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5 Outsourcing Strategies for Inside Sales

Introduction

The way we sell goods and services has changed dramatically, especially in the business to business space. What was once a linear sales motion has shifted to an involved process that dives into buyer behaviors, relevant content, social influences, genuine discussions, and data that illustrates true results. “Organizations that don’t understand these new realities will struggle to grow business,” says Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner. “When expectation doesn’t match reality, problems arise.” The pace to keep up with the changing dynamics and the complexity of inside sales have led corporations, like you, to outsource the traditional in-house model to a Sales as a Service provider that will provide focus, strategy, and results within the full sales cycle.

This pivot leaves internal teams free to focus on what they do best, and delegate the selling to a supplier that can recruit, train, sell, and scale—all while driving revenue for your brand. While insourcing sales gives you direct control, outsourcing provides access to sales expertise that leads to greater productivity and improved ROI. And as the outsourcing sales model continues to demonstrate value and guaranteed returns, more companies are outsourcing stages or all of their inside sales activities.

One of the real advantages of working with an experienced outsourced sales supplier is that it shortens your ramp-up time. Once the reps are in-seat it will take them 90 days to learn your value prop, especially for complex B2B offerings. From there, they are trained to understand how to handle solution and insight selling and how to match the product or service to a prospect’s needs, including how to speak with executives and high-level decision makers.

 

“Organizations that don’t understand these new realities will struggle to grow business,” says Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner on how the sales motion has changed. “When expectation doesn’t match reality, problems arise.”

Chapter 1

Understanding the True Costs of Your
In-House Team

The mistake that many executives make when looking at outsourcing sales is asking, “How much can I save?” when the better question to ask is, “How much more can I make?”

Ultimately, you have to look at your outsourced sales suppliers’ role in the value chain, as well as where and how much additional knowledge they bring to the process. When interviewing your potential sales supplier, be sure to assess the quality and sales maturity of their team. You will pay more for experience, but the added value in terms of ROI will more than outweigh the added cost.

To analyze the true comparison between keeping your team in-house, and outsourcing to a professional sales supplier, you must look beyond salaries, commissions, and bonuses.

It’s important to look at all the factors that affect your fully burdened in-house sales team costs, including:

  • Capital expenses, facility costs, and equipment: Adding personnel requires space and equipment. In order to expand your internal sales operation to capitalize on new opportunities, you need to lease more space, and provide more infrastructure, such as telecommunications, computer networking, and a robust tech stack. All are required to make your growing sales team productive.
  • Recruiting and training: Expanding in-house sales means hiring more sales professionals, which takes time and money. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost per new hire is $4,425, and the process takes 36 days, not including onboarding. Other studies show that it actually costs $97,960 to replace a departing sales rep, including onboarding and training. That doesn’t include the cost of recruiting itself, or the amount of revenue lost while onboarding new staff. When it comes to bringing on fresh sales talent, it usually takes eight to 10  weeks of training, with productivity ramping up throughout the first year.
  • Benefits: If you are going to recruit the best and the brightest, then you have to offer competitive benefits to include: health care, disability insurance, retirement plans, and other incentives. When you throw-in employment taxes and benefits, you are paying between 1.25 and 1.4 times the actual base salary.
  • Management overhead: In addition to the direct costs of adding staff, you have the indirect costs imposed on management. Your senior team will be responsible for developing sales processes, training, new tech research, and managing the new teams to help make them more productive, which means their own productivity will be affected.
  • Geography: Geography is another factor that impacts staffing costs. If your in-house sales team is based in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, or other high-wage markets, then you will pay more for sales talent. Outsourced services can be located anywhere, which means they can offer competitive wages and benefits in an area that features a lower cost of living. MarketStar is headquartered  in Ogden, Utah, which allows us to hire the best available staff for less. For example: The cost of living in San Francisco, Calif. is 210 percent more expensive than that of Ogden, Utah

As you become more serious about outsourcing your inside sales team, be sure the financial arrangement balances risk between both parties so it reflects the value you expect from the relationship. In addition to fixed fees, compensation should be structured to share risks and rewards based on performance so your sales supplier has a stake in the relationship and is motivated to perform within the set boundaries.

