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We see some obvious clusters among the world’s largest sales forces. Several technology companies run the gamut of hardware, software, and software as a service (SaaS). They go to market through a direct model. The health care industry includes pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical equipment companies, and commercial health insurers. Most of their products and services are ultimately used by consumers. But they are sold indirectly through plan sponsors or health care providers, which is a B2B selling motion. Lastly, we have diversified industrial and business services.

 

What do these companies have in common, to necessitate such large sales forces? They all deal in highstakes sales, which involve three key components: importance, complexity, and scale.

 

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Importance
Medical equipment companies are a great example. Large hospital systems decide on which devices will be used in procedures that may impact a patient’s quality of life. At the same time, hospital systems must balance device considerations with the overall cost of health care.

 

For example, accountable care organizations (ACOs) have a payment and care delivery model that ties provider reimbursements to quality metrics and reductions in the total cost of care for a particular patient population. With the emergence of ACOs, the focus is shifting from the cost of the device to the total cost of care—including procedures, prescriptions, and so forth. Ultimately, health care providers seek to leverage technology advances that lower costs while improving patient outcomes.

 

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Complexity
Enterprise software often affects several departments. Each department leader needs to assess the ramifications
to his or her function. This process may involve different business units. In addition, the finance team must determine whether to capitalize or fund the purchase through operating expenses. Each of these decisions has trade-offs that further expand the buyer’s decision-making team.

 

This process is not necessarily related to the complexity of the product. Moreover, in today’s world, buyers find an abundance of product information online. Where customers need sales guidance is in determining how the proposed solution will impact them and their firm. A seller’s knowledge of the buying team’s requirements, company goals, and industry is much more valuable than product expertise.

 

Scale
The diversified industrial sector provides a good example of scale, when the product being sold constitutes a large percentage of the buyer’s cost structure. Choosing the right system and vendor is vital to the construction of a power plant. Because of the significant capital investment and service streams, a major portion of utility costs for the life of the plant will hinge on this one key decision.

 

Sales Productivity
The figures above provide a snapshot of matched competitors, including example revenues and profits generated per sales employee in similar industries. These high-stakes interactions call for sizable sales teams that can engage deeply with buyers. Customers are staking their reputations, and in some cases their careers, on making the right purchase decision.

 

In order to gain a position on the SBI 100 or improve your company’s current ranking, the sales force must understand your customers’ goals, market challenges, and unmet needs. That prepares them to discuss how your company’s products or services
help solve important, complex, large scale problems. Ultimately, it leads customer buying teams to call for comprehensive sales support to close the deal.

SBI 100 The World's Largest Sales Forces

In this issue, we rank the world’s largest sales forces.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fred Penteado

Guides private equity portfolio companies in a variety of industries on how to make their number.
Learn more about Fred Penteado >

Prior to joining SBI, Fred held a variety of leadership positions with multinational Fortune 50 companies. He has worked in product/program/channel management, sales operations, and served as a Chief of Staff.

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