However, cheaper doesn’t always equal better. If you’re a B2B company, or any business selling a complex solution, nothing beats the personal touch of outside sales.
After all, how many sales emails do you ignore daily? Do you answer, or give your full attention, to every call you take? An outside sales team can generate more human interactions and create strong relationships with the customer. In fact, 95% of people agree face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
Your outside sales team can be your biggest expense or greatest revenue source. To optimize their performance, use these six strategies.
1) Strategically lower costs
The high cost of an outside sales team can be the biggest drag on sales revenue. Luckily, there are some areas where applying strategy makes these costs negligible:
Hire the best candidates
Hiring the right reps is crucial. Employee turnover is one of the biggest expenses in business, especially when those employees are sales reps. It can cost up to 200% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them.
Get hiring right the first time by surveying your best sales reps. Ask about the qualities they use in the field and incorporate them as standards in your hiring process.
Train your reps
Sales training is often overlooked when considering how to cut costs. It looks like an expense, but it’s actually an investment.
Sales training improves performance and creates more business down the line. Setting up an internal sales training program is a cost-effective way of teaching sales skills and product knowledge.
Proper sales training cuts costs preemptively. For a full breakdown of effective sales training, check out Badger's Ultimate Sales Training Guide.
Provide them with technology
Adapting technology for your sales process is like giving your entire team superpowers. The right solution helps your reps finish busy work more quickly, so they can focus on meeting customers and closing more deals. Increased productivity leads to lower costs.
Technology also cuts organizational costs. Outsource the costliest part of your sales process, such as administrative work, lead generation, field activity tracking, and so on.
2) Modernize your sales process
Upgrading your technology isn’t just a smart way to cut costs, it increases sales too. You can eradicate the day-to-day difficulties of your outside sales team while improving interactions.
Transparency is motivating. If the rest of your team can see how many meetings your star sales rep is setting, they'll try harder. This is a friendly way to foster competition and communication. Invest in a “scoreboard” for the office and watch the numbers shoot up.
Track your team’s analytics
A good coach monitors her players’ weak spots. A solid CRM will allow you to get deep into your team’s performance and gain serious insight. Track their meetings, routes, closed deals, and missed opportunities to get an accurate view of their untapped potential.
Implement sales technology
Sales routing tools like Badger Maps are designed to handle the busywork for salespeople. Navigation, planning, and organization are daily hurdles for your sales team. Once eliminated, your reps will have more time to focus on the core aspects of their job -- the ones that make your company profitable.
3) Incentivize success
Your organization’s incentive structure is the biggest influence on your sales team’s performance. It also says a lot about how you set them up to succeed. The sales team’s compensation plan is the biggest expense for most companies, so it has to be managed carefully. The right incentives promote a strong sales funnel and make everyone's job easier.
Create a multi-tiered incentive structure
Research shows that a multi-tiered incentive structure is the best solution for motivating performers across skill levels. Multi-tiered incentives allow “core performers” (reps who make consistent but low value sales) to aim for achievable targets, improving performance among a wider range of employees versus solely the reps in the “top performer” category.
Reward sales velocity
Sales velocity is the speed at which your team is closing deals. A high sales velocity shortens your sales cycle and frees up resources. It’s a symptom of a high-performing sales team, so offer rewards to your reps who close deals the fastest.
Incentivize lead generation
Referrals from current customers close at a much higher rate, and they’re typically pre-qualified and similar to your ideal customer. Reward reps who generate their own referrals.
4) Align sales and marketing for quality leads
Lead quality matters. If your field sales team spends time with uninterested leads, they’re wasting energy and company time. It’s much more effective to have a qualification system in place, filtering unqualified leads into a nurturing campaign until they’re ready to buy. This is a major benefit of aligning your Sales and Marketing departments.
Qualify leads with inbound marketing
Qualify leads by tracking the content they view before interacting with your sales team. Leads that view the pricing page are much more qualified than ones who do no research at all. Make sure your outside sales team is only interacting with leads who’ve been educated and expressed interest. Place tracking links in content to get an estimation of a leads intent and segment them appropriately.
Create lead nurturing campaigns
Leads who aren’t ready to buy are still valuable. A nurturing campaign maintains contact with these leads, educating them on their problem and reminding them of your solution. Marketing can develop segmented campaigns for your unqualified leads and feed them to your sales team as they become ready to buy.
Track leads through the sales cycle
Your sales cycle is also a journey for your customer. As they transition from lead to customer, their relationship with your company changes. Make sure they’re receiving the support they need at every stage by following their progress. Defining your customer’s journey helps you know when to follow-up and provide additional resources with leads. Encourage your sales team to update customer data so your strategy stays relevant.
5) Improve data enrichment by reducing CRM anxiety
The average CRM has a bad reputation for being time-consuming and tedious to maintain. A natural battle emerges between sales team and management as reps interact with their CRM as little as possible and managers require more and more data from the field. Data enrichment improves lead quality, leading to a 40% increase in sales productivity.
The best cure for CRM anxiety is to adapt a CRM that’s easy to use in the field and makes reporting simple. Updating a traditional CRM takes time -- time that a lot of your reps don't have as they rush between appointments.
Provide CRM training
Your sales team is much more likely to use a simple CRM than a complex one, but even the simplest software comes with a learning curve. Use regular training sessions to encourage your sales team to know and love your CRM. This gives your less tech-savvy reps time to learn a system they’d otherwise steer clear of. Training sessions also remind your sales team of the importance of the data they gather.
Enable mobile updates
Don’t make your team wait until they’re back in the office to update their CRM -- they won’t. Data updated in the field is much more accurate and consistent, so enable your reps to gather it in the moment. Your CRM should have a way to input data from a mobile device. Make sure your entire team knows how to do this and does so habitually.
Personalize each rep’s dashboard
This seems obvious, but a generic CRM dashboard isn’t interesting. Make sure each rep can view their personal progress and metrics each time they interact with the CRM. By connecting reps to their goals, you ensure they stay focused and engaged with your CRM.
6) Strengthen sales strategy from the ground up
Your strategy is the biggest contributor to the success of your team. It’s also the area you have the most control over. Your strategy should work with the natural strengths of your team, not against them.
Assign the right territories
Evaluate each rep’s territory thoroughly. Assigning sales territory is a big deal. Your rep should be working in an environment that fits their skill level, which means giving tough territories to experienced reps who can handle them and easy ones to reps who need the experience.
How you communicate says a lot about your leadership style. Do you bring up metrics regularly? How much one-on-one time do you give each rep? Communicate your strategy regularly so that everyone is on the same page. Feedback is an important part of communication, and your team should tailor their self-improvement to your strategy.
Promote a strong sales culture
Your company culture is a result of the values you promote. Encourage a competitive culture with your sales team by ranking reps by various performance metrics. This social pressure will bring out the best in your reps.
An outside sales team is typically necessary to win complex deals. With the right tools, you can offset the costs of an outside team and leverage its benefits.
Originally published May 10, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017