This article is available as an eBook.
Outsourcing part of your sales function is a big decision, after all, sales outsourcing is different than many types of BPO because the firm you hire will engage directly with potential customers. Here are five questions you should ask to ensure the sales outsourcing organization you choose is right for your business.
What Exactly Do You Deliver?
As with any buying decision, you want to start your discovery process by fully understanding what exactly you can expect from your sales outsourcing partner. The depth of service varies widely between firms so don’t make any assumptions.
For starters, you will want to understand which part of your sales funnel you are outsourcing. Some companies will handle your entire sales cycle from start to finish, while other firms focus on one part of your funnel. The most common form of sales outsourcing is appointment setting, in which the outsourced firm will engage top-of-funnel prospects to schedule a discovery call on behalf of your sales team.
Of course, no two services are the same, so you should drill down on specifics as much as possible.
- Do you guarantee the appointments will be qualified?
- How do you define a qualified appointment?
- Will the leads be delivered directly into my CRM?
- Will the lead come with call notes or other pertinent information?
See our FAQ at the bottom of this article for more in-depth answers regarding the different types of sales outsourcing and other related questions.
What Channels Do You Use?
It’s amazing — there have never been more ways to engage with buyers. To quantify just how many avenues there are to communicate with prospects, consider the following statistics on an average American:
- Receives 121 emails per day
- Makes or receives 6 phone calls
- Makes or receives 94 texts
- Spends 144 minutes per day on social media, viewing approximately 864 posts.
As demonstrated above, there are truly endless ways to interact with buyers — but with all the options for engagement, also comes a lot of noise.
Cutting through all the noise is a big reason we rely predominantly on phone calls and emails for our outreach. Naturally, other firms apply their own methodologies, and that’s okay.
Sometimes referred to as “spray and pray,” some organizations see value in a high-volume approach that maximizes touchpoints through email and social media. Other organizations want a sales outsourcing solution that emphasizes the quality of interactions, as we do at SalesRoads. Ultimately there is no single “right answer,” you need to decide for yourself which strategy will best serve your goals.
How Do You Build a Target Prospect List?
List quality is another big differential when it comes to sales outsourcing companies. Beware of firms who recycle data from campaign to campaign. It is common for these types of firms to start your call campaign with a “data cleanse,” in which your outsourced sales rep spends the first portion of the campaign verifying data before beginning to actually prospect. Because sales data decays at an average 2% per month, the initial period may last as long as a month, possibly detrimental to your ROI.
Another common pitfall to be aware of is a “zero-list approach.” This is most common for firms that rely heavily on landing pages to generate leads. These are essentially marketing firms that qualify prospects via phone after the prospect has filled out an online form.
At SalesRoads, our dedicated research team builds a fresh list for every campaign and replenishes new leads as requested by our sales agents. Our internal data demonstrates a high-quality list is essential to the success and vitality of a campaign, so we don’t cut any corners. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with a “zero-list” or “data-cleanse” approach, each method has advantages and disadvantages — namely cost and time to launch.
A good way to gauge the potential impact on campaign performance is to ask for a sample list prior to launch, this way you know firsthand the types of prospects your outsourced partner will pursue on your behalf.
What Can I Expect From Your Executives?
When it comes to sales outsourcing firms, agent quality is the single largest differential you will encounter. In fact, you are probably familiar with off-shore call centers and the negative connotations that come with them.
Although we staff our outsourced sales teams with 100% USA-based executives, there are advantages to using off-shore partners. The most obvious advantage is cost — overseas agents can be retained for much lower wages than their domestic counterparts and contrary to popular perception, many overseas agents have excellent English skills and are more than capable of engaging in fluid conversations.
In fact, we choose to build our sales teams here in the USA not because of a language barrier, but because of our clients’ goals when engaging SalesRoads. Our clients are generally looking to capture market share for an innovative product that may have numerous use cases, variable qualifications, or complex differentials. To serve our client’s goals we need business-savvy sales reps who can confidently handle such complexity, but not all companies need seasoned sales executives and would prefer a low-investment alternative.
Either way, know what you can expect from your representatives before making any commitments.
What If This Doesn't Work?
This is the most important question you need to ask before outsourcing your sales function. We’re not talking about the contract terms (although you should be familiar with those as well), we’re talking about your campaign strategy and how it serves your business goals.
We hear it all the time; people want to work with us after engaging another sales outsourcing firm, but the other firm is unwilling — or unable — to adapt their methodology to the client’s needs. “It’s like my business is a square peg and they jammed it into a round hole,” they tell us.
Thankfully, not all firms operate this way and the best firms can explain how their methodology adapts to generate positive economic impact. Our methodology at SalesRoads relies heavily on front-line feedback from our agents to guide our outreach efforts. Our dedicated sales coaches then aggregate and distill the feedback into a cohesive campaign strategy — like scientists methodically testing different solutions until they find a winning formula.
Needless to say, you need more than analogies to feel comfortable backing a firm’s methodology with your investment, so be prepared to dive deep. Here are some other question you may consider asking to probe further:
- How do you test different messaging?
- Will you build a new list if the first one doesn’t work?
- Have you ever had to pivot campaign strategy? What happened?
As we said before, there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to sales outsourcing. Just as no two sales departments are made the same, neither are two sales outsourcing organizations. But with your brand — and ROI — hinging on the success of your sales outsourcing partner, you should expect thorough answers to your toughest questions.
Generally speaking there are two types of outsourcing, lead generation and appointment setting. Lead generation is the process of identifying prospects who are likely to be interested in your product or service. Appointment setting takes lead generation one step further by contacting the prospects and scheduling a discovery call for them to learn more about the product or service you are selling.
It is possible to outsource all parts of the sales cycle from prospect to contract, although top-of-funnel sales outsourcing is most common. In this type of sales outsourcing, the outsourced firm will work to identify and engage new customers on behalf of the client.
Sales as a service is another term for sales outsourcing in which an outsourced organization will handle all or part of your sales process. Some sales as a service firms work on a pay-per-performance (PPP) model where they are compensated for opportunities created or deals closed, while other firms are compensated on a retainer model. Both models have advantages, although retainer-based firms are typically seen as more likely to focus on the quality of the introductions, while PPP firms are incentivized to create as many introductions as possible regardless of quality.
Deciding to outsource your sales function has many advantages — some are specific to the sales function while others apply to many types of outsourcing. General advantages of BPO (business processes outsourcing) include lower costs, accelerated results, and less day-to-day management.
Some organizations will outsource their sales department to develop an effective go-to-market sales strategy. By leveraging the expertise of a sales-first organization through an outsourcing agreement, you can quickly identify who your best buyers are, what features are important to them, and how they like to be contacted.