Companies often hire an external telesales team when they are expanding into new markets, or they want to build a dedicated sales force around a new product or service. Some firms hire outsourced telesales reps to augment their internal team and meet ever-increasing targets. Whatever the reason, choosing the right sales solutions provider will spell the success of your outsourced telesales campaign. Before outsourcing any activity, it’s important to rationalize the need based on ROI and other factors. Do you really need to add more telesales reps? Or is it better to hire a coach to improve the performance of your internal telesales team? Questions like these should prompt sales executives to look closely at what’s working and what’s not, and to identify functions that a specialist can perform better, if any.
Choosing a Top-Performing Telesales Agency
Some companies achieve more than twice as much return on their sales outsourcing investment compared to others that outsource the same activities. Part of the reason is that these companies work with top-performing sales agencies. How to tell the great from the average telesales provider? Here are some characteristics:
High-value, low cost.
The best outsourcing firms focus on providing value and ROI-driven results while keeping costs low. They know that top-performing companies keep sales costs lower than their peers, but they do not focus on cost alone. The right telesales outsourcing agency effectively controls cost by presenting a clear view of profitability. They know the cost-to-sell for every product, customer and sales channel, and they share data with corporate as well as sales leaders for transparency and better collaboration. Solid tracking and reporting helps sales leaders make better decisions; they can easily identify areas with low-value orders that can be scaled back.
Good telesales providers invest in best-in-class technology and processes. They ensure that your external telesales reps have everything they need to succeed. This includes tools and software that help improve transparency, performance monitoring, and productivity. They cross-train people to acquire new skills and provide individualized coaching and mentoring to telesales reps that are having problems. At this level of efficiency, costs are kept at a minimum while the value of the outsourcing engagement increases over time.
Top telesales agencies employ smarter ways to measure ROI. Because they have good data that identifies areas with high sales ROI, telesales providers can prescribe effective channel tactics for different segments. Another way they achieve better sales ROI is to focus on quality rather than quantity. Instead of adding more entry-level people, they focus on improving the performance of existing sales reps so that they can make immediate impact on your organization.
Focus on performance.
Quality telesales agents generate quality sales. Good telesales providers invest in their sales force, grooming them to be the best in the business. Besides quality, the provider knows how to deploy sales people effectively. They have more sales staff in support positions than sales management roles. More support means that telesales reps and telemarketers can focus on selling. Administrative tasks like order management and complaint resolution are handled by support, so that telesales can spend quality time with customers.
Outsourcing firms can provide topnotch telesales people or take on admin sales tasks for your team. Both methods increase productivity by freeing up time and allowing telesales agents to focus on selling instead of low-value activities. Outsourced sales agencies also bring automation to the table, cutting out certain jobs and funneling routine tasks to support instead of offloading to telesales. To be successful with this outsourcing approach, sales managers must first identify low- and high-value activities and resources to support them.
Some top sales outsourcing agencies are not only experts in telesales, they are experts at everything. They have mastered the art and science of selling through multiple sales channels: inside sales, field sales, value-added resellers, retail stores, affiliates, distributors, outsourced sales reps, etc. According to a Harvard Business Review article on the best sales teams, companies that can sell effectively through multiple channels achieve more than 40 percent higher sales ROI than those that use only one channel.
When choosing a telesales outsourcing agency, look at their other sales offerings as well as reviews from actual clients. A good outsourcing agency knows that not all channels are suited to every product, and they will recommend the best option for your product and market vertical. For example, the agency may suggest adding inside sales reps to handle complex, key accounts, while assigning low-complexity accounts to an external sales team.
Signs of a Poor Telesales Outsourcing Relationship
Working with the right outsourced telesales provider does not preclude mishaps. You may still run into performance and alignment issues, and the outsourcing project may fall short of corporate management expectations. However, working with a topnotch provider from the start reduces the risk that the telesales outsourcing project will be a complete disaster. Outsourcing relationships that are destined for failure often show early warning signs:
Outsourcing the wrong sales function.
“Wrong” in this sense means outsourcing an activity what should have been kept in-house all along. The general rule of outsourcing is to hold on to core functions that form the heart of your sales initiatives, and farm out non-core, transactional (typically low-value) activities to a third party specialist. Sales, the only part of the organization that actually brings in revenue, can be considered core or non-core depending on the business. For manufacturers and business services firms, sales is often a non-core function and can be safely outsourced. However, for some companies, strategy and segmentation are highly strategic tasks that provide competitive advantage. Even if they appear to be good candidates for outsourcing, the company may need to keep them in-house.
A good telesales provider does not accept every client that comes in the door without question; they should help you determine whether telesales should be outsourced and recommend sound alternatives aligned with your goals. For example, if you are selling a commodity or undifferentiated product/service, the vendor should recommend an external team of cold callers instead of a team of sales executives.
Outsourcing telesales can reduce costs dramatically, especially if you choose to offshore to a provider in an emerging market with low labor costs. However, many firms overestimate how much they can save and ignore “hidden” costs associated with researching and choosing the right telesales provider, travel, leadership, training, technology/infrastructure, and oversight. To make the most out of your outsourcing investment, remember that call centers are usually intended for high-volume cold calling and appointment setting for internal sales teams, while strategic sales vendors focus on lead qualification, conversion and value. They employ top sales executives, telesales reps, and technical consultants for specific products. They hire sales coaches to improve performance of both sales agents and sales leaders. Their focus is long-term value, instead of merely providing a service.
Over-promising and under-delivering.
Some sales outsourcing firms promise unrealistic growth and get sales managers to believe in optimistic projections without the science to back them up. It is crucial to understand your telesales targets and current situation before transferring responsibility to another party. Work with a sales provider that uses data and analytics to make forecasts and turn insights into value for your company. This type of agency customizes the solution to your needs, and they adapt their strategy on the fly if necessary. Look for a long-term partnership that focuses on collaboration and provides a platform for sometimes difficult but necessary conversations.
No transition strategy or contingency plan.
A company that outsources telesales must clearly define the scope of management needed for effective transition once the campaign begins. Transition is generally disruptive; it is important to focus on governance and execution throughout the process. And even if the risk of failure is slim, sales managers should have an exit strategy when things fall apart. Also, make sure that general objectives are translated into specific and measurable goals, such as cost-reduction targets and reduction in sales cycle time.
Lack of domain expertise.
According to a recent study, 33 percent of the companies surveyed ended an outsourcing contract because of the provider’s lack of expertise. To find out whether the telesales provider understands how to achieve your sales goals, look at case studies and success stories that demonstrate their experience in telesales. Better still, look for a telesales vendor that has experience in your specific industry. A track record of success means a higher chance of replicating that success with your organization. However, make sure to dig deeper and ask how they handled challenges such as underperforming telesales reps.
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