In an ideal world, salespeople would be able to focus strictly on sales. Their efforts would be lean and efficient without any administrative or technical responsibilities bogging them down.
For most sales organizations, that's the goal. It's the perfect model of how they'd like their operations to run. And while that objective isn't always attainable, most companies still work towards it by leveraging something known as sales support.
Here, we'll explore that concept a bit further and see what it can look like in practice.
What is sales support?
Sales support is the sum of the resources that support a sales org's efforts by taking care of its more fundamental, nuts-and-bolts responsibilities — allowing sales reps to focus on selling and closing deals. It can include elements like supportive materials, tools, and employees (either internal or outsourced).
There's no definitive guide or structure for how an organization should approach sales support. A company's sales support infrastructure could include any combination of actual people, automation, digital tools, printed or online reference materials, or any other entity that can sort or analyze information to make sales reps' lives easier.
Nowadays, many companies are prioritizing technology when carrying out sales support functions. Several roles and responsibilities that used to take manual effort have been automated, so naturally, businesses are gravitating towards the tools that make that possible, as they're generally more cost-effective than using employees.
That being said, a lot of organizations still hire sales support reps — workers whose responsibilities solely revolve around the less glamorous, more nitty-gritty elements of their companies' sales operations.
Here's a list of what some of those responsibilities might look like.
The Various Roles of Sales Support
- Product Training
- Following Up With Customers to See if They're Satisfied
- Lead Generation
- Market Communication
1. Product Training
Sales support is often tasked with product training — typically for individual reps. It might sound obvious, but you want your sales reps to be as well-informed and prepared as possible. The most effective sales process in the world won't work if a rep has no idea what they're talking about.
Selling a product without extensive knowledge about it puts you at a substantial disadvantage. What if the prospect has product-specific questions? What if they want to know the ins and outs of how you stack up to your competitors? How can you expect them to trust you if you don't even trust your product enough to take time to understand it, yourself?
Product training can come from a variety of sales support parties and formats. In some cases, it might be conducted by product experts through personal meetings with reps.
It might be through training courses — conducted either virtually or in person. And sometimes, "sales support" in this context is as simple as providing sales reps with manuals and other technical documents.
2. Following Up With Customers to See if They're Satisfied
Another potential function of sales support is customer outreach and follow-up. Your prospect's experience with your sales organization doesn't end when they buy. In many respects, that's when it begins.
Being attentive and mindful of your customers' experiences is a big part of establishing lasting relationships and sustaining success in the long run. And while you don't want to be overzealous and badger your base, it helps to check in on them every now and then and see how they're enjoying your product or service.
In some instances, reps, themselves, are expected to reach out to the customers they bring on, but that's not always the case. Many companies delegate this kind of responsibility to sales support associates.
3. Lead Generation
If your sales reps are responsible for generating their own leads, they're probably wasting time that could be better allocated to refining their sales strategies, connecting with prospects, or mastering your sales process.
Lead generation is a task best delegated to your sales support infrastructure. It's up to that side of the business to find potential business through avenues like social media, direct company research, or email campaigns.
When it comes down to it, a sales rep's job is to make the most of the leads they're given, so it shouldn't be on them to find those leads, to begin with. Their time is better spent translating prospect interest to business, your sales support infrastructure needs to make that as easy as possible for them — taking care of lead generation is a key part of that process.
4. Market Communication
Some sales support functions extend beyond the conventional reach of your average sales organization to other departments, including marketing. Active market communications — how your company reaches and interacts with the market around it — is often a key aspect of sales support.
Tasks like advertising, distributing press releases, coordinating email campaigns, or any other marketing-oriented action aimed at improving your brand image and spreading the word about your product or service can qualify as sales support.
A sales rep's job is considerably easier when they're speaking on behalf of a reputable business that prospects have some understanding of. That's why active market communication and letting the world know about your business is a crucial sales support function.
No matter the size, nature, or structure of your sales organization you absolutely should be (and probably are) leveraging some sort of sales support infrastructure. One way or another, you need to trim as much fat as possible from your sales reps' efforts — building out and refining how you approach sales support is the best way to get there.