What is Fractional Sales Management?
Fractional sales management is when a sales management role is worked on a part time basis. This is different from a full time sales management role which is worked at a minimum of 40 hours per week. Fractional sales managers usually work within the five to twenty per hour week range, with some getting close to thirty hours per week. The amount of hours worked in a fractional sales role will depend on responsibilities. Additionally, fractional work can change depending on the time of the year and what is being prioritized at the company.
With the massive shift to remote work, fractional sales management is becoming more popular. Previously companies would need someone in person to manage their sales team on a full time basis. They could still work on a fractional basis but traditional work structures prevented employers from seriously considering fractional work. Remote work has shifted management from “babysitting” to more focus on outputs and deliverables. There’s also a larger pool of candidates that are available for fractional work because it’s less dependent on location.
Fractional sales management is a top outsourced sales service.
Fractional Sales Management Roles Include:
- Fractional SDR Manager
- Fractional BDR Manager
- Fractional Sales Manager
- Fractional Sales Director
- Fractional VP of Sales
- Fractional CRO – Chief Revenue Officer
When Should Companies Consider a Fractional Sales Manager?
Company Lacks Sales Leadership
Startups often lack formal sales management, especially in the early stages. At the pre-seed and even seed stage, formal sales management is not a priority hire. However, sales and more specifically, driving new revenue and acquiring clients is. Managing the sales team often falls on the shoulders of one of the Founders. Often technical founders can provide cursory management for their early salespeople but they lack the expertise and skills of a seasoned sales manager. The difference between a founder managed sales team and a professional sales manager can be significant.
However, the resources (funds) are usually not available at the pre-seed or seed stage to hire full time sales management. Costs in the SaaS world to hire a full time Sales Manager will easily start over $100K per year. With small sales teams, this type of full time sales management hire can be hard to justify. There simply will not be enough work on a full time basis. Often the player coach model is considered but that is not a recommended option.
Bringing in fractional sales management makes more sense. Fractional sales management will almost certainly have an immediate impact on the sales team. Their cost will be easier to justify and prorated on annual basis, the cost of a fractional sales manager is significantly less than a full time hire. Fractional sales management tends to be a better fit for the needs of startups to fill the management gaps.
Sales Teams Perform Better With Sales Managers
A sales team without proper sales management is a bit like an army without a general. They might be able to get the job done but it’s likely they’re not living up to their potential. Seasoned sales management can improve individual sales performance, help close deals, and have a positive impact on the sales team as whole. Unfortunately, early stage startup sales teams are often neglected. That’s why fractional sales management makes so much sense. You get the benefits of a professionally managed sales team, with fractional sales management. It’s a better fit for current startup sales team needs.
Many startup founders understand the importance of sales management but struggle to justify the costs. With the need to hire expensive senior engineers and manage burn, a full time sales manager is not a priority hire. This is not unreasonable. Startups have limited financial resources. It’s not possible to hire for every need. The problem lies in the need. For example, many sales teams lack proper coaching and training. Sales coaching and training has a measurable impact on the bottom line. Founders, even if they have a sales background, are unlikely to dedicate time to invest in their sales team’s performance. With fractional sales management, even at five to ten hours per week, sales team performance can improve.
What Can Fractional Sales Management Do?
Fractional sales management is a great way for startups to solve sales challenges.
Coaching & Training
Developing individual sales team members is not only a great way to improve sales numbers but also retain talent. Bringing in a fractional sales manager who has a background in coaching and training can transform average sales teams into high performing sales teams. Just like in sports, good coaches know how to get the most out of their direct reports.
As the team grows, new hires will need to be trained. Of course this can fall on the shoulders of one of the Founders. However, this is not the best use of their time. Being able to shift the responsibilities of training new salespeople to a fractional sales manager is a major time saver for Founders.
Proper Sales Management
As the name suggests, fractional sales management will provide salespeople with proper sales management. This will include developing team members, retaining top talent, and helping individuals solve sales problems. This also includes taking on one of the most important sales management responsibilities, one on ones. One on ones are often neglected by Founders on a regular basis. One on ones allow an individual salesperson to provide updates on their role, their sales pipe/forecast, and voice any other concerns or needs. This is an opportunity to solve sales problems on an individual basis. As a fractional sales manager, individual salespeople will likely be more forthcoming than they would be with a Founder. It’s a different dynamic. Good fractional sales management will be able to help salespeople during the one on ones more effectively from a sales perspective than a Founder.
