Fractional sales management can be an opportunity for businesses to bring in a sales talent they might not otherwise be able to if the only other option is a full time sales hire. In this guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview explaining what fractional sales management is, the benefits, skills required, and when it could be a good fit for your company to consider a fractional sales leader.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What is Fractional Sales Management
- Fractional Sales Management Roles
- When should companies consider a fractional sales manager
- What can Fractional Sales Management do
- Top Benefits of Fractional Sales Management
- Pros of Fractional Sales Management
- Cons of Fractional Sales Management
- What to look for In a Fractional Sales Manager
- Fractional Sales Leadership Impact
- Why Startups and SMBs should consider Fractional Sales Management
What is Fractional Sales Management?
Fractional sales management is when a sales management role is worked on a part time basis, similar to freelance work. 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.
A sales leader working a fractional sales management role may be working for more than one company. This is rather common when the hours are under 20 hours per week. Sometimes this is considered to fall under the umbrella of B2B sales consulting.
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. The reason for this is sales management often helps with various responsibilities that are portable to different companies, regardless of domain expertise.
Fractional Sales Management Roles Include:
- Fractional SDR Manager
- Fractional BDR Manager
- Fractional Sales Manager
- Fractional Sales Director
- Fractional VP of Sales – Read about a Vice President of Sales duties, skills, etc.
- Fractional CRO – Chief Revenue Officer
When Should Companies Consider a Fractional Sales Manager?
Fractional sales management is not for every organization. There are a few reasons why hiring a fractional sales manager is a good decision. Some of the reasons below:
Company Lacks Sales Leadership
Startups and small businesses 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. (They are often struggling to hire their first salesperson) 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. Brining in someone even on a part time basis for fractional sales management can be immediate dividends. Not only can the sales performance improve, the Founder can get a few hours back per week.
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. A player coach sales model seems appealing but often ends in one are being neglected. Usually it’s the management side of things, especially if the comp plan incentivizes individual contributor behavior.
Bringing in fractional sales management makes more sense than the player coach setup. 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. Are they hitting their OTE? There is almost always untapped potential or correctable mistakes that would be spotted by a qualified fractional sales manager.
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. Most wouldn’t even know where to start. With fractional sales management, even at five to ten hours per week, sales team performance can improve.
With the cost of acquiring new customers going up significantly. Being able to improve the conversion rate of your sales cycles via a fractional sales manager is a positive ROI hire. In fact, many are able to improve the measurable performance of a sales team within the first couple of weeks.
What Can Fractional Sales Management Do?
Fractional sales management is a great way for startups and small businesses to solve sales challenges. They’re another tool in the founder’s toolbox that can be used to improve the overall performance of their company. Here are few things fractional sales management can bring to a company.
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.
Many companies struggle with growing revenue at a pace they desire. So they focus on improving the top of the funnel. A fractional sales manager can absolutely help with prospecting strategies which leads to SDRs booking more meetings. They can also help with improving the conversion rate of the sales team. Account Executives who receive proper coaching and training from a sales manager often see their results improve quickly.
As the team grows, new hires will need to be trained on the sales process. Of course this can fall on the shoulders of one of the Founders or business owner. 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. Again, fractional sales management is about bringing in an outside expert that helps solves challenges and frees up time for others.
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 or business owner. 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 or business owner.
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 or business owner 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. Alternatively, if sales playbooks are a major focus, hiring a sales enablement consultant could be an option.
Improve Lead Conversion
One of the main responsibilities for any fractional sales management hire is to improve lead conversion throughout the sales funnel. 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 or business owners 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 and review recorded calls on Zoom. Fractional sales management is a great way to improve conversion rates through the sales funnel by coaching salespeople up. If they can move more discovery calls to the next stage in the sales funnel, more deals will close.
Help doesn’t end with discovery. The fractional sales manager should help with every single step through the sales process, including improving the conversion rate on demos, contracts, and whatever other steps your sales process consists of.
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 or business.
Improve Lead Generation
Bringing in fractional sales management to improve outbound 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. If your prospecting needs work, this is an area they can help with. It may be as simple as recommending the best sales tools for prospecting. or completely overhauling the sales strategy.
Improve Team Morale
Sales at early stage startups or small business 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 or business owner 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 and small businesses, especially early stage ones, lack defined 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.
This structure makes it easier to measure sales activities. It also provides a starting point that can be iterated on as the company evolves. For example, a company may not be running a proper sales proof of concept process during their sales cycles. Changing this could immediately improve a company’s conversion rate. Or they need help with learning how to hire salespeople.
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. 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 or small business 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 and business owners. 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 and small business owners simply do not have this time available. They have to deal with product, fundraising, marketing, recruiting, finance, operations, HR, 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 or business owner to interview.
