The sales team is the revenue-generating heart of a company. Consequently, Inside Sales is usually considered to be something that must be kept in-house.
However, this article will argue that an outsourced inside sales function can deliver more cost-effectively in terms of:
- A steady pipeline of well-qualified leads for the field sales team, and
- Servicing smaller deals over the phone.
In the technology sectors vendors are sceptical about the ability of an outsourced sales agent to articulate the features and benefits of a sophisticated product set; particularly when put under pressure by a tech-savvy prospect.
Yet many vendors are discovering that current inside sales processes are no longer cost-effective. The reasons for this can include:
- Old-fashioned sales styles result in too much time spent discussing product and not enough progressing the sales cycle.
- Legacy pay-scales that are no longer affordable.
- Cultural barriers to change and improvement.
An outsourced Inside Sales agency can drive up productivity because progressing deals through the sales cycle is its core-competence, agents talk techy enough to get the job done, but not so much it slows down the sales cycle.
So, when is it right to outsource your Inside Sales to a specialist agency? Let’s consider some of the most influential factors:
Complex new technology is always expensive to both sell and implement, but as the product matures, sales responsibility shifts from enterprise sales to inside sales to volume distribution. Outsourcing typically works best in the middle of the product lifecycle, when dedicated field-sales is too expensive, yet commoditised, vendor-neutral distribution is ineffective.
By outsourcing to a specialist agency, vendors get the best of both worlds: They can maintain control and ensure in-house levels of focus on their product, whilst getting a cost model closer to distribution. The more specialist the agency, the more complex your product can be.
Sales cycle maturity vs. Product maturity
There is always a stage in the product lifecycle when the target audience tends to be comfortable buying over the phone, although they may still require face-to-face contact for significant expenditure. Typically the best stage to outsource inside sales is during the ‘early/late adopter’ stages.
Target audience vs. Company culture
Whilst the target audience buying behaviour matures, the in-house Inside-Sales function can remain trapped in an ‘enterprise mentality’ that starts to reduce sales productivity. Symptoms of this stage include:
- Too much focus on high-end product expertise.
- Too little focus on sales productivity
- Too much time spent in internal meetings
- Too little time spent on the phone selling to prospects
- Too much field sales involvement in mid-sized and small deals
- Channel partners complaining of too much direct competition
If you have these symptoms, then now is the time to consider outsourcing Inside Sales.
Pride and product expertise is a good thing, but it can also lead to product-heavy sales cycles and in-depth client meetings which are not necessary to progress the sale. If you are having difficulty changing culture, then Outsourcing Inside Sales is an effective way to shift focus towards the commercial aspects of the sales cycle.
Outsourcing Inside Sales can also clean-up lines of communication and responsibility, making the sales processes more efficient. Once best practices have been established outsourced operations can be in-sourced to bring the new culture back into the company.
How to choose (and use) an Inside Sales agency
Outsourcing Inside Sales requires a number of key ingredients in order to be successful. The first is that the outsourced team must be of the highest calibre, fully trained with the latest best practice techniques and conversant in the company’s products and services.
Good quality selling has always relied on more of a consultative approach than simply force feeding an opportunity, and this is no different for an outsourced team. A good agency will be able to demonstrate the calibre of its team, the training they have undergone and the specific experience of the individuals on board.
Invest in expertise
There is little point engaging an outsourced agency if they are to be kept at arm’s length from the core sales strategy. In order for an outsourced Inside Sales team to be effective, they must be treated as partners and made part of the ‘inner circle’ . Don’t treat them like mushrooms, give them the bigger picture, so they buy into your vision; this is particularly important when they have to sell to executive-level prospects.
After the initial training, subsequent training sessions can often be reduced to a few hours each month or even a day each quarter. Over time, this will be both cheaper and more effective than in-house training because a good agency’s knowledge management systems and learning culture is part of its core competence which allows them to repeat your training cost-effectively.
Use the process to improve, not to ‘dump’.
The combination of lower cost and higher effectiveness is driven by the outsourcing process, because it encourages both clarity and discipline through more formal communication and demarcated areas of responsibility. For example: feedback from in-house sales or channel partners tends to be more forthcoming, more hard-hitting and more quickly assimilated by an outsourced operation, because their relationship with you depends on fixing issues, not defending the status quo.
Modern outsourced Inside Sales agencies are sophisticated, and professional. Agents are experienced, credible, and knowledgeable. If you give them the freedom to implement best practise, and manage the pipeline to encourage the best and most cost-effective behaviours, then you will have success.
Whether you need a steady flow of appointments for your field sales, or a fully independent Inside Sales function, the market has developed to the point where it is both possible and advantageous to outsource your Inside Sales.
Johann Edward is CEO of EIMS, a multi-lingual marketing services company that provides outsourced lead generation, channel management and inside sales to leading technology companies across EMEA. For more information visit www.eims.biz