Closing deals is getting more complex and competitive, prompting a wave of curiosity around whether an outsourced sales program can improve on internal results. Success in outsourcing comes from beyond merely choosing to outsource, it’s dependent on choosing the right partner.
MarketStar, my employer, has been an outsource sales provider for more than 28 years, and during my time here I’ve learned that four factors determine whether a company has chosen the right outsource provider for success:
Compensation and Cost of Sale
An important first step is to set up a compensation arrangement that balances financial risks between client and provider, and reflects the value expected from the relationship. Often a company will try to place the burden of success through a commission only model, but this model only serves to attract low-cost resources and employees that aren’t necessarily aligned to the goals, but rather the budget.
In order to compensate for success, while keeping a healthy cost of sales, companies should consider a variable compensation model to share the risks and rewards of performance, as well as fixed compensation so the partner has a stake in the relationship and motivation to stay within the boundaries set. This goes a long way to having an outsource partner who provides leadership and innovation, rather than a vendor who only executes.
You can’t expect to get good results if your expectation is to just “pay for a head.”
Training and Enablement
You can’t expect to get good results if your expectation is to just “pay for a head.” You need to ensure each representative is trained upfront with initial knowledge transfer of your products and your brand, and then you need to train again and often to keep the person fresh and knowledgeable.
Training by itself does a great job of transferring information, but what is your outsource partner doing to ensure the training turns into long term actions? A great outsource partner will enable the success of their reps through active coaching and appropriate motivation to drive specific behaviors that bring the desired results.
Training and enablement can’t be done by one party or another alone. It takes investment from both the company and the partner to ensure performance meets expectation. Plan on staying involved, especially as products, marketing materials, and sales tactics adapt to the market.
The difference between a vendor who executes and a partner who drives success, is their level of reactive or proactive communication.
Communication and Partnership
When you pick an outsource partner be mindful of how well they communicate during the proposal process. The difference between a vendor who executes and a partner who drives success, is their level of reactive or proactive communication. Great partners will reach out for clarification, and provide suggestions for improvement without being asked. They want to see you succeed, and are focused on your business.
Close communication with an outsourced sales provider is critical to demonstrate commitment and minimize conflict. You need periodic, and scheduled, reviews to keep both inside and outside components of a strategy optimized. A willingness to pick up the phone and resolve issues quickly is an important aspect to any successful relationship, and if your conversations are limited to checking up on metrics, and getting explanations on performance, you are no longer communicating in a proactive manner, your conversation shifts to varying degrees of reaction only.
A Holistic Solution
Successful outsourcing isn’t just about finding a vendor that can provide you with bodies in a seat. You need a partner that offers a blended solution that uses relevant technologies designed to prepare a program for success before a call is made. They should provide you with smart business intelligence that tells you how to get the best results, rather than relying on carpet bombing your customers with calls hoping for success.
The right partner will have tools in place that optimize a representative’s ability to succeed. A phone call alone isn’t enough to make a deal. Reps need smart analytics that provide them with direction and targeting that greatly increases their chance for success. Your program should work smarter, not harder, to get the results you need.
Reps need smart analytics that provide them with direction and targeting that greatly increases their chance for success.
When these four keys are in place in a proactive and positive manner that engages both the company and the partner, an outsource sales program not only meets expectations, it adds long term value and growth.
Ultimately it comes down to what your company needs, but merely hiring a vendor to take orders vastly limits your ability to move beyond a reactionary state where you constantly look at the past. When you look for your outsource provider to act as a partner, the relationship shifts to a proactive one where both parties are invested in the future.