They can create structure and a process for hiring which should result in better hires. This also can improve the candidate experience. Creating a sales interview scorecard with roleplays can upgrade what is usually an informal and unstructured process.
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 or Business Owner Time – Being able to give 5-10+ hours per week back to a startup founder or business owners is invaluable.
- Proper Sales Management – Bringing in fractional sales management may mean the startup and SMB 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 or owners 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 business 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 or have multiple fractional sales management gigs. Access to this type of talent wasn’t previously available before the shift to remote work. When comparing fractional sales management vs full time sales management, you can get a lot of the same benefits but being able to bring on people who you wouldn’t normally be able to afford on a full time basis can be a big win for a business.
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. These tasks should be done with a higher level of execution than what you’d normally find if the founder or business owner was responsible.
Bridging The Gap
As startups and small businesses 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.
|Pros of Fractional Sales Management||Impact|
|Get Better Talent||High|
|Bridging The Gap||High|
|Reduce Hiring Risk||High|
Get Connected To Fractional Sales Managers
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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. If you can only afford 5 hours a week, it is likely still worth it because their role is directly tied to revenue. Any positive impact they have should be seen quickly and you may be able to increase the hours.
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. Having them invited to Slack or a sales team group text can be a short term solution to keep them connected to the team. It may also address the availability concern. If a Fractional Sales Manager isn’t a fit you need to know how to hire a sales manager to make sure your team is supported.
What To Look For In A Fractional Sales Management Hire
Making a fractional sales hire is a key point in a startup’s or small business’ 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 a fractional sales leader 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.
|Relevant Experience||Problem Solver||Efficiency|
|Do they know your industry?
Do they have sales management experience?
Have they worked with teams of your size?
|Have they solved similar challenges?
What is their track record like?
|What is their availability?
How much work can they take off your plate?
Fractional Sales Leadership Impact
Often times sales teams are neglected because Founders and business owners simply lack the time to give them the attention they need. Ironically, often when things are going well they’re neglected the most. But have proper fractional sales leadership in place take underperforming teams and improve them. Fractional sales leadership for teams that are doing well can help with retaining top performers. The benefits of sales leadership are immense. It can be one of the highest ROI plays a company can make. By fixing what isn’t working, keeping top talent happy, and removing any slack from the sales team’s performance, this can unlock new revenue for companies.
Fractional sales leader results
- Improve win rate
- Improve employee morale
- Coach and train salespeople
- Retain top talent
- Recruit top talent
- Improve sales forecasting
- Improve gross margin
- Incentives right behavior
- Develop salespeople long term to grow with organization
- Increase revenue
- Decrease churn
- Improve customer satisfaction
As you can see, adding a fractional sales leader provides immense benefits. When sales leadership is absent, companies are leaving money on the table. It may not even be necessary to hire a full time sales leader to see these benefit. Bringing in fractional sales leadership like a fractional head of sales, fractional VP of sales, fractional CRO or fractional sales manager can provide an immediate impact on company numbers.
Fractional Sales Manager or Fractional VP of Sales
Many companies wonder if they need a Fractional VP of Sales or a Fractional Sales Manager. The truth is that often these job titles are used interchangeably. If you need an actual fractional vp of sales you will have them managing other managers or directors. A fractional vp of sales wouldn’t actively manage account executives and other individual contributors.
A fractional vp of sales is often sought out by early stage startups that actually need a fractional sales manager. The main tasks would include helping manage a small team of individual contributors. These tasks could reviewing sales calls, pipeline reviews, and acting coaching.
Fractional Sales Consultant Role vs Fractional Sales Leader
A fractional sales consultant is often responsible for many of the responsibilities of a fractional sales manager. This can be seen as multi-faceted role that includes managing salespeople as well as providing strategic guidance. Another component of the fractional sales consultant role is the nature of the engagement. As a fractional sales consultant, they’ll be acting as a 1099 worker while also providing advice and guidance that might not fall within the normal responsibilities of a sales leader.
A fractional sales consultant is similar to a B2B Sales consultant becuase they both provide strategic guidance and advice. The fractional sales consultant will be more likely to embed themselves within the company instead of acting as an outsider.
Why Startups and SMBs 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. There are other sales job titles that can also work for fractional roles like fractional SDR, fractional AE, fractional CRO, fractional VP of Sales, and fractional sales enablement.
Check out our guide on outsourced sales for startups, SDR outsourcing, B2B sales consulting, inside sales consulting, sales enablement consulting, sales process consulting, fractional CMO, fractional CRO, fractional VP of Sales, outsourced sales management, sales management outsourcing, sales coach, outsourced BDR, fractional COO, how to coach sales reps and how to be a sales coach.