions that we were adding for the new year, additional headcount, and decided which would be positioned as hunter roles, and which would be positioned as farmer roles,” he continued. For the majority of his team, he filled the roles by taking his current team and filtering them in the proper place.
In order to do this, Todd had to be able to assess his team against the new job profile to determine who should be in which role. They started from the foundation up. They looked at the current job descriptions or profiles and modified those to fit a profiles reflective of a hunter or farmer.
Once these profiles were built, they were able to go to the assessment that Ryder performs of their sales team. They had performed these assessments in the last year or so, and continue to do so for every new rep added.
Another key stop Todd took was to involve the input of his sales managers. This was important because these are the folks working with the reps every day. They are able to add firsthand experience and knowledge to use in addition to the information given by the assessment. By taking these steps, Todd was able to easily see where each rep fit in the new sales org model.
Adjusting the Sales Compensation Plan
The final topic is one dear the hearts of all sales reps – sales compensation. How did Todd make the necessary adjustments? “Once we had the positions defined, we first sat down and discussed the level of difficulty for both, quota attainments, and the number of people in each roles,” explained Todd. They were then able to align this with the expectations of the business, and the skill sets of the people.
He also took a very small part of their sales team, those with the most tenure and success, and integrated them in the process from the very beginning. Getting input from the reps directly allowed Todd to understand how it would be interpreted in the field. It paid huge dividends in the compensation plan roll out because of the frank conversations he was able to have with this small team of reps. It allowed for effective change management right off the bat.
Learnings Along the Way
Though the change was natural, that doesn’t mean it was necessarily easy. What does Todd wish he knew prior to making the change?
Conceptually, this organizational structure l doesn’t seem too complex. But it was really important to Todd to sit down and say, what does it mean to actually be a hunter? What does it actually mean to be a farmer? For example, they needed to take the number of accounts that some hunters had from 13 to 5. It was difficult. They had to weed through the opinions of why they shouldn’t or couldn’t do this. Though they were successful in creating the positions they needed, and formulating them in the way they wanted, it was more challenging than expected.
Additionally, Todd recommends always starting with the customer. You have to know how they do business and what they value from your sales team in order to gauge the impact of org redesign from the customer’s perspective. It’s the only way the new model will be successful.