Sales Coverage Model: Why You Should Take the State of Your Sales Talent into Account

Your sales coverage model is a key component of your sales organization’s annual planning process, as discussed in last week’s blog. Today we continue the focus on sales coverage models and discuss why yours should take the state of your organization’s sales talent into account.

Annual Sales Planning Process

First, let’s briefly review the main steps in an annual sales planning process so we can align on where the sales coverage model fits in the overall picture. (Note: This is not a comprehensive list of the annual planning steps; rather, the major steps leading up to the sales role are noted at a high level in the context of this blog.)

  1. Identify available market opportunity. Your annual planning process usually starts by identifying your realistic available market opportunity. First, review your total addressable market (TAM), usually available through external data sources. Next, determine what is realistic for your organization to go after, cross-referencing internal data such as product roadmap, historical bookings and forecasted revenue, for example.
  2. Define your go-to-market strategy. Next, define your go-to-market strategy – determine which new markets to go after, how you will maintain market leadership in another area and so on, in order to meet your revenue goals.
  3. Design your sales coverage model. Your sales coverage model should align the right resources with the right customers, aligned to your go-to-market strategy. For example, if one of your go-to-market strategies is to shift mid-market segment from direct to channel, you will need to look at channel partners as part of your coverage model.
  4. Define your sales roles. Now you are ready to define the sales roles. Sales roles determine how you will execute your sales coverage model (i.e., how your sales organization will engage with customers). It should clearly define the role’s scope of responsibility. For example, if your coverage model includes channel partners, you will need to define channel sales roles.

Why the State of Your Sales Talent Matters

Now that we are aligned on the steps that lead to defining your sales roles, let’s take a look at why sales talent matters.

As previously noted, what we do in sales operations is like designing, building and maintaining a sales highway. In this context, the sales coverage model is part of what makes up the sales highway. And salespeople are the drivers of the vehicles on the sales highway. The drivers and their capabilities are ultimately what determine whether they arrive at the destination.

If the drivers are equivalent to your sales talent, being more aware of the state of your sales talent and their capabilities is important. This is what will determine how successful your sales organization is in achieving its revenue goals.

And considering the majority (84%) of sales leaders who participated in our 2018 Sales Talent Study indicated they lack the talent needed to succeed in the future, it is critical for sales operations to be more informed and involved with activities impacting sales talent. (Click to tweet)

And it is worth the effort. We found in our study that sales organizations confident in their talent had higher percentages of salespeople making or exceeding goal (+12.3 percentage points) and higher win rates of forecasted deals (+11.9 percentage points).

Here are three ways sales operations can stay more informed and involved with the state of sales talent in order to be proactive in ensuring your sales organization has the talent it needs to succeed:

#1. Stay informed on sales talent market competitiveness. (Click to tweet) Engage with your partners in HR to get better insights into your market competitiveness – including sales compensation, benefits and other important considerations for recruiting and retaining sales talent. While sales operations is usually most involved with designing and managing sales compensation, it is only one element of an overall compensation package. Understanding how competitive the overall compensation package is will help you assess your sales compensation plan in a more realistic context – vs. just stand alone. It can help uncover other influencing factors in a candidate’s decision to join, as well as your current salespeople’s decision to stay, that may be outside of your sales compensation plan.

#2. Think upskilling/reskilling existing salespeople, not just new-hire onboarding. (Click to tweet) If your sales coverage model takes into account reallocating existing salespeople into new sales roles, upskilling or reskilling existing salespeople becomes a critical change management consideration. While they may already be familiar with the company and general positioning and messaging, they may be required to have new skills and knowledge – especially if it is an entirely new sales role they do not have prior experience with.

For example, let’s say your organization adjusts its existing mid-market segment coverage from direct to channel sales – aligned to the updated strategy of managing 100% of mid-market business through channel partners. You might consider shifting the current mid-market direct sales teams to become partner account managers managing channel partner relationships. In such a scenario, shifting from a direct sales role to a partner account manager role requires different skills and knowledge. So make sure to proactively partner with sales enablement, and review the new sales role’s scope of responsibility and required skills so they can help pull together a comprehensive upskill/reskill enablement plan.

#3. Include sales talent metrics in sales performance discussions, and add a new dimension. (Click to tweet) When reviewing sales performance, most organizations include metrics such as quota attainment, revenue booked, forecasted opportunities and sales activity. Sales commission forecasts also are commonly included when reviewing sales performance with finance. By adding sales talent metrics to these reviews, sales operations can add a new dimension to the discussions – one that highlights the people aspect within the numbers.


Sales operations leaders and their teams can shift their dialogue around the sales coverage model and sales role effectiveness by becoming more informed and involved in sales talent discussions and activities. (Click to tweet) By partnering with HR, sales enablement and sales managers, each of whom has a role in sales talent-related activities, sales operations can upskill themselves in their area of responsibility around the sales coverage model and sales roles.


Questions for you:

  • When was the last time you looked at the state of your organization’s sales talent?
  • Do you know how market competitive your sales organization is?
  • Are you involved in helping identify upskill/reskill considerations as part of the annual rollout of your sales coverage model and sales roles? If not, why not?
  • Do you include sales talent metrics in your sales performance discussions? If not, what could you consider including in your next discussion?


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