Build your pipeline, build your revenue: this is the rhythm of almost every successful product-based organization. In fact, research shows that companies who actively manage their pipelines see up to 28% higher revenue growth.
But pipeline management is more than predicting close dates and deal sizes. True pipeline management means tending to your pipeline’s health filling it with high-quality leads and moving those leads to purchase.
You may want to outsource sales development if:
- You have large deal sizes (i.e. $15,000+ average annually)
- You have long sales cycles (i.e. 3 mo+, but sometimes shorter cycles work too)
- You are looking for high velocity or high-quality leads (or both)
- You need help supporting a large influx of leads (like from events or trade shows)
To manage a healthy pipeline, you not only have to have the right plan, you need the right people in the right places. Often that means being willing to enter a new market, being open to trying something new, or being able to expand your sales team. Taking any one of these steps to increase your bottom line, however, requires time, money, and expertise.
Many companies today are realizing that outsourced sales solutions are vital to business. The strategy makes sense, but what’s the difference between an in-house sales team and an outsourced one? We cover that and more in this complete guide to choosing an outsourced sales partner.
- In-House vs. Outsourced Sales Development: Which is Best When?
- What Kinds of Outsourced Sales Approaches Are There?
- How to Choose an Outsourced Sales Development Partner
- Setting Your Outsourced Sales Team Partnership Up for Success
In-House vs. Outsourced Sales Development: Which is Best When?
Whether you’re in the rapid growth phase of an early-stage startup or working to achieve incremental growth at a well-established organization, your number one focus is sales. One of your biggest decisions can be whether it’s most productive to keep the process exclusively internal or if there are advantages to outsourcing. But how do you know which approach will best meet your needs or when it’s time to make a change?
It all depends on what stage of business you’re in. If you’re in the sales exploration stage, for example—with more questions than answers— relying on your internal sales team is probably your best option. Because of their more intimate relationship with your developers and engineers, an internal team will not only have a more thorough understanding of your product, they’ll be able to dig deeper to understand your customer acquisition triggers.
The lessons you learn at this stage of your business lifecycle are crucial for success down the line. For example, having an internal team can make filtering early sales feedback to your development team faster and more efficient, which can help you improve your product and ultimately make it easier to sell.
However, if you already have the answers (or at least most of them), and you need to scale your sales approach to hit your quotas, it’s probably time to consider the services of outsourced sales specialists. Outsourced teams are made up of sales professionals who are specially trained to execute and optimize the sales process. The right outsourced sales partner (we’ll tell you how to select one later in this article) will learn your market and their preferences fast, then help you refine and polish your approach.
But why wouldn’t you want to scale your internal team instead?
Often, people use sales development representative (SDR) positions as stepping stones in their career. In fact, the average tenure of an SDR is 12 to 18 months. Pair that with a typical ramp-up time of around three to four months, and you’re looking at a heavy-churn position with poor productivity.
To top it off, there are additional costs and risks associated with hiring an internal team—including providing them adequate time off and other basic employment benefits.
Outsourced reps, on the other hand, are far from entry-level. They’re career SDRs who have perfected the knowledge and skills necessary to handle first-contact, high-pressure scenarios that come with prospecting. That means instead of hoping for the best with entry-level employees, you’re investing in a team that knows how to get the job done.
Many outsourced sales companies have a large team of SDRs under management, and oversight and training are handled in-house. So, anyone new to their company will get a complete education on what it takes to become successful. Should anyone require time off, they have a pool of talent to fill in as needed so you always have a team working for you at full capacity.
At the end of the day, however, you might decide to make your decision solely on which team delivers better performance. It’s hard to guarantee the output of your internal sales team, but if you choose the right partner for your company, the output of your outsourced partnership can be guaranteed.
We’ll explore how that works a little closer in the following section.
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The Different Ways to Outsource Sales
The biggest mistake companies make when they go to hire an outsourced sales team is that they don’t understand there are different kinds of outsourced sales strategies to choose from.
There are actually four different types of external sales approaches, and finding the right fit is key to your success. However, doing so can be challenging.
