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Four Questions That Define Your Company’s Sales Model

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What’s the one thing that defines your sales activities more than anything else?

Is it the kind of prospects you target? A focus on customer nurturing and repeat sales? The way your team members cooperate to get deals done, instead of going it alone?

While many sales organizations use a hybrid approach that draws from a variety of selling tactics and methodologies, there is usually one element of how they sell that’s more prominent than the rest.

What’s the difference between a sales model and a sales process?

A sales model is a general framework that defines an organization’s high-level approach to selling. Common sales models for B2B companies include inbound sales, outbound sales, account-based sales, relationship-based (or relational sales), and team sales. B2C businesses such as retailers may also employ a high-volume/low-touch transactional sales model, or a channel sales model, which doesn’t require a sales team at all.

Unlike a sales process, which lays out the specific steps an organization takes to turn a lead into a sale, a sales model is simply a shorthand way to describe how you sell.

Since your company’s sales model can influence the activities and goals that you include in your sales process, having a working understanding of the concept is important. Don’t know which sales model your company follows? Here are four questions that will help give you some clarity.

1) Where do most of your leads come from?

One of the clearest dividing lines in sales is inbound vs. outbound. In other words, are your leads coming to you, or do your reps have to generate their own leads?

In an inbound model, sales organization rely on online ads, SEO, and content marketing to attract potential buyers. Visitors become leads by completing website form pages to request more information, and inbound sales reps then contact those leads in order to learn about their specific needs and begin the qualification process.

Learn more about inbound sales

By contrast, outbound teams have to hunt for their own leads. Through a combination of cold-calling, cold-emailing, social media outreach, and networking, outbound sellers identify potential buyers and reach out to introduce their solution.

Often, outbound sales reps work off of cold-calling lists that collect people who fit a certain buyer profile (but haven’t necessarily expressed interest in their product). No matter the methods that outbound sellers choose to employ, one thing is consistent: They make the first touch.

Learn more about outbound sales

Sales process tip: Since inbound teams already have leads flowing in through marketing efforts, the first stage in their sales process should be Qualify. For outbound teams, Prospect and Make Contact should come first, as sales reps have to put in the effort upfront to research, identify, and introduce themselves to potential buyers.

2) How much of your revenue comes from existing customers?

It’s quite common for the majority of a company’s revenue to be driven by repeat business—whether that’s recurring orders for a produce delivery service or monthly fees for an IT provider. But there’s an important difference between “we get most of our sales from repeat business” and “we get nearly all of our sales from repeat business.”

In a relationship-based sales model, revenue is driven almost entirely by existing clients, and sales reps spend far more time on nurturing than they do on prospecting. If your sales strategy is defined by post-sale activities and client retention, you likely follow a relational model.

Learn more about relationship-based sales

Read this ultimate guide on Sales Prospecting

Sales process tip: For relationship-based teams, the sales process shouldn’t end with the Closing stage. Make sure you’re staying on top of your clients’ needs by adding some post-sale stages like First Check-In and Upsell.


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3) How many people are involved in each sale?

In the old days, a sales “team” was just a group of lone wolves competing against each other. We’ve evolved, thankfully. The question is, how essential is collaboration to the way your team sells? Do your sales reps only come together on important or difficult deals, or is collaboration fully baked into your sales process?

Team sales is a model in which sales reps (as well as team members in other departments) combine their talents and experience to get deals done faster. It could take various forms, such as…

  • An SDR escalating qualified leads to an account manager, who in turn collaborates with their marketing department to deliver targeted content to the prospect
  • Sales reps developing strategy together, based on experiences with similar prospects
  • An account manager looping in customer support or customer service specialists to provide technical assistance or onboarding for new clients

Having access to CRM software that allows team members to tag each other in comments and view chronological communication records for each account is essential to pulling this off, since back-and-forth communication involving large groups can get incredibly confusing over email.

Learn more about team sales

Sales process tip: While there are countless opportunities for team collaboration throughout a B2B sales process, adding a Research stage after Qualify provides a great opportunity for shared knowledge.

Research is where your organization digs in deeper to learn about the specific operations and needs of the prospect in question—a process that could include a business analyst researching the client’s industry and target market, a marketing coordinator determining which content might be most relevant to the stakeholders, and a sales rep finding out which other companies might be pursuing their business.

4) Do you pitch one person from a target account, or multiple people?

In a typical B2B sale, an account rep will try to identify the most relevant decision-maker at a company to target, pitch, and close. In other words, all resources are focused on persuading one or two people into saying “yes.”

But when the stakes are high, influencing as many people as possible gives you a much better chance at success. Account-based sales (ABS) is a model defined by three key attributes:

  • Precision: Instead of cold-calling a list of potential buyers or sifting through piles of inbound leads, sales organizations research and identify highly specific target accounts that are perfect matches for what they’re selling.
  • Pursuit of multiple stakeholders: Account-based teams try to get in front of anyone with influence at a company, from assistants all the way up to executive management.
  • Personalization: There is no boilerplate sales pitch or cold-call script for an account-based sales team. Every pitch is custom-tailored to the target. Extensive research is done before the first phone call is even made.

Learn more about account-based sales

Sales process tip: ABS teams have a very unique approach to qualifying and presenting. Essentially, an account-based sales rep knows the potential buyer is qualified before the first contact takes place, due to their extensive preliminary research.

So, instead of starting the sales process with the traditional outbound stages of ProspectMake Contact, and Qualify, ABS sellers should include initial stages such as Identify Target AccountCreate List of Stakeholders, and Assemble Initial Strategy. Stages related to contacting and pitching the first set of stakeholders can follow directly afterwards.


Nutshell is flexible enough to fit every sales model.

Choose the model that best fits your business and see how we help teams like yours close more deals.



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