By Warren Shiver on May 9, 2014

2 Minute Estimated Read Time

I was driving on the “top end” interstate in Atlanta, and the Elton John song, “Levon,” came on the radio. It prompted me to think about partnerships and how there have been famous collaborative groups and song writing partnerships through the years (Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, maybe Macklemore/Ryan Lewis for a more contemporary example). What I find really interesting about the Elton/Bernie arrangement is that it’s not really about collaboration, but rather about specialization. Bernie writes the lyrics and then passes those on to Elton to arrange the music and record, with little further interaction between the two (on that particular song). Certainly, there are plenty of lyricists and songwriters who write and produce for others, but for these two it’s been a highly successful, and almost exclusive, partnership that they’ve sustained over four decades.

In conversations with Michael Perla on this topic, we started to discuss if and how partnerships apply to sales. Sometimes you see situations that are more representative of a division of labor. For example: 

  • Inside vs Field – initial qualification and lead gen vs executing the sales process
  • Hunter vs Farmer – one sales resource/team lands a new customer and transitions the customer to a resource/team to manage and grow

And in more collaborative settings, you see:

  • Sales Specialists – often focused on a vertical industry or solution area
  • Sales Engineers – handle technical questions, configs, demos, etc.
  • Customers – sales teams collaborating with customers (as highlighted in

The idea around successful collaboration is all about complements. Not to be cliché, but 1+1 can equal more than 2, if a team complements one other. We see this with the HBDI® model (, which is based on a concept around the “whole brain.” Some people on the team may be more analytical (think sales engineers), some more visionary (solution specialists), while others may love a good Gantt chart (program managers). When the team works together (e.g., on project, brainstorming, sales pursuit, etc.), they are more than the sum of the parts. 

The best sales professionals that we’ve seen really use their team members to the highest and best use. Many times, the best support resources and specialists want to work with the best sellers. They not only complement each other, but they are partners-in-a-pursuit. Many high-performing sellers don’t like to prospect but are phenomenal at closing and advancing a deal through the pipeline. With the right complement – think appointment setter or teleprospecting team – they are more successful and happier. Although a division of labor can sound very tactical and like piece work, it can actually make for some synergies that create more from less.

Thanks to Michael Perla for his co-authorship of this post.

Warren Shiver

Written by Warren Shiver

Warren Shiver is the founder and managing partner of Symmetrics Group, a management consultancy focused on end to end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Through Warren’s leadership, Symmetrics Group has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process and well-designed enabling tools. Clients and consultants appreciate Warren’s uncompromising focus on quality and measureable impact and how he embodies the firm’s core values.

New call-to-action
New Call-to-action
New Call-to-action