How NOT to Staff Your Sales Department

I don’t want to go on a rant here, but every now and then I’ll stumble over a company who has fallen on tough times and feels the need to downsize but hates to lay people off. Instead of putting them on the street, they will sometimes offer to move them into sales.

My mind boggles at the stupidity of this business decision. Who in their right mind would come up with a solution like this? Probably someone with an MBA who undoubtedly sees people as resources to be moved around and used to fill whatever hole in the dyke needs filling at any given time.

Will they ever learn? Probably not, as this isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this business stupidity. I’ve seen situations where Fred is taken from accounting, where he’s become surplus to the company’s needs, and moved to sales where he dies a slow, horrible death and finally quits feeling he’s a total failure.

Moving people from an administrative department and putting them into sales is like taking a fish out of water and asking them to run a race. They’ll flop around for a while in a valiant effort to make a go of it but, in the end, they’ll finally die. Not a pretty sight.

If you’ve got too many people in a non-sales department and you need more people in sales, it makes much more sense to lay off the excess people and hire proper salespeople.

We should be capitalizing on our people’s strengths and skills. Using people as cannon fodder to plug holes in dykes is plain stupid.

At least that’s how I see it anyway.

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5 Responses to “How NOT to Staff Your Sales Department”

  1. Melissa Paulik July 13, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    Unfortunately, when these admins don’t make it in sales, these same companies will move them into marketing! Talk about making a bad situation worse for everyone.


    • Brian Jeffrey July 13, 2010 at 10:57 am #

      Good point Melissa. It’s as though the Marketing department is closer to the exit than the Sales department. Why make them fail twice before putting them on the street?

  2. Patrick Fetterman July 13, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Melissa’s correct. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come into a marketing department only to find “The Land of the Misfit Toys” – no really marketing professionals, just a group of people that were hired for other jobs and didn’t fit in. (In one position, I found out AFTER I started that both the owners son and the mother of my predecessor were part of my new department.) This demonstrates both the reluctance to fire low performers, and the low esteem most technology companies have for their marketing departments.

    I urge people to read “Fire Someone Today” by Bob Pritchett. It will definitely change your mind about “not laying people off”.

    • Brian Jeffrey July 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

      Patrick, I love the picture that “The Land of the Misfit Toys” conjures up in my mind. Unfortunately, it’s all too true.

      Melissa, I’d rather see a salesperson in marketing than a marketing person in sales.

  3. Melissa Paulik July 13, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    Agreed! And it’s a double whammy for the sales team since they rely on marketing to perform so that they have the opportunities they need.

    On a related note, I will take an ex-salesperson into marketing anyday, as long as they understand sales. They don’t necessarily have to be great at it, but they have to understand the philosophy in general and the specific processes followed. And, they have to respect the sales profession. (and the marketing profession too!)

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