Sales support refers to a variety of functions that help your sales representatives focus on actually selling and closing deals. These functions differ per company, industry and sales team. And, they can be done by hired associates, outsourcing teams, productivity tools, and – worst case scenario – by the sales representative themselves.
While sales support is not the factor that closes deals – it is crucial and important to your sales operations.
As your sales rep puts his or her best foot forward and gets in the proverbial door, sales support has already done the background work. It is the administrative, research and customer support work that cracked that door open, in the first place.
What Are The Types of Sales Support?
There are two major types of sales support that you need to employ: helpers and tools. Simply put, these are people, tools and documents that you’d want to have available for your sales team to use.
Sales Support: Helpers
Helpers are people or functions best done by people. They require a good level of expertise and decision-making skills that only trained men and women can provide.
Their sales support functions include:
- Lead generation
- Product training
- Customer services
- Active market communications
Lead generation: Sales support finds, qualifies and filters leads for the sales representative to contact. This can be through several channels, such as the company website, social media, professional networks, email campaigns and online data mining. This already cuts a lot of time off necessary research work.
Lead generation can be outsourced to qualified service providers or done internally by a sales associate. It depends on the specificity of your requirements. The more specific and specialized your target market is, the better it is for you to retain some of your lead generation functions within your team.
Product training and customer services: By making product materials and customer support readily available to your prospect, you are helping them make their purchasing decisions.
They can read your product specifications and manuals. If there are questions, they can reach out to your sales support team. Nothing beats access when it comes to tipping the scales in favor of your brand.
Active market communications: This refers to your public outreach, be it in the form of promotions, paid advertising, PR press releases and other marketing strategies. Market awareness is requisite to supporting your sales team. The more aware the public is about your brand, the easier it becomes to sell.
Sales Support: Tools
The tools of the trade are documents and software that help sales reps get their job done.
This could be as simple as letter, presentation and video templates that are easy to personalize, with a few clicks. Or, you might draft help documents on your brand’s benefits, and answers to common questions and objections.
Software tools include pre-programmed calculators and computer-aided designs (CAD). You might even have a website, which gives your reps access to secure pages for the private viewing of their prospects.
You can also invest in printed paraphernalia to leave with your prospective clients. This is still employed in certain industries, such as real estate. However, it may be redundant in some cases. If you already have a website with requisite information, product manuals and the like, why waste your budget on leaving a paper trail. You just need to make your market aware of these readily accessible online materials.
A comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) system, integrated with a reliable CTI system, is today’s indispensable sales support power tool. CTI makes your team more accessible and responsive to your prospective clients. While CRM can help you track the progress of each lead, at each point of contact.
What To Look For In A Sales Support Associate?
When you decide to task a person to support your sales team, it is important to have a clear idea on the jobs that you will delegate and the skills necessary for accomplishing them. This comes with optimizing your sales operations. You need to make sure that each member – the sales reps and the sales support group – is contributing their fair share to your company’s success.
Here are some of the tasks that you might assign to a sale support member:
- Lead processing and management
- Lead research and filtering
- Customer account monitoring
- Prospect and customer communications
- Research, monitoring and reporting
- Schedule management
Sales support is typically office-based and available 40 hours a week. However, with today’s outsourcing and telecommuting options, part-time employment of an internal or outsourced support staff has become popular. Again, your choice depends on how much you’d benefit from a dedicated office-based support staff.
At the very least, you can qualify your support team using the following criteria:
Training and educational qualifications
The requisite training and educational qualifications for providing adequate sales support differ per industry. You might be able to do with a talented individual with just a high school diploma or a US Bureau of Labor Statistics-recognized vocational course certification. Or, choose candidates that have certification from organizations like the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Experience in your industry is also a plus.
Rapport and Interpersonal Skills
As with the rest of your sales team, a huge part of a sales support’s work deals with people. From answering phones to providing customer support, good rapport and interpersonal skills are requisite.
Crucial to sales support is good research skills. You will rely on your sales support team for leads so they better come up with qualified ones. Lead generation is one of the more time-consuming aspects of any sales operations. You need to mine for leads, as well as qualify and filter through them. This is work best left to the support team. You sales reps should use their time crafting their approach and getting the leads down the sales funnel.
Attention to Detail
There is a good level of clerical, computing and administrative work that comes with sales support. You will eventually rely on this data for follow-ups, up-selling and cross-selling, customer support, and more. So, the details matter and your support team should pay good attention to it.
Sales Support Strategies
In the end, regardless of the moves you make in organizing your sales team – whether you employ an extra hand or external support, or acquire the most powerful tools in the trade – keep these proven sales support strategies in mind. The central idea is to free up your sales representatives. They should use up most of their time contacting clients, and trying to close deals.
Keep administrative tasks to a minimum.
Somrat Niyogi, CEO of the sales automation app, Stitch, says: “Organizations that understand how to minimize the amount of time salespeople spend doing administrative tasks, such as data entry, win by helping them be more productive.”
Analyze the prevailing sales process within your team. What are the tasks involved? Is it necessary for sales reps to spend hours in front of the before they get in contact with a lead? Is your CRM system user-friendly enough that it does not eat up man-hours?
See where you can intervene using sales support helpers and tools. Streamline your process such that your sales reps spend more of their time actually selling.
Qualify leads before sending them over to your sales reps.
Sparkroom Managing Director, Al Huezenga, suggests that you should: “Define your target audience and recognize that people outside of that definition are more likely to be wasting your time than resulting in sales.”
It is a waste of time to talk to someone who’s not ready to buy. So, it is crucial to pinpoint at what stage of the buyer’s journey is it practical to forward leads to a sales rep. That’s the only time to start a conversation.
There are commercially available behavioral and demographic data from companies, such as Neustar, to help profile leads.
Enable better communications and collaboration.
Access, both inward and outward, is key to a more productive sales team. So, empower them with power tools such as a comprehensive CRM system that’s integrated with your CTI system. Make lead information readily accessible to your sales reps, wherever they are. And, ensure that your representatives can be reached by their prospective clients at all times.
Use a CRM system that is specific for sales.
Not all CRM systems are created equal. Choose one with sales productivity at its core. This helps you keep focused on your customers buyer’s journey, at their precise stages, through lead prioritization, lead nurturing, automated reminds and the like.
Invest in regular training and team development opportunities.
The training and development of your team do not immediately add to your bottom line – yes. But, in return, you get more effective sales representatives.
Mark Donnolo of SalesGlobe says: “Top performing sales organizations invest in the development of their teams…. From technical training on products and services to sales process training, or gathering regional teams together once a year to share best practices, a well-planned training and development program provides a measurable ROI.”
Gamification strategies can help push your sales reps into action.
There is a competitive streak in most of us, and you can tap into this through gamification strategies that allot scores for each sales action and closed deals.
According to Leslie Strech, CEO of CallidusCloud: “According to a report from Aberdeen Group, companies do better on their quotas with gamification…. 85 percent of reps attain their quota and 51 percent of new hires achieve their numbers in their first year…. In the absence of gamification, only 78 percent of reps make quota and only 42 percent of new hires meet their numbers.”