Last year, The Bridge Group, Inc. calculated an overall Net Promoter Score of 18 percent for sales rep satisfaction. They found that nearly twice as many sales professionals would not recommend their career to the friends as those that would. On a satisfaction scale that puts the sales profession somewhere between what consumers think of credit card companies and airlines. Yikes! Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The sales industry has been infamous for its high turnover rate. According to the Alexander Group, the average annual cross-industry sales rep turnover for B2B sales is 13.9 percent. Not only does employee churn kill sales momentum, but also time spent recruiting, hiring and training, create escalating costs. So how do we make sales careers more enticing and increase longevity in our profession?

While embracing a culture that engages and motivates is obviously key, there are structural solutions to some of these issues. Nothing is more motivating than being able to chart a career with clear milestones. To institutionalize this approach, I strongly advocate creating a "sales academy" structure that incentivizes and helps sales reps expand their skillsets throughout their careers.

The first thing to consider is the type of specialized roles you'll want to create within your sales organization. Specialization can be done in three main ways (1) sales stage or cycle (2) market (geography or industry) and (3) product or service. While market and product specialization can be very effective in closing more sales, one of the biggest problems today is that at many organizations, a rep takes care of the full sales process from lead to close. This leads to neglect of early stage leads, and also an inefficient use of senior resources.

As you architect your sales academy, my main recommendation is to factor in the sales stage and how to optimize resources at each stage of your sales cycle. Building in specialization around product and market can be layered on too, depending on the organization's unique goals. Here is an example of a progression structure that has worked well for many successful organizations as well as for us at Velocify:

  • Lead Development Rep (LDR) (typically in this role for 6-12 months): Entry-level employees generally start as LDRs, which entails qualifying inbound leads and learning the product. LDRs work prospects that have proactively reached out to the organization, whether it is through an online submission form or through marketing campaigns. These leads are usually familiar with the company already, but may not be ready to make a purchase. As such, the LDR is responsible for making the initial point of contact to qualify the prospect. Once the lead is qualified, it will be passed along to the sales executive to close.
  • Business Development Rep (BDR) (typically in this role for 12-24 months): After an employee has obtained a clear understanding of the product, they are promoted to a BDR, a role that focuses on building relationships with potential buyers that have not been proactive in reaching out to the organization. This skill takes longer to master, as BDRs are focused on outbound leads that may not be aware of your company or products yet. BDRs work outbound leads by creating targeted lists, sending emails, making calls and trying to navigate to a decision maker in order to gain their interest in the product or service. Upon doing so, the lead will be handed off to the sales executive to close.
  • Inside Sales Executive (typically in this role for 2+ years): At some organizations, inside sales executives are responsible for lead development and outbound sales. But organizations with LDRs will provide inside sales executives with qualified leads they are expected to convert into closed deals. These will typically be lower value, less complicated deals that can be handled remotely.
  • Field Sales Executive (typically in this role for 4+ years): The field sales executive is generally an individual contributor role on a sales team, and it involves working within a geographic territory or specific vertical. This role involves travel and face-to-face meetings in order to close the larger, more complex and strategic deals.

With the underlying architecture of the sales academy, reps have a clearly defined career path and the ability to focus on the deals at specific stages within the sales cycle, empowering them to reach their full career potential while helping the organization maximize its revenue potential.