When shopping for a Sales-as-a-Service supplier, remember that when outsourcing, as with all things, you get what you pay for. By choosing the option with the lowest cost, you are likely to sacrifice expertise, leadership, and the ability to execute.

As you compare the cost of insourcing versus outsourcing sales, you need to consider economies of scale, both in terms of expenditures and returns. Outsourcing to a dedicated Sales-as-a-Service company gives you access to talent and technology that would be more difficult, expensive, and inefficient to replicate in-house. Further, the outsourced expense is not listed as a personnel cost, but as a separate line item in your budget, which offers both budgeting and tax advantages.

Your outsourced sales supplier will function as a dedicated revenue engine and should be able to demonstrate results counted on the value side of the ledger.

"MarketStar is headquartered in Ogden, Utah, which allows us to hire the best available staff for less. For example: The cost of living in San Francisco, Calif. is 210 percent more expensive than that of Ogden, Utah"

Chapter 2

Outsourcing Mitigates Risk

When you retain a Sales-as-a-Service supplier, you are transferring much of your risk as well. Most Sales-as-a-Service outsourcing companies operate on performance-based contracts, so that failure to perform means loss of revenue. However, you also assume a degree of risk if you neglect to investigate whether an outsourced sales supplier is able to deliver as promised.

When choosing a sales outsourcing supplier, you should understand and define the risks on both sides. You need to clearly define where the specific areas of risk lie, and who needs to be held accountable for what. Resource allocation defines areas of responsibility over the scope of an engagement or project, so you need to clearly define expectations, especially in terms of expectations and timelines. Most outsourced sales engagements link revenue to outcomes, so it is essential to have a clear understanding of goals and objectives, as well as the transparency and metrics to demonstrate performance. In the age of data-driven business management, agreeing on the metrics for measuring results is vital.

Before engaging an outsourced sales supplier, you want to mitigate your risk and receive some assurance that they will perform as expected. Learn more about how they operate and the results they have delivered for other clients. Ask for a list of current client day-to-day contacts that you can call for candid feedback. Look at the maturity of the outsourced sales company and their portfolio of brands. This will provide some indication of what you can anticipate in terms of performance.

Above all, by outsourcing your inside sales team, you are hedging against the risk of leaving revenue on the table, failing to take advantage of a new market, or not being able to scale to meet demand and missing revenue opportunity. You are mitigating the risk of being too slow to respond to changing market conditions.

Chapter 3

Outsourcing Allows You Flexibility

Being agile in a rapidly changing market is essential to success, and outsourcing sales allows you flexibility. It takes time to assemble the in-house sales resources you need to ramp your business up for a new market, a new product launch, or even to keep pace with an especially successful marketing program. By outsourcing to a Sales-as-a-Service supplier, you can move much faster to take immediate advantage of market opportunities.

For companies that take advantage of outsourced sales, flexibility translates into how quickly your sales partner can ramp up to meet new requirements. There are a number of key considerations, including:

  • Scalability: Be sure your outsourced sales supplier is ready to take on new opportunities on your behalf, whether they’re new markets, new geographies, or a rising business cycle. Can they scale from a small team of five to a team of 100? Ask these questions and get case study answers that reflect proven scalability.

  • Agility and adaptability: Can your outsourced sales supplier adapt to your changing needs? This is more than just being able to bring resources to the table. Can they also flex their sales tactics and service offerings to meet unexpected demands?

  • Performance billing model: Do the fees align with the services offered? Be sure the pricing model, including fixed and variable components, matches the promised value.

  • Strategy: You want sales experts who are more than just task-oriented. They should be able to report back and assess the sales process, the market, the sales pitch, customer needs, and other elements needed for success. You want to work with visionaries who have the insight to show you how to adapt for optimal results.

