Jack Newton, CEO Clio

It can feel overwhelming if you need to restructure a sales team. Roles, quotas, comp plans, territories, Salesforce.com changes … Clio tackled all of this at once.

Clio is a fast-growing SaaS company in Vancouver, whose CEO is Jack Newton (now there’s a cool action hero name!). Clio sells practice management software that helps lawyers run their firms better.

After growing from 3 to 18 “generalized reps” in less than two years, in 2012 Clio hit some sales team growth problems. Those generalized reps did it all—prospecting, following up on inbound leads, closing new deals, and managing those customers. Around this time, Jack came across a summary of Predictable Revenue called “Why Salespeople Shouldn’t Prospect,” and he and his cofounder George Psiharis knew they had to finally specialize the team, including building an internal outbound team.  They called us up.

The first step toward restarting Clio’s sales growth was to transform this team of 18 generalized reps into three specialized teams of 6 reps each.

The three original reps had it easy. “The world was their oyster”: they had a lot of inbound interest; they didn’t need structure; they could cherry-pick leads and deals to close a lot of business they didn’t need territories. By the time Clio had 10 salespeople they’d started feeling growing pains.

  • The team was frequently stepping on each other’s toes, such as inadvertently starting to work the same deals.
  • There was a lot of unhealthy competition on the team, and they wouldn’t help each other.
  • The reps’ success depended wholly on themselves to sink or swim, as there was no sales “system” or support.

Clio went with three, not four, key sales roles. Clio’s executive team felt the sales team could do much, much better if they got out of each other’s way and worked together to systematically break down and tackle the market. Adapting Predictable Revenue’s specialization ideas and customizing them to their unique situation, they created three new roles:

  1. Six prospectors: Tasked with getting into larger law firms.
  2. Six closers (Account Executives): Tasked with closing larger law firms.
  3. An “engagement team” of six reps: Mixing both inbound lead response and closing small law firms/deals (less than $100 in monthly revenue).

To make this transition, Clio had to rework a lot of important sales systems: designing new roles, new quotas, new comp plans, creating a territory system (which they’d never had), figuring out which rep should go into which team, changing Salesforce.com, and a lot more.  They dove in headfirst.


Lesson #1, Simplify comp: Previous comp plans had a ton of rules and regulations around the kinds of deals that would be eligible for quota.  Clio was trying to drive the right behaviors with those rules, but they created too much confusion and too many obstacles.

For example: Clio used to have rules and conditions with channel partner deals, and often salespeople didn’t benefit at all if a partner closed a deal. Now, $1 of revenue is $1 of revenue no matter where it comes from.

By removing confusing comp goals and triggers, salespeople partner, collaborate, and close much more because everyone’s aligned.

Lesson #2, Overpay salespeople during the transition: During their restructuring, Clio paid the team a flat fee/fixed bonus for three months while gathering data and figuring out new quotas and goals. Clio wanted the team to feel comfortable helping switch to the new model, without distracting them.

Lesson #3, Create a collaborative, not competitive, sales environment: Fun or friendly competition is helpful and energizing. Hurtful or “real” competition kills your team.

By shifting to territories plus specialization, the sales team didn’t feel anymore that it was a zero sum game. Jack says they now have an “unbelievably collaborative sales team” that helps each other close deals, that roots for each other, and trades tips, best practices, and sale techniques. Beforehand, this never happened.


If you want help like Clio in building an internal outbound team from scratch or in restructuring a team, Contact Us to speak with a Lead Coach here. 

PS: Feeling trapped or suffocated?

I was thinking today about the value and necessity of sacrifice to increase meaning and money in your life.

“Old me” from say, 2008, would have been scared of getting into a situation where i am fully “trapped” with a huge family (we have 11 kids): i have very little time, energy, freedom or money to do…well, anything.  for example: i think my wife and i have only been away overnight, alone, for 3 or 4 days in the past 3 years!

Many of you entrepreneurs may be in similar family or work situations, feeling trapped, or even suffocated.

…what the “2008 me” wouldn’t have appreciated, because i’d never had or felt it, was the payoff in putting everything i had into building our family: joy, real love, meaning, motivation and a depth of life impossible to describe.

Again, many of you who feel trapped are getting a huge payoff.  And realize that as you work to un-trap yourself…first, you can.  

Are you afraid of going after something important to you, something that feels right –  because of what you have today that you’re afraid of losing?   I can say, all the times i ‘went for it’ (like adding another kid or committing to a new book when I already feel maxed out…), and embraced the change, the effort, sacrifice and investment in personal, family or business growth … it’s been worthwhile and better than staying stuck.

Back to sales restructuring: it’s HARD.  it’s painful.  but it NEEDS to happen, and you can get through it.