Selling Inside

Last night I joined a conversation on Jim Keenan’s new Talk Shoe program called Sales Smack. (the call was recorded and is still available online). The topic of the show was Is Sales Responsible for Company Growth? Because of prior commitments, I arrived late, and there were some super-sharp sales thought-leaders already deep into the call when I arrived.

The call brought up some great ideas, two worth thinking about and discussing here today.

Who Is Responsible for a Company’s Growth?

Jim’s question is itself provocative. In sales terminology it is a closed question, requiring a “yes” or a “no” answer, in this case one in which opening the question requires a defense of your position. More still, it sets up the idea that if sales isn’t responsible for company growth someone else is. My trouble with this line of thinking is that if only one area of the business is responsible for the company’s growth, then the other segments are not responsible for the company’s growth. This just isn’t true.

Juan Lulli of Patuxent Management staked out the territory that it is the responsibility of the Enterprise to generate growth. I mostly agree. The problem I have with words like Enterprise, Marketing, Sales, and Executive Leadership is that they don’t really mean anything. All of these segments are made up of individuals, each of whom is personally responsible for the company’s growth by playing their part in serving the company’s customers.

Too few companies understand that, regardless of what goods or services they provided, they are really a sales and marketing organization first and foremost.

This brings me to my second point:

Selling Inside

When I joined the call, I entered in the middle of a discussion over sales goals and targets being set by executive leadership. The discussion hinged on the idea that goals may be unrealistic and unachievable with existing resources and market realities. Some of the discussion turned to what to do when faced with unrealistic goals and expectations.

Both the problem of engaging the entire organization to be part of the sales team, as well as managing executive leadership’s expectations can all boiled to one simple (but not easy) solution. And, it is something that only we in sales may be able to do: Sell.

It is very easy to believe that the job of acquiring and serving customers belongs to sales. There is no question that we are very protective and territorial about our clients. But to do our best work both acquiring and serving our customers, we need to align the entire organization.This often means that we have to sell the rest of the organization on joining us in our mission, something I have written about here in a post titled Selling Inside vs. Selling Outside. It is our job to sell the members of our teams on doing what is right to serve our customers.

As for executive management and expectations, the answer is the same: Sell. If the established goals can’t be met in the time they have set out, sell them on changing the goal or changing the deadline. If they can’t change the goal or the deadline, sell them on increasing the resources to meet the goals. Executive leadership has the responsibility to execute on their goals. But they also have great control of resource allocation, and they can usually move mountains if they need to in order to reach their goals.

Most in leadership roles are resourceful enough to help you get what you need to succeed, and that is really their primary role. Between you and me . . . most are easily sold.

Yes, We Can!

Fortunately, our training and our role in sales has prepared us for both the challenge of selling our organization on joining us in our effort to sell and create value for our customers and for selling executive leadership. We do so using the very same ideas, tools, techniques, and tactics that we use every day outside of the organization.

We develop relationships. We work to understand individual and collective needs. We help people realize or create a vision of something better. We present ideas, solutions. We demonstrate a return on investment. We build a case. We work the network of influencers and stakeholders within the organization. And then we obtain commitments.

What we do outside the four walls of our company is exactly the same thing we need to do within the four walls. “But wait,” you say. “My job is to sell outside of the company. My job is to bring in new customers.” And indeed you are correct. But serving those customers means orchestrating a team, and that team is made up of members of your company.

There is no doubt that those of us with the ability to influence things for a positive (better) outcome also have the responsibility to do so. Your influence is a force for change in both your organization and your customer’s.


In a perfect world, every employee would understand that what they do is really in some way to serve a customer. That is what organizations with customers are designed to do. Too often, though, little silos and fiefdoms develop. Many of these silos and fiefdoms believe that the responsibility for serving customers and for growth belongs to someone else. It doesn’t.

Growth is always easier when all of the individuals who work for an organization are aligned in acquiring and serving customers.

It is our job in sales to help create that alignment. That extends to selling executive leadership on helping us create that alignment. Selling outside is critical. So is selling inside.


1. Are there areas of your company that are walled off or disengaged from their role and responsibility in creating growth? Can you sell them a better vision?

2. Do you have a campaign to enlist their help and to bring them onto your team? How could you enlist their help?

3. Do you use the same skills and attributes that allow you to succeed outside your organization within the four walls of your organization?

4. Who is your best prospect withing your company? Who is your best prospect within your executive leadership team? What are their buying styles?