As the company grows and new sales team members are brought on, it’s important to have a sales playbook. Fractional sales management can be responsible for compiling the necessary information. If you’re a Founder you may have zero experience creating a sales playbook. A fractional sales manager has created sales playbooks before at previous companies. This is essentially the sales manual for current and new hires. It will accelerate the learning process for new salespeople. For current salespeople, they can refer to it so they don’t have to bother one of the Founders.
Improve Lead Conversion
One of the main responsibilities for any fractional sales management hire is to improve lead conversion. This means at every step of the sales funnel, they should be diagnosing the sales conversion issues and determining what needs to be done to solve the conversion problems. Often founders think they need to push more leads through the top of the funnel when they actually need to fix their conversion rate issues.
Improving the sales team’s performance on discovery calls is an important part of a fractional sales manager’s responsibilities. They should spend time working with individual members of the sales team, listening to sales calls, and joining when possible. They can provide live coaching via Slack. Fractional sales management is a great way to improve the top of the funnel by coaching salespeople up. If they can move more discovery calls to the next stage in the sales funnel, more deals will close.
It’s very possible that fractional sales management pays for itself within the first week. There are sales teams that lack management and are making simple mistakes that everyone at the startup is missing. With a fractional sales manager, they should be able to quickly diagnose any obvious problems. This could be transformative for some salespeople and ultimately the startup.
Improve Lead Generation
Bringing in fractional sales management to improve lead generation is one of the more common reasons to bring in a fractional sales manager. This could be the responsibility of a Fractional SDR Manager or Fractional BDR Manager. They would be responsible for building lists of prospects and coming up with an outbound campaign to book new meetings. They would provide guidance and best practices around things such as how to make cold calls, cold email best practices, rewrite cold email copy, design outbound sequences, plan the overall sales lead generation strategy, and implement any new sales tools.
Improve Team Morale
Sales at early stage startups is a roller coaster. Some days the sales team will feel like they’re killing it, and other days it will feel like the startup is going to fail and they should find a new job. Having fractional sales management in place is a good way to keep the ship steady. They’ll provide a third party ear to hear the concerns of sales team members. They will likely be privy to information that the Founder will miss because they have a hundred other responsibilities to deal with. When the sales team is feeling down and they will, they can provide motivation and improve the sales team morale. A fractional sales manager could implement Spiffs or other sales team competitions.
Implement New Processes
Startups, especially early stage ones, lack processes. Fractional sales management can come in and put tailored processes in place to help scale the sales function. This will create a foundation for efficiency and organization. As new sales teams grow, fractional sales managers who put processes in place will save founders major headaches down the line.
Implement New Sales Technology
The sales technology space is crowded. Fractional sales management well versed in sales tools will help founders avoid expensive unnecessary tooling. They’ll also make sure they’re ready for some tools. Looking at ZoomInfo Pricing you can see how expensive contact data can be. However, fractional sales management may be able to justify the cost based on your deal size and close rate. If they notice there’s a data problem and the Hunter.io alternatives are not needed, they may want to upgrade.
Sales technology also needs to be implemented at the right time. Sales tools amplify behavior. If you’re sending great emails that are converting to meetings but not using a sales engagement platform like some of these SalesLoft competitors, it may be time. However, if your outbound game is struggling, adding tooling will not solve the problem. There are other sales tool consideration basics like making sure you select the best email warm up tool.
Buying any new software for a startup can be a major investment. Having fractional sales management who is able to train the sales team on the new purchases is key. Otherwise, you’ll buy new tools that you think will help solve your sales problems that will never get used.
Free Up Time
Fractional sales management frees up time for Founders. Small sales teams do not require full time sales managers. However, they do require time. Anywhere from 5-20+ hours per week depending on the sales team is a reasonable expectation of time commitment to maximize a sales team’s potential. Founders simply do not have this time available. They have to deal with product, fundraising, marketing, recruiting, finance, and more. Freeing up even 5 hours per week with fractional sales management would be a huge win for a founder. Not only will the time be freed up but the team will perform better under a fractional sales manager.
Hiring for sales is hard because salespeople are usually good at selling themselves. Fractional sales management can bring in an upgraded hiring process which will weed out bad candidates. They can also handle most of the sales role interviewing, leaving only the best candidates for the Founders to interview.
Bring In A New Perspective
Fractional sales managers bring in a new perspective. They come to your organization to solve problems, usually on a temporary basis. With this type of role, they have a fresh perspective on the organization. They’ve usually had multiple sales roles and might be the first actual sales manager to take a look at the overall sales process. Even though they’re fractional management, they’ll be able to have a major impact because they haven’t been in the day-to-day weeds of the startup. They’ll question the status quo.
