• Prove It: Gauging Future Success of an Outsourced Sales Provider

    Outsourcing sales can be a risky investment, with a great deal of time and money on the line. This can be especially chancy when engaging with a new company, as it is uncertain if they can actually deliver promised results. Engaging with a sales provider with a proven track record of success helps alleviate some of the uncertainty that they will conduct a successful sales program for your organization. But how can you accurately understand their track record? To gauge their true success, you need to dig deeper than what is discussed on websites, in collateral and in live conversations. Focusing on the following three areas will help ensure you partner with a company with experience under their belt.

    1.   Ability to Understand Key Factors for Program Success

    A critical success factor in any outsourced engagement is the outsourced provider’s level of knowledge, expertise, and their ability to understand what it takes to make a program successful. In fact, 33% of companies surveyed by Deloitte that had terminated an outsourced contract stated that the company’s lack of subject matter expertise was a factor in that decision.

    In order to find out if a company possesses sales expertise, there are several attributes to analyze. First, look at the bios of their executive team. Do they have a wealth of experience in sales services? Next, look at their blog as well as any published articles or whitepapers. Are they creating content that showcases innovative thinking and widespread knowledge? These attributes are important elements to uncover a sales provider’s level of knowledge and expertise.

    While it is obvious that a sales provider should have expertise in sales, it is also important that they have marketing expertise. The integration of these two functions is essential for program success, and a sales provider with knowledge of both will be able to utilize each function effectively. Data from B2B research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions shows that organizations integrating sales and marketing experience as much as a 24% growth in revenue. So before engaging an outsourced sales provider, make sure they have expertise that spans both sales and marketing, and have been able to expertly integrate tactics into past sales programs successfully.

    In addition to general sales and marketing expertise, look for a sales provider that has extensive expertise specifically in your industry or similar industries. Ask your prospective partner about previous industry experience and be sure to look at their list of clients. Do they have a large list of well-known, successful clients that are in the same or similar industries as your company?  If a company has conducted successful programs in the same industry in the past, they are much more likely to replicate that success with your organization’s sales programs.

    While each sales program is different, there are a few core attributes that apply to most, if not all. Accordingly, there are several factors for sales program success which, when evaluating an experienced provider, would have been uncovered from past engagements. Outsource providers should be passionate about:

    • A large, quality lead database. The more time reps spend weeding through bad contact data or targeting the wrong types of companies, the less time they are able to spend selling.
    • Buy-in from internal integration points and stakeholders. It is essential for all key players to be on the same page regarding elements of a sales program, such as program goals, sales methods and success metrics.
    • An internal process for sales to act quickly and provide substantive feedback on lead quality (i.e., if not a full cycle sale, then a closed loop mechanism is needed). When leads are passed to your internal sales team, it is essential that all information about the lead is communicated in order for the transition to be as smooth as possible.
    • An action plan to nurture opportunities that aren’t yet sales-ready. Not all leads will be ready to purchase right away. However, it is important to continue the conversation with them, as they are likely to purchase eventually.
    • A commitment on the customer’s part to provide readiness materials – inclusive of initial training and ongoing knowledge development. When a sales program is ramping up, the time when reps can begin selling will decrease significantly if they are not provided needed training materials quickly after the program kicks off.
    • A partnership approach that fosters open dialogue and collaborative problem solving. In the sales environment there are likely going to be times when the program is not performing up to par, and it is essential that both parties have the platform for the sometimes difficult conversations that can improve the relationship and performance.
    • Regular business reviews to drive conversation around key metrics and contributing factors to program success. An open, collaborative approach to sales will boost results, as the program can be improved through utilizing the knowledge of both the client and the sales provider.
    2.   Sales Results They Can Prove

    Any sales provider can promise to give you outstanding sales results, but if they cannot actually deliver on those promises, it does not matter. Past sales program performance is a strong indicator for how successful a sales provider will be operating your organization’s sales programs. To understand a provider’s past performance, look for their case studies and client testimonials from client companies that are similar to your own. Keep in mind that these materials are often created by marketing and are usually very high-level, focusing on only the positive program details and results. Because of this, it is important to dig deeper to understand the methods used and the actual results. To do this, when vetting potential sales providers ask these specific questions:

    • What percentage of engagements do you meet, exceed and miss quotas? 
    • Tell me about a time when you were underperforming. How did you handle the customer conversation and what did you do to improve performance?
    • Recognizing you need to protect the identity of your clients (perhaps you can black-out the name), are you able to share with me a business review you have completed recently so that I understand the results and insight you brought?

    In addition to delivering strong results, it is important that a sales provider is able to deliver these results quickly. While going through the process of selecting a sales provider, make sure that you understand their typical program timelines, including ramp-up time and when revenue actually flows. Working with a sales provider that is able to offer quick time-to-results ensures a speedy ROI and less time between program kick-off and revenue flow.

    3.   Strong Client Referrals from Long-Term Engagements

    Client referrals are another strong indicator of a sales provider’s past performance results and potential for success. When looking at a sales provider’s client referrals, it is important to look for not only a large amount of past clients, but long-term client engagements built from expanded projects and repeated contract renewals. A sales provider with many long-term engagements most likely operates with a partnership approach and is capable of consistently delivering successful sales programs.

    Speaking directly with clients enables you to uncover candid, unbiased information about their experience working directly with the sales provider, as opposed to the likely biased information you receive from a salesperson. After speaking with a sales provider’s clients, you begin to have a well-rounded picture of the sales provider’s working style and sales approach. This allows you to experience what it would be like working with them without having to fully commit to a contracted term.

    It is important to use these referral conversations as an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the company’s work style and partnership approach. Sample questions to ask include:

    • How long have you been engaged? Do you have future plans for expansion?
    • How do they compare to other providers you’ve used in the past?
    • If you were me, how would you maximize the potential of the program out of the gate?
    • What companies did you look at and how did you choose the provider?
    • Can you give me some examples of insights they’ve brought to the program? Recommendations they’ve made that have improved performance perhaps?
    • Rest Assured You’re In Good Hands

      Before engaging with a sales provider, it is important to understand their likelihood for delivering successful sales results. By engaging a sales provider that has a proven track record, you increase the likelihood that they can do the same for you. Even though it is still a risky investment, you can be assured that they are not just delivering empty promises, but can actually achieve the needed results