Typically, an organization’s sales function has been developed over time with improvements only made in an ad hoc fashion. It’s unusual for organizations to step back and question the design of their sales function in an objective, multi-faceted way. And when assessments do occur in a holistic fashion, it’s usually after a senior leadership change. But even with a great assessment and sales function redesign, implementation can be disruptive and very difficult—often failing. Never fear! There’s a secret weapon when it comes to transforming your sales function.
Sales Function Transformation Needed
True story. I had an opportunity to work with the new president of a high-tech company. The first few things that stood out to him were the very high cost of sales, declining margins, and slow revenue growth. He saw that 80% of their account base had little interaction with them. So, he turned his attention to the sales team, which was 100% outside sales. Because he was not emotionally attached to the original design, it was easy for him to conclude that he needed account segmentation, to cut back on outside sellers, and to build an inside sales function. At a minimum, the return on that redesign would be better account penetration and increased revenue.
Now for the real challenge. There was a very strong belief within the sales organization that their products could not be sold over the phone, due to a fixed notion that the portfolio was too complex. This was also the reason they wouldn’t allow new sellers to go solo for a full year, insisting they ride along with experienced salespeople during their first year. This new president firmly believed that with the right resources, training, and technology, the company could definitely implement an inside sales function.
However, the more the president drove his vision the more the product line VPs rebelled, due to their deeply-rooted paradigms. The sales managers were allowing emotions to cloud their judgment, instead of rationally considering the situation and possibilities. And, as he looked for resources to perform a cluster analysis on his accounts, quickly implement the required inside sales technologies, and build a sales training program, he was unable to find those resources internally to execute this vision and perform the work needed.
So, What’s the Secret Weapon?
The secret weapon is simple—sales outsourcing. Many people view sales outsourcing as a cost-cutting option similar to offshoring IT services. However, the true value of sales outsourcing is access to a full range of capabilities (not readily available in most companies) to drive such a transformation. From statistical account segmentation, sophisticated coverage modeling, and a turnkey technology stack to process mapping, training development, and objective continuous performance improvement, sales outsourcing can put powerful tools in the hands of senior leadership. Not to mention providing the competency to recruit, retain, and drive the performance of top sellers.
In the case of the new president, his biggest challenge—and something that is often overlooked in sales outsourcing—was the change management element. When attempting to drive significant change, sales leaders (especially those dealing with deeply-rooted paradigms) need to understand that a company specializing in sales outsourcing is going to have the resources and expertise—not to mention an objective, un-emotional view—essential to supporting their efforts. This is what these companies do every day. With sales outsourcing, sales leaders can launch into new areas without disrupting the current sales operation or losing control of the process.
The Rest of the Story
MarketSource was able to fully support the president’s vision by designing and implementing a hybrid sales function with outside and inside sellers. The payoff for the president was deeper account penetration and sales resource availability, increased revenue and customer satisfaction, and reduced cost of sales. And, he proved that their product lines could be sold through inside sales by using resources that provided mere weeks of training—forever shattering the paradigm.