  • Sales Processes: You also want to work with a Sales-as-a-Service supplier who can adapt to, and improve your sales processes. For example, does your supplier use your customer relationship management (CRM) system or theirs, and how is the data stored and knowledge transferred? A good Sales-as-a-Service supplier will be able to adapt to how you do business, rather than try to make you adapt to theirs.

  • Technological Resources:You should also be shopping for technological resources that enable flexibility and speed. Since your outsourced sales supplier specializes in one thing—selling—they should have superior selling tools, including the latest technology. You should be able to count on your outsourced sales supplier to be armed with the latest tools, so you can stay ahead of your competition.

"When you engage with MarketStar, it is really an extension of your own team."

- SUSE, MarketStar client since 2017

Chapter 4

Outsourcing Provides Focus on the
Sales Cycle

The outsourced team’s job is to exclusively work on the activities for which they were hired. This creates a hyper-focus on the sales cycle.

The sales supplier should be able to present a comprehensive set of quality metrics, as well as a track record of satisfied, long-term clients. Those metrics should include performance value and process innovations. They should be prepared to use real-time data to demonstrate quota attainment, close rate, activity details, and other metrics, and then be able to go deeper, cross-sell, upsell, and discuss what they can do differently to reach sales goals. Further, reporting should key in on the determined metrics and provide a dashboard of progress against the quota and desired results each quarter.

As part of that focus, you are also hiring brand ambassadors. Your outsourced sales team should be committed to your company’s products and sales needs, so that it is dedicated to promoting one brand. This gives you a huge advantage, not only in terms of market representation but also your bottom line.

You also want to be sure that there is a good cultural fit so that your partner can work as an extension of your in-house sales team. Their deliverables should be well-defined and laser focused, whether it’s lead qualification, generating sales with SMBs that aren’t on your radar, or opening new markets. In addition, the corporate culture should embrace Sales-as-a-Service, making outsourced sales an inherent part of the sales operation.

"MarketStar applies the best data science techniques, enlists the best professionals to do the job, and relies on their competency to not only improve sales performance, but to inform the activities that make the sales processes successful."

A multinational computer networking company came to MarketStar seeking a sales partner to increase their channel presence, generate awareness, manage key SMB accounts, and provide analysis and thought leadership to make their channel more effective.
MarketStar launched a channel management team to go head to head with this organizations internal sales team. After a successful review, the MarketStar team suggested to this organization that the MarketStar team take on their VAR managed accounts. By proactively modeling trends for these top accounts, they provided insights that showed how the MarketStar team would be more effective and bring in consistent growth. After a successful six month pilot with these VAR accounts, the networking company transitioned all VAR managed accounts to MarketStar.

Chapter 5

Choosing the Right Outsourced
Sales Partner

Once you have analyzed your sales strategy, performed a cost analysis, and determined that outsourcing sales is the way to go, you have to choose the right outsourced sales supplier. Each organization has unique requirements, but there are universal guidelines that should shorten your selection time and increase your trust in the process.

You will want to match your sales partner’s capabilities to your long-term business requirements to ensure there is a strategic fit. The more versatile companies create a customized, end-to-end sales ecosystem while also providing specific service components. Look for a partner with the capabilities to meet your immediate needs and the adaptability to grow with your changing demands.

To help simplify the selection process, consider breaking the criteria down into three basic areas: people, technologies, and insight.

People

People are the strongest asset when it comes to sales, and when you engage an outsourced sales supplier, their people will represent your brand. Your first consideration should be personnel quality and the processes used for hiring, motivating, and retaining the best possible sales professionals:

  • Quality of the labor pool: Outsourced sales firms can save you money by recruiting from regions where the cost of living is low compared to the education, expertise, and skill level of the regional talent pool. A potential supplier should make a strong case for having a superior staff.
  • Retention: Internal sales is often seen as a stepping stone to a better job, which leads to staff churn. Be sure your prospective sales partner has low-to-below-average turnover and a well-developed, customer-sensitive process for replacing personnel.
  • Onboarding speed and quality: In addition to hiring, you want to ensure that your sales partner can train staff quickly and efficiently in order to provide the agility and flexibility needed to deliver superior service. Ask for examples from previous projects that required a fast launch or scale-up.

