The role of the high-tech field rep is changing and so is the way they are selling. The old method of overseeing the customer from lead capture to deal close and beyond is gone. High-tech field reps are now key members of a larger sales team, with each member playing a distinct role in the value chain. With the changes in the field rep’s role come new strategies to generate sales.
Let’s consider what has changed in the role of the high-tech field rep. For one thing, more emphasis is being placed on current customers. In a Salesforce study, KPIs for customer satisfaction outranked those for team quotas met 66 percent to 65 percent, and so field reps are being assessed on building customer relationships, customer retention, and upselling. Sales results are more data driven than ever before.
Thirty-three percent of reps surveyed rank leads using analytics to measure propensity to buy as opposed to the 16 percent who still rely on gut instinct. High-performing sales teams also are 1.5 times more likely to use data for forecasting.
To build sales in today’s market requires more data and analytics, and it requires more specialization to meet customer needs. High-tech field reps are becoming more focused in their sales efforts and more intimately involved with prospects and customers to assist with problem-solving.
Divide and Sell
As customers have become better educated and their technical needs have become more complex, the sales approach has had to evolve. Today’s technology buyer is less interested in “being sold” and more concerned about making the right buying decision. With the plethora of information available on the web, IT managers and CIOs can take the time to assess potential solutions to well-defined business problems.
According to Gartner research, B2B buyers spend only 17 percent of their time meeting with vendors and 5-6 percent of their time meeting with sales reps. Buyers know what problems they need to solve, but they are worried they will choose the wrong solution.
By the time a sales rep starts to work with a prospect, they have already been qualified. That doesn’t mean the buyer is ready to commit, but they are ready for you to convince them that buying your solution is not a mistake.
As a result, the high-tech field rep’s job has become more focused on solution selling. Lead qualification and post-sales support are being delegated to new, specialty sales roles. There are specialists to handle lead qualification, assist with closing the sale, and provide Customer Success support after the sale.
The new high-tech sales approach is one of divide and conquer, which means the high-tech field rep handles the more specialized role of providing success consulting services.
In the same report, Gartner identifies six steps in the B2B purchasing process:
- Identify the specific business problem.
- Explore various options to solve the problem.
- Create a set of buying requirements that offer a solution.
- Choose potential products, services, and suppliers.
- Validate the best solutions.
- Create a consensus before making the final selection.
The field rep’s job is to lead the buyer through these six steps, helping them make the right buying decision. The buying process is complex, and it isn’t linear, so the rep needs to be prepared to provide answers at each step. That requires working with the prospect to develop an intimate understanding of the challenges they face and then making recommendations to solve the problem. The field rep has become a consultant.
As the high-tech field rep’s role has become more specialized, their sales territories have changed as well. Rather than selling by geographic region, the new high-tech sales team is organized by market. With reps specializing in financial services, healthcare, retail, government, transportation, and so on, they can apply market-specific expertise and offer better solution options using terminology the prospect understands.
Field Rep as Customer Success Expert
So how does today’s high-tech field rep increase sales? By providing better information and better customer service. The field rep’s job is to help customers make the right buying decision. They are now focused more on customer retention and upselling and less on sales quotas.
Consider how Microsoft changed the compensation model for its Azure field sales team. Azure sales reps are now compensated by how much customers actually use Microsoft Azure services. They have embraced the Customer Success model as well as the principle of field reps helping customers get more out of products they have already purchased. This has resulted in incredible revenue growth for Microsoft.
Field sales reps are the new customer service professionals, helping to extend the customer’s lifetime value. The shift away from customer acquisition as a cost center to improving customer experience is paying off for companies everywhere, including high-tech companies, and the field rep is now on the front line of managing the customer experience and promoting Customer Success.
Supporting Success Selling
As the field rep’s role becomes more focused, they need more sales support than ever, especially at the top of the sales funnel. To fill in the gaps, more sales organizations are outsourcing.
Outsourced Sales as a ServiceⓇ providers are assuming a larger role in prospecting, delivering, and qualifying sales leads. B2B prospects have become more self-selecting by doing their own online research, and the Sales as a Service company can assume responsibility for disseminating information and attracting and then qualifying potential customers. As a result, the field reps can focus on assisting the top 20 percent of customers while outsourcing support of small and midsize prospects.
Working with an outsourced sales company also makes sales reps better prepared to support customers. Sales as a Service providers typically have a robust set of analytics tools, and they have to keep up with market changes. They can be a great source of market intelligence, technology trends, and competitive research.
If you want to learn more about the changing role of the high-tech field rep, download our e-book, Is Outsourced Inside Sales Right for You? High-tech selling continues to evolve, and as it does, you can count on sales support services like MarketStar to help you stay ahead of the market.