Take a Load Off
Here’s good news for sales managers: You don’t have to do everything yourself. There are ways of offloading some parts of the selling process.
If you need or want to tap new markets but just don’t have the sales staff to make the inroads, consider outsourcing all or just parts of the sales effort. Fortunately, outsourcing options are abundant.
Third-party firms can take over one or several steps in the sales cycle without the heavy up-front commitments necessary to build inside resources. Each firm has its special expertise, working methods, and payment model. Pay-for-performance terms are available in several cases.
ACS, which does nearly $7 billion a year in business-process outsourcing, became part of Xerox in February 2010. Mike Wooden, senior vice president of business process solutions at ACS, says the combined firms can now offer a very flexible and broad suite of sales solutions.
ACS has 34,000 people who sell and perform financing, accounting, IT, customer care, technical support, and many other functions for major corporations. Before the acquisition, the firm worked mostly in tactical sales. “But Xerox does relationship sales, dedicated to regions and accounts, so we can couple that with our tactical sales and do high-end to tactical selling,” Wooden explains. The new ACS unit also offers email, social-media, Web, and marketing campaigns. “We can do end-to-end sales and marketing.”
The firm can provide leads, nurture leads, or take some sales all the way to the close. ACS still does best with uncomplicated sales, for which the value proposition is easier to explain to prospects. “Generally, [complex sales] are not for us, but we have found we can do more than we thought,” says Wooden.
“Give us the noncore sales; let us do a pilot test on a market you do not have enough coverage on, small or midsize companies, or markets you cannot reach efficiently with outside reps,” Wooden urges. “You can see how we do, and we need to test it, too, since we get paid for success only.”
Wooden is confident of success: “We put in sixty phones for one client and in twelve months drove $22.5 million in revenue, against an expectation of $10 million. For a Fortune 50 company, we went after small to midsize prospects and in six months drove $139 million of lifetime value.” He argues that this outsource option is more economical than hiring and training sales reps for many markets.
ACS brings some distinctive resources to the outsource option. It has 5,000 native-language speakers in Latin America and the Caribbean. It can touch customers many ways, including in both phone and video chats. And its nonsales units can help with back-office functions and top-flight technologies for connecting with client marketing systems. Wooden summarizes, “We have size and scale and a full suite. And we can make use of our and Xerox’s customer connections. We can optimize every touch.”
Ten-year-old Good Leads offers three basic levels of outsourced sales help. Its Contact Builder supplies leads from public lists or lists provided by clients but verified as “cheeks in seats,” according to CEO Bob Good: “We make sure [those leads] are there.”
Good Leads’s marquee offering, Prospect Builder, guarantees a certain quantity of prospects that meet each client’s customized lead-success criteria, similar to BANT criteria: budget, authority, need, and timing. “We sit down and agree with you on these prospect criteria and guarantee a number of leads, or we will replace any that do not meet the criteria,” Good explains.
Good has a highly experienced staff of 50 people, most with college degrees and at least 10 years of sales experience. This experience plus weekly meetings with clients allow Good to make his “replace or repair” guarantee of prospect quality.
“We meet every week to make sure we understand what email or other campaigns are going,” Good says. “You can boost the results of an email or direct-mail campaign by 15 percent with telephone follow-up. And we discuss with clients whether we should change the value proposition in our calls.” He says the market intelligence offered by Good Leads in these meetings is often its most valuable service.
Prospect Builder provides more than just a list of prospects: It also handles appointments for phone, in-person, or Web demos with all the qualified prospects. “We put an Outlook meeting notice in the client’s and prospect’s Outlook calendars and confirm it. We also send the client a lead sheet explaining what we talked about and what he or she should talk about.”
Good Leads’s third offering, Sales Builder, actually sells noncomplex products that are generally less than $10,000 in value. Teradyne used this service.
Good Leads started out in high-tech sales in New England but has expanded into medical devices, energy products, and life sciences across North America. It has represented 500 companies, including Novell, and also worked for foreign trade missions.
“Typically, we work for firms that need an extra touch but do not want to hunt and make cold calls,” Good stresses. “We are usually about 45 percent of the sales process, and our goal is to be premium sales representatives. We don’t take clients who are not ready or are not the right fit for us.”
The first question many companies have to answer is whether to make more use of inside sales resources, according to Doug DeBolt, vice president of West Business Services (WBS). DeBolt thinks inside sales can be a smarter, more economical way of selling to many markets. The next question is whether a company should build up its own inside sales force. WBS offers an inside-sales competency assessment to test how ready a company is to maximize sales through its own inside sales force.
“Some companies are very good at inside sales and should probably build it themselves,” DeBolt acknowledges. For others, WBS offers a partnership to better exploit the potential of a first-class, inside sales organization.
WBS specializes in using inside salespeople to go all or almost all the way to the close for complex, high-value products. “If you are selling a $350,000 medical device and have to do an on-site demonstration, you will need a field salesperson to do that, but we can do almost everything else,” DeBolt says.
WBS offers a full suite of inside sales resources, including online tools, Web demonstrations, and sales-analytics and marketing tools to accompany the sales efforts. It has more than 1,000 professional B2B salespeople, and they are trained thoroughly for each client. In addition, WBS salespeople meet with the client’s field reps to get “street-smart” training on likely customer reactions and effective presentations. And WBS sales managers ride along with the client’s field reps.
WBS specializes in complex sales in three markets: health sciences, consumer products, and small and medium-size businesses in many verticals. The WBS salespeople who are dedicated to each client usually stay within one of these markets and are thus highly and specifically experienced.
– Henry Canaday
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