Most outsourced sales companies are very good at selling you the approach they offer—whether it’s the right fit or not. Because of this, it’s important to understand the nuances of each and what that means for you.
Here’s the difference between the four types:
1. The pay-per-performance approach is a velocity engine
The name of the game for pay-per-performance companies is velocity. These kinds of companies are focused on getting a large volume of people interested in taking a meeting with your internal sales team. This approach is great for mature companies that know their ideal customer profile very well and have defined, proven messaging.
For example, if you are trying to scale an already-working sales approach or need follow-up support after specific marketing activities (like events and tradeshows), a pay-per-performance approach can get you in touch and in the door. Outreach in these particular scenarios will be very phone-heavy, and many companies only charge for meetings that happen.
2. Dedicated resources are an extension of your existing team
Most sales development companies — in our estimation, up to 60% — provide dedicated resources. This approach is facilitated by small teams of people who work 100% for you on your project(s). Not only is their team an extension of yours, the closer relationship with your internal salespeople means there are smoother hand-offs, and more attention paid to the qualification quality of a lead.
This model is best to use if you need to experiment to refine your sales approach. For example, it can allow for multiple initiatives to be run in parallel and benchmarking performance within certain industries, personas, etc. Because of this, dedicated team approaches are more high-touch and cadence-based, looping in multiple channels including video, direct mail, phone, social media, and more.
3. Point solutions fill a specific need
The next type, point solutions, are the kinds of companies that approach you with offers to do specialized outreach on a specific platform, for example, direct messaging via LinkedIn.
Like most 1-to-many approaches, point solutions can yield results early on. However, they typically fall off quickly, doing little more than filling niche needs on a temporary basis—sometimes as a bridge to a new endeavor, sometimes as a Hail Mary attempt to meet an impending goal.
4. The multi-solution provider
Many outsourced sales companies focus on just one of the approaches mentioned above, while others take a more holistic approach. Multi-solution providers believe each customer is unique and customize the support they provide based on your business objectives and goals.
These companies offer a spectrum of services, taking a more tailored approach that blends the best of all the approaches to present the ideal solution. For example, one company might engage their performance side with a very hands-off program, another may use both sides to fully support large global sales endeavors.
Next, we’ll talk about how to choose the right partner.
How to Choose an Outsourced Sales Partner
With so many companies and so many business models to choose from how do you pick the right one? Making a decision can be challenging because most outsourced sales vendors look similar on the surface. It’s only after you peel back the top layers that you can truly understand what they do and whether or not they’ll meet your specific needs.
At the end of the day, what you really want is a partner that takes a consultative approach, one that will help you meet your goals with the right lead gen engine. But buyer beware, sometimes it can sound like the company you are looking to partner with will be able to deliver what you need, but after a few months your results say otherwise.
The reason is often because the vendor you’ve hired has different objectives than you do. So the first thing you should do is establish your goal.
Lead velocity or lead quality, which is right for me?
Just like deciding whether or not it’s time to outsource, deciding which kind of outsourcing partner you need also depends heavily on where you are in your company’s journey.
If you’re in a stage of hypergrowth, a vendor with a velocity-based model might be the right option. Or, if you need to dial-in your market and the best way to reach them, a company with a focus on lead qualification could be the better bet.
But what if you’re not sure what you need?
If that’s the case, we recommend looking for a company with a customizable approach. A select few partners, like Inside Sales Solutions, give a wide range of support based on your needs.
To avoid engaging with the wrong partner, we suggest evaluating your candidates using these three criteria:
1. Choose a partner with an approach that matches your goals
The first rule of thumb for selecting an outsourced sales development partner is to know your goals. Are you looking to fill your pipeline with potential client meetings? Or, are you hoping to maximize your sales team’s time by ensuring that each of your prospects is highly qualified and ready to buy?
Whatever your aim, you’ll want to make sure it aligns with the strengths and successes of the vendor you choose. A mismatch could result in frustration on both sides of the equation.
For example, if you choose a dedicated resource solution that approaches the sales process with a deep-level, BANT qualification, you’re probably not going be excited about the results if your company has a high-velocity mindset.
