While outsourcing strategies have transformed the B2B landscape over the last decade, one of the most hotly debated areas has been inside sales and marketing. Many leaders considered them strictly internal functions, too central to trust to outside hands. Yet these days more and more companies are handing over functions like marketing automation, lead generation, telemarketing and inside sales to expert external partners.
If you’re new to outsourcing you might assume the most obvious benefit is simply lifting a burden off your team. That the new partner can take care of time-consuming responsibilities while your team focuses on its core mission. But outsourcing is also an opportunity to acquire expertise you don’t have. Maybe it’s taking advantage of a call mastery program or deep insights about your company’s buying personas.
The partner can also bring fresh eyes to your business – and compare that new perspective with verified industry benchmarks. There’s no need to hire new full-time staff to get the right talent bench or retrain your existing team on a long learning curve. You can leapfrog over delays and tap advanced expertise on day one. What does that lead to? More revenue from experts that specialize in inside sales excellence and a bench for minimizing downtime.
Just one caveat: outsourcing isn’t something to plunge into. Your partner will act as an extension of your brand, with your image and messaging in their hands, which means you want to pick very capable hands. The other team might also have different processes and approaches in a few areas. To ensure your partner fits productively into your existing dynamic, you’ll need to work through three phases: understanding if outsourcing is right for you, picking valuable and compatible partners, and then making the partnership work.
Diagnosing Your Needs
To understand if an outsourced inside sales partner makes the most sense for you, see if any of the following traits fit your business:
- You’d like to rapidly increase sales to boost, meet seasonal demands or accompany growth but don’t have the bandwidth, right in-house technology or other resources.
- Your growth involves handling new geographic regions outside your wheelhouse – and you need experienced sales and marketing pros who understand those areas.
- You’d like to focus your resources on organizational goals beyond sales and marketing.
Or maybe you’re grappling with this ongoing challenge: a high turnover rate in your inside sales department. If you’re spending significant sums on constant recruitment and training, and continually sacrificing lost relationships and sales, outsourcing could solve that challenge.
Picking the right partner
Your partner will act as your ambassador, conveying your image and commitment to your customers. Ideally, your prospects and customer interactions should be seamless and represented as one team. To attain that seamless feel, a thorough selection process is critical. Also, remember that your partner will influence your internal team as well. Any cultural disconnect will be felt on every level, creating a fissure that could derail momentum.
To assess whether a prospective partner’s culture is compatible with your own, evaluate them on these measures:
- Experience. Have they handled clients in your industry, or helped businesses with similar objectives? Will the learning curve be minimal?
- Skill. Do they have the talent bench you don’t? Can they supplement the right skill set so your people can focus on their own directives?
- Audience. Do they understand your target audience – how to sell to your buying personas?
- Reporting process. Is there a feedback loop and how does it work? What metrics will measure success? What specific data will you get?
- Cost and Value. Don’t just factor in their fees; consider the overall value of the above areas. Make sure you anticipate the resources needed to make the partnership work and have an understanding of the ROI goals needed to justify the outsourcing model.
Turning Synergy into Success
One of the most common – and poisonous – partnership mistakes is the attempt to micromanage activities. Successful partnerships are built on trust. If you’ve done your research and concluded that this is the best partner for your goals, at some point you’ll need to hand over the keys and watch your partner drive off.
Candid communication is key here, both internally and with your partner. Map out expectations and agree on your definition of success. Both teams are going to be playing off each other’s strengths – and fostering open, frequent dialogues will help everyone feel more connected.
That transparency will also help you earn the necessary buy-in. Schedule quarterly business reviews with stakeholders to share partnership progress details. Give your existing sales team the information they need to feel comfortable and confident about the “new guys.” Let them know this new relationship will benefit them so they’re motivated to collaborate with the other team instead of competing with them. Any sense of secrecy, internally or externally, can lead to a fractured program so outline responsibilities and share successes and setbacks. Create an environment where you are both learning and pushing for the best results. Foster a safe environment to get better together on the campaign results. True success comes from true partnership vs. a ‘just another vendor’ and adversarial approach. By keeping everyone clear on where they fit into the partnership, you’ll build a united team that shares wins, doesn’t hide defeats and builds on lessons learned to reach great results.
The Evolving Partnership
Even great relationships change over time. As the partnership continues, evaluate its success from a variety of angles. Do the metrics match expectations?
Remember to set realistic expectations. For example: Tracking closed/won deals in a six month trial when you already know your typical sales cycle is eight months, sets you up for failure. Focus on the pipeline vs. the closed/won in this case. What ROI are you seeing – does it justify the relationship from an investment perspective? How long is it taking potential sales to hit the pipeline? Is your partner offering up actionable data and providing quality qualitative insight?
Regular check-ins will provide you with this intelligence, as well as opportunities for modification. You may decide to pull some areas back in-house or hand over even more responsibilities. Two years down the road, your partnership may look very different from what you intended. That’s a good thing – it means the program is growing with your needs. Keep talking, testing and measuring and you’ll create the map to long-term success with an outsourced sales model.