Sales Team Structures For Each Business Size

January 11, 2021


The foundation of every business is the revenue generated through the sale of products and services. And in order to keep sales high, you will need to build an effective sales team. However, this is easier said than done.

There are a lot of variables in play when it comes to sales, including the product you’re trying to sell, the customer you’re trying to sell to, and the structure of your sales team. This last one is especially tough to get right.

Businesses come in different shapes and sizes, and finding a sales team structure that fits the needs of your organization is one of the main challenges of business development. And the cost of mismanaging your sales team can be quite steep.

If you’re in the process of starting a new business, or if you’re looking to reorganize your sales operation, you’ll want to know more about the typical sales team structures in use today. And we’re here to provide just that.

In the remainder of this article, we will cover a selection of typical roles within a sales team, and their main responsibilities.

The 9 Roles Within a Sales Team

Before we go into the details of the structures themselves, let’s go over the basic building blocks of a sales team, its employees. Some of these roles will have different names depending on who you ask, but their functions within a sales team are universal.

Account Executive

Account executives are essentially what people call sales representatives. Their job is to work with prospects that have shown a certain level of interest in your company and its products. Account executives have a major impact on the effectiveness of your sales team. They are essential for running a sustainable sales-oriented business.

Their pay mix (the proportion between fixed and variable income) is usually around 50/50.

Sales Development Representative

Sales development representatives are the people that perform cold calls to find new sales leads. They are typically the first person the customers interact with. Sales development representatives use a variety of channels to reach out to potential customers. They’re also tasked with building and maintaining contact lists.

A sales development representative is usually an entry level position, with a pay mix of 65/35.

Sales Specialist

Sales specialists are what most people would consider salespeople proper. Their tasks include presenting product demonstrations and creating offers. A sales specialist is also the go-to person when it comes to product-specific questions. Having a sales specialist on your sales team is essential for convincing customers that your product is worth buying.

Sales specialists usually have a higher fixed income, and their pay mix of 70/30 reflects that.

Customer Success Representative

The sales process doesn’t actually terminate after money changes hands. In the aftermath of a sale, customer success representatives work with customers in order to create up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. Their role is especially important for businesses that use subscription models for their services. The fact that acquiring new customers costs 5 times more than selling to an existing one makes customer success representatives essential for any serious sales team.

Customer success is a job best suited for experienced salespeople, hence the pay mix of 75/25.

Sales Manager

Last, but not least, there are individuals whose job is to keep everything together and provide leadership to sales teams. Sales managers are crucial for prioritizing tasks and keeping your sales team focused. They also monitor sales performance metrics, as well as coach new team members.

Managing sales is a job with a lot of nuance, which is why sales managers typically have a pay mix of 70/30.

Sales Director

The sales director is akin to a manager of sales managers. His role is providing strategic guidance to sales managers to make them as effective as possible. Sales directors are C-suite level executives with many responsibilities, including creating regional sales plans, presenting them to top level management and shareholders, and supervising the entire sales apparatus. They also assume a mentorship role for sales managers.

The sales director sits at the top of the sales pyramid, with a pay mix of around 80/20.

Business Development Representative

Business development representatives (BDR) are responsible for creating new business opportunities. They do this by qualifying leads and leveraging existing business accounts to develop prospective buyers. BDRs make high-profile discovery calls and try to turn them into sales opportunities. Upon laying the groundwork for a sales account, BDRs pass their prospects to sales.

The business development representative is a mid-level position, with a typical pay mix of 65/35.

Outbound Sales Specialist

The modern sales professional can specialize in one of two areas, outbound sales and inbound sales (more on that later). The outbound salesman is an expert at winning over customers with no prior experience with your brand. Their main tool used to be the ‘cold call’, which is simply a sales phone call you would receive out of the blue. Today, cold calls are sent via email, social media, and other digital channels.

Outbound sales specialist is a job that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It’s typically pay mix of 30/70 is meant to incentivize the salesman to close as many deals as possible.

Inbound Sales Specialist

The outbound sales specialist is the antithesis of the traditional salesmen. Instead of approaching the prospect immediately, inbound salesmen take time to discover the most promising customers beforehand. They learn about the customers buying habits, and they will only go in with a sale proposal once the customer is ready. In contrast to outbound specialists, the inbound sales man utilizes the ‘warm call’. Warm calls are sent after an initial point of contact between a rep and a customer, usually on social media.

Inbound sales is focused on customer quality over quantity. The goal is to retain customers and maximize their customer lifetime value (CLV). This is a demanding task, hence the pay mix of 50/50.

Finding Your Place in Sales

Sales is a process with many moving parts, which makes it imperative to develop an adequate sales team structure from the get-go. But because every company is different, a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable. Instead, companies are advised to explore several different models, to find the one that fits their needs.

Whether you’re looking to start a career in sales, or trying to staff and manage a sales team of your own, you should take the time to get acquainted with typical sales team roles. We hope that our overview can help you either way.


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