The reverse is true as well: If you hire a pay-per-performance vendor and expect every meeting to be extremely well qualified or that no opportunities are left on the table, they won’t be able to deliver.
2. Choose a partner that has worked with organizations like yours
Another important evaluation standard for choosing an outside sales partner is to make sure they’ve been successful helping companies just like yours. If they’ve done it before, they’ll be starting with the baseline knowledge that can get you up and running faster.
You might start by looking for a company with niche experience in your industry. There are many companies that specialize in specific areas, providing proven solutions and approaches that work for unique marketplaces like SaaS and technology, for example.
Most companies have a list of clients ready and willing to share their experience as references. When interviewing vendors, ask for case studies or, better yet, ask to speak to their clients directly. You’ll be able to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and whether or not they’ve been successful in the past.
3. Choose a partner who is transparent
Some of the most common questions companies looking to hire an outsourced sales team ask involve knowing what to expect once you begin a partnership.
Do I pay for every name or do I only pay for successful appointments?
How will we know what exactly your team is doing if they’re not here in the office with us?
Because just about every company on the market has a different approach, picking one that values transparency will ensure that all of your questions get answered and that you don’t encounter any surprises after your contract is implemented.
The final differentiators
Once you’re sure you’re comparing companies apples to apples (e.g. two pay-per-performance providers against one another), there are a few differentiators that set the best companies apart from the rest of the crowd.
- Their experience and specialization
- Their project management philosophy
- Their training and development approach
Look for a company with a consultative, hands-on style and a personality that compliments the vibe of your company. Doing so will help you understand whether or not it makes sense to welcome them to your team.
Setting Your Outsourced Sales Team Partnership up for Success
Whether you’re measuring interest, leads, opportunities, or closed deals—results are the name of the game for any sales scenario.
Just like your team, outsourced sales development teams are goal-oriented too.
If you’ve found the right match—a partner whose goals and business philosophies align with yours—there are a few things you can do from the beginning to strengthen your relationship and ensure your partnership drives results.
Here are three ways to strengthen your partner relationship for better results:
1. Set Expectations
Sharing your expectations from the very beginning of your relationship will ensure you get started on the right foot. This means much more than saying “our meetings should always start on time.”
Dig into the details: Outline your meeting agendas. Zero in on the KPIs that will be important to understand your successes and your weaknesses. Make sure you clearly understand each other’s unique value, your market, and who you need to go after.
Expectations can vary widely from organization to organization and project to project. Aligning early is important, because what’s important regarding leads for an established market and mature product will be much different than for a startup up entering a new market.
2. Open Collaboration
Once you’ve hired a partner, sending them off and running immediately can be tempting. But it can be detrimental without a clear method for collaboration.
Before sending anyone into the trenches, open up your relationship to collaboration. Start by giving your agency some insights into your current process and a few criteria for getting up and running on their own. Then, be prepared to facilitate a consistent feedback loop.
In these debriefs, ask good questions. Talk about both the positive and negative results you are seeing. Then, make sure you act on whatever feedback you get. If it’s product related, share that with your development group. If its customer related, share it with your marketing team.
Whatever you do, just don’t let the data or information get lost or sit dormant.
3. Establish Transparency
Just because your teams are working in different places and technically for different companies, doesn’t mean you have to operate that way.
Remember, your outsourced sales representatives are part of your team. Make them feel that way.
One way to do that is to share access to your tools. For example, give your prospecting team access to your CRM to make your process run more smoothly. Data can be updated in real-time and opportunities can be added quickly and efficiently.
Outsourced Sales is Your Answer
Trying something new or entering a new market to build revenue can be a scary endeavor.
Especially because building your pipeline and getting in front of new people is a hard skill to master.
But, partnering with an outsourced sales team is a low-risk, low-cost way to gain an edge in the market without overburdening your internal team or hiring additional in-house sales team members. This allows your existing team to specialize in later-stage, higher-value tasks that take you to then next level and help you crush your quotas.
Whether you need experts at producing a lot of leads fast, a team focused purely on lead quality, outsourced sales is your answer. At the end of the day, if you’ve hired the right partner, you will be successful.