Top Fractional Sales Management Benefits
- Frees up Founder Time – Being able to give 5-10+ hours per week back to a startup founder is invaluable.
- Proper Sales Management – Bringing in fractional sales management may mean the startups sales team for the first time is working with a sales leader who can actually improve their skills and provide regular one on ones. They’ll improve the sales team very quickly. Fixing the 101 level mistakes may happen in the first week. From there, they’ll be able to improve the overall sales function.
- Expert In The Room – Non-sales Founders who are able to bring in revenue and build a sales team should be commended for their effort. However, like every other role, not everyone is an expert. Bringing in a fractional sales manager who is a sales expert will pay dividends immediately. This person will improve many parts of the sales operation within the first 30 days. This will result in more meetings, a higher conversion rate through the sales funnel, and an increase in revenue.
Pros of Fractional Sales Management
Based on startup needs, a fractional sales manager is going to be more cost effective than a full time hire who will not be able to fill the full time work with all sales management responsibilities on a regular basis. Additionally, fractional sales management should be one the highest ROI hires you can make. If they can help you close more deals within the first thirty days, they will pay for themselves very quickly and some.
Get Better Talent
Top sales talent is hard to recruit. Fractional sales talent is much easier to recruit. In fact, many fractional sales management consultants work full time jobs at top tech companies. Access to this type of talent wasn’t previously available before the shift to remote work.
Clear Deliverables and Efficient
Bringing on fractional sales management requires having clear deliverables. You should discuss with the fractional sales manager before hiring what needs to be done and make it clear. They’ll be efficient with their time to get these deliverables done.
Bridging The Gap
As startups grow they hit awkward phases where they have needs but not on a full time basis. Some startups need help with outbound sales but can’t justify a full time SDR manager. Fractional SDR management makes sense in a situation like that. Or they need a CRO but the cost is too high and recruiting a CRO is not worth the effort. Fractional sales management at the most senior levels makes a ton of sense. The flexibility offered by fractional sales management to address changing needs is a huge benefit.
Reduce Hiring Risk
With fractional sales management, not only do you pay less money out per month, you don’t have them as full time, long term employees. This reduces the risk associated with hiring a full time employee. There’s also the opportunity to recruit a fractional sales manager into a full time role. By going through a test period for a fractional hire, this provides both parties to determine if there’s a mutual fit.
Get Connected To Fractional Sales Managers
(You’ll speak to RevPilots, they’ll determine your needs, then provide recommendations)
Cons of Fractional Sales Management
At the lower end of fractional sales management, 5 hours a week means your fractional sales manager may be unavailable when a problem arises. This is why it’s important to outline what needs to get done and what the fractional sales manager is responsible for.
When working in fractional sales management, a fractional sales manager may be seen as an outsider or a third party consultant. While this may be true, it’s not always the case that they’re disconnected from the team. A good fractional sales manager will be able to connect with the sales team despite their title.
What To Look For In A Fractional Sales Management Hire
Making a fractional sales hire is a key point in a startup’s journey. Knowing what to look for will help ensure you make the right hire.
If you need a fractional sales manager to coach up your sales team, it’s key to find someone with coaching experience. If you need a fractional sales manager to implement a new sales strategy or sales engagement platform, they need previous experience doing that task. They do not have enough time to learn on the job and startups are paying for their expertise. It’s also important to vet for similar experience based on type of sale. You would not bring in a fractional SDR manager who focuses on small and medium sized businesses to lead your enterprise sales outbound strategy. It’s two different things.
Do they have a track record of solving problems? Startups have problems and sales teams always have problems. If you’re bringing in fractional sales management, it’s critical to understand what problems they’ve solve for in the past. If you don’t know what problems you need to solve but know you have problems, a good salesperson should be able to help you determine what some of the problems you have before they sign on as a fractional sales hire.
This one is obvious. Time is limited during a fractional engagement. Startups move quickly. Speed is a major advantage. Fractional sales management needs to move fast and execute.
Why Startups Should Consider Fractional Sales Management
Startups should consider fractional sales management hires because it provides hiring flexibility, frees up Founder time, helps solve immediate problems, and will drive in new revenue. It’s hard to imagine a more impactful fractional hire at an early stage B2B startup. Not only will they improve the sales team performance while they’re contracted for an engagement, after they leave, the habits they built, coaching they provided, and processes they put in place should have a lasting impact.
Check out our guide on outsourced sales for startups.