Sales people of acquired technology companies become “Sales Overlays”, sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad

Xtra Effort has learned from sales candidates working for companies acquired by much larger companies that they often become “Sales Overlays”.


They are originally employed by a technology company with 25 to 500 employees, typically with responsibility for a specific territory or set of targeted accounts. They have to perform a lot of heavy lifting relative to prospecting and have less resources available to them, but they do have more control over their own destinies.


Upon being acquired, they discover the acquiring company’s existing sales organization own the same accounts or regions.


The acquired company’s sales team now have a different role as Overlays: they become product specialists responsible for representing the technology to the acquiring company’s prospects and clients.


The skills required of an overlay are materially different than a traditional “Account Executive” or “Regional Sales Manager”. Instead of prospecting, qualifying, and closing business; they now must develop rapport and trust with the acquiring company’s sales team, and get introduced to their prospects and clients.


What they like about the overlay role: being introduced to accounts already warm to a meeting because of the pre-existing relationship and established brand recognition of the larger company and their sales team. They feel good about their unique product knowledge being valued by their new sales peers and prospects, and they can now spend more time selling and less time prospecting.


What they dislike about the overlay role: the sales team of the acquiring company may not see the acquired company’s solution offering as the best way to reach their quota. They may have a large portfolio of products to sell and find the acquired company’s technology to be a distraction to securing a bigger sale. The acquiring company’s sales team may not understand the acquired company’s value and revert to their comfort zone.  The sales overlay has much less control over messaging and prospect communications, including the frequency and medium of follow up, pricing, objection handling, creation of expectations, and closing.


Summary: sales people who become sales overlays because of acquisition (not their choice) have to assess the culture and responsiveness of their new sales peers, and determine if they can generate more sales and satisfaction with their new model. They also need to look within themselves to see if they have the patience and political skills to influence a potentially very helpful layer between them and the customer – but still an additional layer (almost like the skills required of a channel sales professional). Another option is to assess the desirability of a direct sales role with the acquiring company and then create a plan to eventually secure such a role.

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