In the modern business world, many operations and sectors are outsourced. Marketing, accounting and design are among those regularly redistributed to the specialists, however many companies continue to hold reservations about outsourcing their sales operation or component parts.
As with many things, there can be challenges associated with this option. However, with an informed approach and awareness of potential obstacles, along with clear objectives, outsourcing can be the solution to a whole host of sales concerns.
1. Ascertaining a business need for outsourcing
The telltale signs are simple. If your sales are declining, your team is operating to full capacity but still not hitting targets, or you’re restricted by headcount yet have your sights set on business growth, you may want to consider outsourcing some or all of your sales operation.
If you’re a smaller business looking to take your company to the next level but aren’t necessarily in the financial position to make the long-term commitment to hiring, then a shorter-term outsourcing solution would be ideal for expansion. Alternatively, you may be struggling to achieve the results demanded of you by the executive board but are capped at a certain number of employees, in which case opting for outsourcing means you’ll gain extra heads without adding to your headcount.
2. What are the benefits of outsourcing sales operations?
Outsourcing your sales operation could make all the difference if your business objective is transforming your bottom line. With advantages such as gaining access to high calibre salespeople and the opportunity to boost sales returns despite financial restrictions and headcount limitations, outsourcing can be extremely valuable to any company.
Committing to another employee on the payroll can have risks. MD of Pareto, Mark Lendon, identifies hiring new starters as a cause for concern among many decision makers: “A lot of people get nervous about hiring a new employee, as you have to consider how long you’re likely to keep them, whether they’re the right fit and how successful they’re going to be,” he explains. “So rather than hiring, outsourcing that function to the professionals is often an excellent solution,” he adds.
The risk of employing an individual only to have them leave your company is a headache at any time, but if you’re planning to grow your company, the repercussions of a salesperson leaving will be widely felt. As a solution to this, outsourcing can be particularly beneficial to those who aren’t in a financial position to lose staff members after investing in them and their progress.
What’s more, outsourcing is likely to give you access to a team of highly skilled individuals. With the benefits of a ready trained and excellent set of salespeople, you bypass operational problems such as attrition and lack of skills that could impact your bottom line.
For those restricted by headcount, outsourcing sales operations to capable experts will provide you with an extra head, without adding another person to the books. Particularly for SMEs and start-ups, but also relevant to larger organisations, an outsourced sales team can very quickly deliver results that could lead to longer term business goals and overall personnel growth.
Sourcing, training and molding your own sales team takes time and financial investment. If your company isn’t in the position to provide these commitments, then outsourcing could be the solution, as it means easy access to ready-made and fully equipped sales professionals who can start delivering results in a matter of weeks. “When we deliver outsourcing, we have the extensive resources to go from nothing to assembling a team of 50 salespeople in just six weeks,” says Mark Lendon. “Each individual can be assessed, trained, placed and ready to hit the ground running, all within that timeframe,” he adds.
If the outsourcing partner you choose offers it, this option can also work as try-before-you-buy, which is something Mark regularly sees at Pareto. “The main benefit is you get to see how a team works for you before you hire them,” he explains. “In fact, we see so much success that around 80% of our clients end up hiring their outsourced contracted sales person.”
Outsourcing your sales operation can be beneficial to your business in the following ways:
- Reduces the risk associated with hiring a long-term member of staff.
- Provides you with access to highly trained and experienced sales personnel.
- Allows you to hit targets and grow your company, even when restricted by headcount and limited timeframes.
- Gives you the ability to provide a solution to your sales problems quickly and efficiently.
- Allows you to try a team out before you invest in hiring them.
3. Potential challenges of outsourcing sales operations
Along with benefits of outsourcing your sales operation come challenges. More than anything you need to bear in mind the public-facing aspect: the people who will be selling for your company will be representing your business to your clients, so they need to be strong ambassadors.
As representatives of your company, how can you be confident these individuals are selling in a manner that reflects well on you? How will you be able to assess whether your product or service is their number one priority? How competent is that salesperson and how professional are they?
Mark Lendon recommends thoroughly researching all these considerations before deciding on an outsourcing company. “You’re not employing these people directly and therefore aren’t taking part in the recruitment and interview processes you normally would when you hire, so you have to be sure they aren’t just switching it on and off: you have to know they’re being consistently excellent,” he explains.
4. What are the most desirable qualities in an outsourcing partner?
To combat these challenges it makes sound business sense to ensure you have a say in, or control over, who is representing your company. Here are some desirable qualities to seek in your outsourcing partner, along with some useful action points you may want to consider:
• Do you share the same values?
You should always do your research behind your potential partner, as that will often reflect the calibre of professionals who work for them. Are they awarded and recognised in their field? Do they have sales best practice accreditations and are they a company with nationwide (or international) coverage as required?
• Assess their understanding of your business – do they understand you, your objectives, your market and your industry?
Mark clarifies the point: “These are going to be the people who work directly with your clients, so you need to be confident these individuals are professional, reliable and consistent.”
Ultimately you should have a say in who you’re employing and who will be representing your company to clients, so look for an outsourcing partner that will allow you contact with the individuals who will be selling your services.
• Assess the calibre of the staff – talk to them in person to ascertain whether they’re the right fit.
The quality of staff should be one of your first ports of call. Explore what training the team have received, the attrition rates of the company and what measures they have in place to indicate they will deliver a consistent service.
If you can, speak to the people who will be working for your company. Ask if you can get in touch with the team to see if each individual is the right fit for your company and find out how hungry they are to hit targets and how focused they are on your clients.
• Ensure processes are in place for tracking progress and measuring deliverables.
Ascertain how the company plans on delivering the services and solutions you require. Spend time talking with them and presenting them with your KPIs to gain assurance they will regularly check targets are being met and present you with detailed updates accordingly. This kind of commitment and attention to detail indicates an outsourcing firm cares about your outcomes and demonstrates they’re a worthwhile investment.
In terms of ROI, it’s important to ensure you’re paying out for the right services. Some outsourcing companies charge a fee for hours worked rather than results achieved. For the best investment, make sure you’re with a company that’s confident and competent enough to back up their rates with what they can deliver.
5. What KPIs and business objectives do you need to set?
Every company is different, but you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from your outsourcing function. Mark Lendon urges those considering outsourcing to define what they need from this solution as soon as feasibly possible: “What’s the number one reason for outsourcing your sales function? Clarify that to yourself and be clear when you convey that to your partner so they can be ready to deliver,” he advises.
It’s clear that outsourcing can be beneficial to businesses of all sizes, as long as you take the time to survey your options, thoroughly assess potential outsourcing partners and set clear objectives once you’ve decided who to enlist.
Mark says choosing to outsource your sales operation can be an exciting prospect for anyone looking to improve their commercial results: “Some businesses may have had bad experiences with committing to longer term contracts and feel they’ve been let down in the past,” he notes. “However, outsourcing some or all of your sales functionality can be a really positive experience: for ease of purpose and the possibility of exciting growth results, it’s an excellent business decision,” he concludes.