Verticalization 301

Investigating the ‘How’ and ‘Who’: Part 3 of a 3-part series

Every b2b product or services company must eventually tackle this question: Should we ‘verticalize’ our salesforce and go-to-market?

I’ve spent the past 15 years helping startups and established high-tech companies like Cognos, IBM and Qlik tackle this challenge. This blog is the third of a 3-part series where I’ll cover ‘how’ to verticalize and ‘who’ to involve. The prior verticalization blogs on “what / why” and “where / when” can be found here.

HOW to ‘Verticalize’?

Books could be written on this topic but I’ll boil it down into three key principals: planning, alignment and execution. In terms of planning, it’s super important you create an achievable plan and realize not everything can or should happen at once (especially if there are legacy organizations in place). The below diagram depicts some of the Sales and Marketing/Solutions maturity levels. There’s no right or wrong level but it’s important to set a goal and be clear on what you will and won’t be investing in.


Organizational alignment is another key aspect of transitioning any business into an industry or functional go-to-market powerhouse. If one cog in the wheel isn’t bought in or doing their part, you’ll likely face an uphill battle in achieving success. This visual highlights how Products, Marketing, Sales and Services must align on go-to-market priorities and every organization plays an important role:


The last key principal on how to verticalize is making sure you execute on the plan. This is often difficult when legacy processes are in place but you eventually need to ‘rip off the band-aide’ and follow through with what you set out to do. Executing on something new isn’t easy but results will be achieved if you stay focused, have a good plan to follow and align the organizations around you.

WHO should be involved in ‘verticalization’?

Let’s face it, the best products don’t guarantee success in a b2b sales environment. Despite huge advances in technology over the years, it’s still PEOPLE who make or break industry vertical or function go-to-market programs. Most of this is common sense but I’ve found a few key organizational elements need to be in place for this to work:

  • Ensure there’s a well-respected executive sponsor(s) who ‘gets it’ when it comes to the benefits and investments needed
  • Engage managers who are known to ‘get stuff done’ and are not afraid to challenge status quo
  • Hand select sales representatives who have a proven track record of solution oriented selling along with suitable industry or functional knowledge
  • Closely involve top subject matter experts (SMEs) who can clearly articulate the value proposition and go deep when needed
  • Setup regular check point meetings with key stakeholders to ensure progress is being made and everyone is following through with accountable actions

Hopefully this blog series stimulated some new thoughts on what, why, where , when, who and how to verticalize your go-to-market b2b sales organization. I’d welcome any ideas or suggestions in the comments section below.

#Qlik’s Mike Saliter reviews the ‘how’ and ‘who’ regarding go-to-market specialization by industry vertical or function:


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