The use of the agency model to help optimize sales operations is increasingly common. This guide will help you pick the right outsourced sales solution for you.
The use of outsourced sales development has become mainstream. And it’s not limited to technology companies. Professional service firms, manufacturers, and others are a part of this trend.
If you’ve made the decision to use an outsourced model for some of your sales operations, where do you begin? Google or DuckDuckGo searches are starting points. So is tapping your professional network for referrals.
After assembling a list of viable candidates, the next step is to choose the right provider. The right provider can break through the noise and get the sales traction you want. Making a poor selection will set you back time and money. Opportunity cost, too.
The first step is understanding the major categories of outsourced sales providers.
The landscape of outsourced sales
Outsourced sales is seldom a one-size-fits-all service. With many different options available, how do you choose the right partner? Let’s start with a quick primer on the major categories available to you:
Offshore call centers
Visualize a phone bank, whether physical or virtual. While they may have a US office, the resource you are using is offshore. It could be based in India or the Philippines, or locations like Mexico or Costa Rica in this hemisphere.
A permutation of this option exists in the US. In this case, the telesales reps speak English as their principal language.
The price of these services is cheap, especially the off-shore option. The prospect experience and the quality of leads are lower. Although hard to quantify, you assume brand and image risk.
Email appointment setters
You probably receive at least 10 emails a day from this group of providers. The subject line often says something like: “Possible to talk on Tuesday, <insert your name>?” A few providers assert email is more effective than cold calls for booking meetings. We know from experience that a multi-channel strategy, including a human touch, always wins.
Not sure much else needs to be said about this category.
Outsourced sales development providers
This group consists of a range of vendors. Some use a pool of fractional resources to support a client contract. Others use dedicated resources.
The resources themselves may be 1099 contractors or W2 employees. All are likely to use a mix of outreach: phone, email, and social. All are top-of-the-funnel only providers.
This group focuses on sales cycles that average 30 days. The product is typically a commodity with a standard buyer persona, so decisions are driven by price, availability, or service.
Turnkey full service providers
This group provides dedicated sales development specialists, applies clear processes, supports the full sales cycle as appropriate, and offers access to additional value-adds like direct demand generation and inbound marketing expertise. Some do channel development as well.
This group thrives with sales cycles of three to 12 months – typical of enterprise buyers. They are more expensive than other options, use full-time, W2 employees, and can deliver more value depending on your goals and objectives.
This is the space that RaaStr leads.
Which option is right for you? The answer depends on the outcome you want to achieve.
Set clear goals
Before you engage any provider, you must get clear on what problem you are trying to solve.
Is it a desire to “feed” account executives with quality sales leads? Is it to support an initiative to win new logos? Take a product or service to a new geography or customer segment? Develop a new channel?
Next, get clear on the goals. This could be the number of meetings weekly with qualified prospects. Or the percentage of pipeline influenced by your outsourced sales development representatives. If you are looking for full funnel service, it could be quarter-over-quarter growth or number of deals closed-won monthly.
Criteria for vendor selection
Whether you choose us or another provider, we want you to make the most informed decision possible for your business. After all, failure wastes resources. You suffer a significant opportunity cost. Answering questions from your stakeholders will take time.
Perhaps the most widely adopted decision framework for selecting a vendor is this: product (or service), price, delivery, and support. This framework gets shuffled when the decision is to outsource a function performed internally. Now categories like experience, reference, capabilities, and financial stability move to the forefront.
The criteria for selecting a trusted partner for outsourced sales borrows from these concepts and is a little different at the same time. Consider these 7 simple steps:
1. Data is everything
Higher conversion rates and faster sales cycles always start with a clear ideal customer profile and well-articulated buyer personas. Otherwise, execution is fire-ready-aim, not ready-aim-fire.
Make sure your potential provider understands both concepts to a high degree of competence. Can the provider apply them “in the field” at scale?
For example, can they speak knowledgeably about demographic information, decision drivers, challenges and fears, and the role in the purchase decision? What tools do they use for prospecting? Do they rely on your lists, or can you use their systems and processes to up your game?
Quality data is everything. Don’t hesitate to nix a prospective vendor if they fail this test.
2. The importance of transparency
The right vendor-partner should be able to provide transparency into sales productivity including activities, conversion, and efficiency ratios. You would expect this information if it were your employees using your sales tech stack, so you get it.
If you don’t have this degree of transparency, then this is one of the many benefits of picking the “right” outsourced sales development provider.
3. Rapid continuous improvement
Ask your finalists how they use data and expertise to improve the quality of sales outcomes. If the provider can not credibly explain the process they use from collection, to analysis, to observation, to key learnings, to adjustments, then cross them off the list.
By way of example, we use a lead scoring process to get real-time feedback from our client-partners. This folds back into our prospecting and qualification processes. We A/B test our sequences relentlessly.
4. Your experience is a proxy for how the vendor may sell for you
The sales process you experience is a reflection of how the provider may sell on your behalf.
How long did it take the provider to respond to your initial web inquiry? While the reply may not be immediately, less than one hour is the standard. How fast inbound leads atrophy is well documented.
When responding to outreach, whether it is an email, a phone call, or a social network contact, is the message clear? Is there a story? Do they use a sequence? While outsourced sales may not fit your business now, if they can’t make their case, chances are they will struggle to make yours.
Once engaged, the provider needs to work to understand your business. They need to understand the reason why you’re interested in outsourced sales development. The better their questions are, the more likely they will bring similar conversation intelligence to prospects on your behalf. Make sure the follow-up is timely and concise.
If you decide you want the prospective vendor to provide a proposal, make sure it is well-written and easy to follow. A lack of clarity may signal the vendor has not thought things through. Any agreement that transfers too much risk to the vendor is shortsighted. A vendor that fails to push back on this should give you pause.
5. Price and value
The adage applies: you get what you pay for. Chances are you can always find a vendor somewhere to do “it” for less money.
Full service providers like RaaStr may cost a bit more. Those with fewer capabilities and less expertise, whether off-shore or on-shore, will cost less. None of this is surprising.
The key questions to answer: is the price-to-value right for my business? Is this provider the right partner? If the answers are yes, then move forward with haste. If not, keep looking.
6. Importance of being agile
Things change. When speaking with potential providers, get a sense of how adaptable they are to changing circumstances. This could be your go-to-market model, selling motion, and real-time feedback from customers and prospects.
You need a provider who can flex with you – and who has the ability to push and challenge you to go faster.
7. Access other essential services
Going to market effectively requires orchestration. Critical skills and expertise from different functions need to come together at the right time to engage and persuade prospective buyers.
You may need a little extra help to fine-tune messaging, create persuasive sales aids, or strengthen inbound marketing and web-to-lead processes. Being able to quickly tap into these capabilities using a provider familiar to you, your team, your buyer personas, value proposition, and selling motion can save time and money. And get you closer to a great outcome.
Ready, set, go
Now you have the practical criteria to select the right provider for your outsourced sales initiative. If you treat this as a low-level commodity service, then get ready for results that reflect this. If you set out to create a true client-partner relationship, you’re much more likely to achieve the sales outcomes you desire.
We believe that we’re uniquely positioned to help prospective client-partners achieve their sales goals. Our priority is to support you the best we can so that you make a decision right for your business.
Want to talk more? We would love to hear from you. Contact us today.