  • Motivation: This is harder to measure since it is intangible, but remember that you are not hiring a call center. You should look for sales teams and professionals who show dedication. Also look for a culture that celebrates success and has motivators integrated into its operation.

Processes

Your Sales-as-a-Service supplier should demonstrate the same discipline and commitment to sales processes as they do to recruiting and onboarding. Look for specific capabilities, such as:

  • Forecasting and pipeline management: Your partner and the sales team should always have a sales plan, including targets against which they can be measured.
  • Tactics for achieving goals: Look for well-formed plans to achieve quotas, such as bringing in additional resources, adapting resources and materials, and refining call schedules and sales scripts as needed.
  • Metrics and analytics: Everything should be measurable, and ideally, analysis should be performed by experts who work closely with your sales team but are not directly invested in its performance.
  • Adaptability: Even with well-established, proven processes in place, your sales partner should be adaptable to unique situations or requirements. Processes should evolve as sales reps gather information that presents new insights.

Insights and Technologies

Sales and marketing best practices and technology tools are continually changing. You want to align yourself with a sales partner who keeps pace with those changes. Make sure you understand how technology fits into their planning, deployment, and measurement processes. Look for:

  • Digital demand generation expertise: Be sure they are adept at content management, lead nurturing, and marketing automation so they can maintain a healthy demand pipeline and optimize lead management resources.
  • Tech stack literacy: Latest sales technology tools such as Salesforce, Outreach, and Gong, as well as list-building, CRM, and analytics tools.
  • CRM expertise: Mastery of CRM (especially Salesforce) is essential for seamless sales and marketing integration.

  • Analytics capabilities: Advanced analytics, big data, machine learning, and  forecasting are more than just generating standard reports. Look for a supplier that can interpret the metrics that are relevant to your business goals.



Chapter 6

Coaching to Improve Sales Performance

To demonstrate commitment and minimize issues, plan to stay in close contact with your outsourced sales supplier. Optimize your in-house and outsourced sales strategy with regular reviews. Keep channels of communication open with weekly touchpoints and quarterly reviews.

Understand, too, that training has to be part of the initial investment. The initial knowledge transfer is your responsibility, so be prepared to commit to co-training until your sales supplier can take over as the program matures. You should also plan to stay involved to ensure ongoing success, especially as corporate sales goals change, marketing tactics evolve, and new features and products are introduced.

The best outsourced sales suppliers should offer a full-service sales operation that can be aligned with your business objectives to make sure the activity at the top of the sales funnel yields maximum returns over the life of the customer. You also want to find a supplier that offers all-inclusive services including business intelligence, talent acquisition, and training, and you want to be able to make sound economic decisions together as part of a collaborative process.

The choice to outsource should be driven by increasing lifetime value for your partners and end-users.

Chapter 7

When You Outsource Your Sales to MarketStar

When you sign with MarketStar, we start with an initial set of strategy meetings, typically held onsite at our headquarters. These meetings clarify objectives determined by the statement of work and establish the best approach for collaboration. In addition, we have a team of project managers that communicate a timeline of activity to prepare for launch.

Our launch checklist includes 200 items, bucketed into seven areas: 

  1. Recruiting and Hiring
  2. Training
  3. Sales Operations
  4. Tech Stack
  5. Marketing
  6. Reporting
  7. Facilities/Security

Beyond the time until launch, we maintain ongoing communications and reporting and establish regular check-ins to review and realign objectives. Here at MarketStar, we like to conduct quarterly reviews to assess performance and reassess goals. If you’re not getting the performance you expected, then we will navigate to the source of the challenge.

The value you receive from an outsourced sales supplier such as MarketStar is based on the quality of the relationship, and your investment in overall sales success. We find that we achieve the highest success when we operate as an integral part of your operation (our average client tenure is 7 years).

Our 30+ years in business has given us the depth, experience, and agility to help corporations reach revenue goals via an exceptional inside sales team. 

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5 Outsourcing Strategies for Inside Sales