Do You Have a Vertical Sales Strategy?

©IDG Communications, Inc. Photo contributed by Matthew Mikaelian.

IDC Executive Advisory Group
Michael Gerard

The first question of course is does your specific company need a vertical sales strategy, followed by the question of how deep should this strategy go across your organization? If you are amongst the many BtoB technology companies selling in a rapidly maturing market, you’ll want to do all that you can to differentiate yourself from the competition. And ensuring that your sales (and delivery) teams bring industry-specific knowledge to their prospect meetings will certainly help this process.

Based upon IDC’s recent technology buyer experience study, the average sales person received a grade of B to B- in their ability to understand and address buyers’ industry-specific needs. The top three complaints by buyers about their vendors’ sales teams include:

  • “They market (and sell) their products and services as tailored to my industry, but they are not.”
  • “Their sales force is not knowledgeable about my industry.”
  • “Their implementation teams, or non-sales employees, are not knowledgeable enough about my industry.”

Establishing a vertical sales strategy is certainly no simple task, and its effectiveness will depend upon significant investment and support by the entire organization. A couple of places to start:

  • Collaborate with product management and marketing to identify the industries for which you will get the highest return for developing and executing a vertical marketing and sales strategy. (sales operations should facilitate this process for the sales organization)
  • Identify the target accounts and segments to pursue by region/territory.
  • Allocate and align sales resources (and channel partners) based upon these established targets and their location, either leveraging the existing sales coverage model or establishing a new, vertically-oriented sales coverage model if warranted.
  • Add staff with industry-specific expertise, in the sales organization as well as in other parts of the organization, to speak customers’ language and best understand and meet their needs. (training your government sales person to be a pharmaceutical industry sales person is typically not a wise decision)
  • Enable the sales organization to support this new vertically-oriented approach. (e.g., industry-specific training, vertically-oriented marketing and sales assets, customer profiles, access to industry subject matter experts)
  • Collaborate with marketing for execution of local campaigns targeted at specific industries. (e.g., sponsor local industry events, host breakfast briefings with industry-specific analysts to bring value to buyers while providing the opportunity introduce them to your sales teams)

Please do provide any comments on this topic below or reach out to me at for additional discussion on this topic or to participate in our upcoming sales and sales operations research. Additional information on vertical sales strategies as well as sales investment and staffing allocation benchmarks are available for clients of IDC’s Sales Advisory Service.

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