5. Do you engage your team long before you and your client need them? Do you develop those relationships so that you can count on them to help you generate growth and help your clients achieve their goals?

6. Are you selling inside?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

Read my featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my interview on business relationships by Joe Sperry at S4 Consulting.



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  • Juan Lulli

    Anthony, wasn’t Keenan’s Sales Smack on Talk Shoe a blast last night? It was for me a special privilege to be among such a group of business leaders.

    Vocabulary, how we “see” the meaning of words, expresses and reflects the hues and tones of one’s personal philosophies, experiences, viewpoints, and thought. The words we use, how we say what we mean, show “where we’re coming from.”

    Which is why last night’s discussion, Is Sales Responsible for Business Growth, was so much fun. Each of our interestingly varying slants on interpreting the meaning of the question itself was really the actual debate. Which is why the evening was as enlightening as informative.

    But of course, the real world is the actual teacher.

    I really like your Inside vs Outside concept you describe above. And it’s dead-on with how I “see” what a Business is. For me, I picture a growing Business as an internal marketplace of individuals who share, market, and trade on each other skills and talents — aligned efficiently around organizational sub-markets of expertise and function– in order to produce Value. Or in the context of our discussion, we can say, Business Growth.

    That’s why I like using Enterprise. For me it draws a picture of a Business that’s efficiently and effectively aligned around skill areas necessary for producing Business Growth. Individuals who “buy and sell” on each others talents and skills that are organized in an internal marketplace focused on clear outcomes.

    For me it’s kind of neat seeing Business as a “trading floor” where thriving and entrepreneurial individuals aligned around teams are trading on each others’ currencies of talent in Research & Development, Market Research, Strategic Planning, Product Development, Production, Pricing, Distribution, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service in order to produce a common outcome that is Business Growth.

    What’s more, and this goes back to the beauty and meaningfulness of vocabulary as a window to one’s set of preferences and experiences, I’ve always seen Business Growth as needing to mean more than growth in sales. For me, Business Growth means growth in Shareholder’s Equity or for a public company, that means Stock Market Value. Top-flight companies ( and we have our favorites) grow their sales and grow their share of market and grow the market categories in which they compete.

    Most of all, I enjoyed meeting and learning from you and the other proven business leaders who demonstrate and put into action this sort of stuff, day in, day out. @juanlulli

  • Cody Rossi

    Anthony, first off great blog, just subscribed and I love it. I’m fairly new to sales (just graduated from college last May) and I really love to read these kind of this. I completely agree with your idea of that if you don’t have the rest of the company sold, you are going to struggle. The company and all the people that work within it, are my added value that i sell to my clients. If those people weren’t sold, all i would be selling is dog toys. But because I (and the other sales reps) have sold these people on our ideas and goals, I can sell company value to my customers.

    One other question for you. You focus on getting new customers quite a bit, which of course is a huge part of sales and company growth. But growth within existing customers is also important to, don’t you think?

    I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    • corrie

      hi i am a fashion designer who wants to know how to go from selling 2 dresses per week, to selling hundreds per week? any advice?

  • Daniel Vescuso

    Great article Anthony. I agree that Jim’s question is thought provoking.
    There definitely isn’t one department of a company that is solely responsible for the firm’s overall growth, however I think that when asked most sales employees would argue that they account for the majority of the company’s growth.
    Beyond simply just the effort and commitment level, a growing company relies on how each employee (in every department, from sales to marketing, etc) aligns with the company’s goals and messages. While sales is surely an important piece of this, a sales team is only as good as their CRM database.
    The more a sales rep knows about a company, the better the call will go and there are resources out there that can help by aggregating and qualifying this kind of information, making it easily accessible and doing all the legwork so you can focus on what’s important – a sale, which in turn means growth.

  • Keenan

    Anthony, I dig your perspective on selling internally. Selling is an easy word for influence. I agree that being able to influence “sell” to those around you is critical. I am guilty of not applying the same tools internally as well as externally. Great reminder.

    Sales needs the rest of the organization as much as the rest of the org needs sales. We are just lucky enough to have the skills required to get the help.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Jim. I don’t know too many salespeople who aren’t at one time or another guilty of not selling their own team. Usually, we are so focused on the selling outside that the poer of selling inside gets overlooked. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded, and to take a step back and remember how the skills we spend so much time developing can be used internally!

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