As sales teams struggle to meet revenue targets that increase every year, many sales executives are turning to outside specialists for help not only to build sales capabilities and improve processes, but also to ensure top performance of their sales force for the long term. The complexity of the buyer process is expected to grow further, and partnerships with sales solutions providers will also increase. However, sales executives are demanding more value from outsourcing relationships, placing an emphasis on ROI-driven sales outsourcing campaigns.
The same expectation applies to sales force performance monitoring. Today, every stage of the sales process, including successful performance optimization, depends on data-driven, logical, and strategic approaches. “Smart” performance monitoring is now standard operating procedure rather than a best practice that only large corporations can implement. Small and midsize businesses are adopting the scientific approach as well.
A logical, data-driven mindset requires significant technological investment and perhaps an overhaul of ingrained company culture, which is why outsourcing is a preferred solution for many firms. An outsourcing provider that employs experienced data analysts, coaches/mentors, and sales leaders can help your internal or outsourced sales force perform better and hit their quotas. Companies and sales solutions providers that do this right use sophisticated analytics tools and actual data, instead of relying on estimates or traditional intuition.
Sales performance management (SPM) aims to optimize sales performance through metrics-driven practices, advanced tools and an emphasis on intelligent risk-taking. SPM includes strategy (planning and execution), continuous improvement, coaching/mentoring and compensation, measurement of improvements, and the use of next generation tools to increase sales productivity. One study showed that companies using data-driven SPM enabled more than 80 percent of their sales force to hit annual quotas. These companies also achieved three times as much higher annual growth than non-performing firms.
Most sales solutions providers adopt a performance-based pricing model, with total costs that depend entirely on the value of the service being offered. This means that buyers are not required to pay for any add-ons required to close sales. It is in best interest of suppliers to use best-in-class processes to provide exceptional service. Savvy sales solutions providers have integrated SPM into their sales offerings, allowing companies that lack resources to leverage best-in-class performance monitoring and optimization.
SPM may be available as a discrete service or included in an end-to-end BPO sales solution. SPM drives growth because it leverages actual data and predictive analytics to improve effectiveness as well as efficiency. The outsourcing firm provides continuous training for new and veteran sales reps, and their performance is measured rigorously using non-traditional metrics. These metrics are benchmarked against top-performing companies to identify and drive behavior that leads to success.
Another aspect of SPM is the use of enabling technologies like advanced dialers that allows managers to track dials and deals right from the team’s CRM software, social selling tools that target the right buyers, sales knowledge portals, lead management and scoring tools, and CRM apps that drive efficiency throughout the entire sales process. Third parties make sure that their outsourced sales teams use these tools to improve performance.
Adapting Sales Benchmarking to your Sales Outsourcing Strategy
Sales benchmarking is the use of analytics to evaluate the sales function. The goal of sales benchmarking is to identify issues and opportunities, as well as patterns and behaviors that could drive revenue growth and reduce sales costs. An example of benchmarking methodology is the creation of an accurate picture of a sales role for a particular company. Clear and measurable characteristics are used to define the skills, behavior, and experience required for success.
Traditional sales benchmarking compares the performance of sales teams using leading indicators with empirical data from a peer group or a high-performing sales team in another organization. Most sales solutions providers today employ big data scientists and researchers to extract insights and patterns from numbers and turn those insights into value. Providers may also use cloud-based analytics tools to interpret data and share results with multiple users, enhancing transparency, collaboration, and understanding of actual issues causing specific sales problems. Accurate data is the key to successful sales benchmarking.
Sometimes, individual sales reps and even sales leaders respond unfavorably to benchmarking results, resisting initiatives to improve performance. A sales solutions provider is helpful in this case because it provides an outside, objective view and serves as a buffer between the sales force and corporate management. The provider can initiate change and improve performance much more quickly than if the directive came from within.
Sales Quality Assurance
Sales quality refers to a group of criteria defined and used by the sales solution provider and the company to measure the quality of performance of the external sales force. Quality criteria vary with the business, market vertical and sales type. They may include standard levels and parameters, such as the level of competence of individual sales reps and sales leaders, problem solving ability, ability to adapt to special requirements, and ability to help customers save time, effort and work.
Sales QA standard levels also vary, but each level usually defines a goal that the sales rep or executive must achieve. For example, a bronze standard level describes a situation wherein the sales rep and sales leaders are able to address technical and non-technical customer issues. They are able to evaluate the appropriateness of a solution using actual data. The next standard level, silver, describes a sales rep that provides the highest level of customer satisfaction for both current and future transactions and uses resources available to prevent every possible complaint. Gold, the highest standard, describes a sales rep that is able to go above and beyond the call of duty, selling more units than is required, finding new customers, and ensuring maximum customer satisfaction after the transaction has been completed.
Top performing sales outsourcing companies use sophisticated, next-generation tools to perform sales quality analysis, prevent problems before they arise, and define, manage, and implement sales quality systems. To be successful, the management, sales force and service provider must agree on the image or brand that the company wants to project, the sales quality level to be achieved, rules to follow to reach the quality level, and methods for continuous improvement in sales performance.
Coaching and Mentoring
Because of ever-increasing yearly targets, many sales executives adopt the traditional approach of hiring more sales reps and attaching a quota to each new rep. However, studies show that this practice tends to reduce returns. It’s true that hiring more people may be necessary when expanding to a new market or introducing a brand-new, differentiated product, but it should not be the default action. A better solution is to work with a sales provider specializing in coaching sales teams and executives to improve skills and performance. Outsourced sales coaching has been proven to increase the number of closed sales and pipelines while reducing sales cycle time.
Sales training is different from coaching and mentoring. Training focuses on knowledge transfer from one facilitator to a group of sales reps, while coaching and mentoring is a developmental instruction technique that makes individual sales people (including leaders) perform better. Sales coaching sessions tend to be long-term and may be incorporated into weekly schedules.
Outsourced coaching and mentoring services include diagnostics, assessment, reporting, relationship management and strategic plan development. Sales coaches work closely with sales reps and sales leaders. Coaches identify, track, and benchmark performance against sales best practices to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. They know which tools and processes to use to address specific issues. Besides hands-on coaching, coaches can also provide sales acceleration tools customized to the client’s needs.
Great sales coaching is performed in a way that makes an immediate impact on sales performance. Rapid improvement can be achieved by focusing on the most problematic areas first. After addressing the most obvious issues, sales coaches can become long-term partners to success by providing long-term assistance and encouragement to your sales team.
Leadership and Oversight in Outsourced Sales Team Monitoring
For members of outsourced staff, the supplier can provide short- or long-term leadership and oversight depending on the agreement with the client. Every sales team needs executive leadership for continued improvement and elimination of common issues like inconsistency, poor motivation, inability to reach performance and revenue targets, poor activity management, unclear performance metrics, and stagnant growth.
The outsourcing provider uses data and analytics to assess the health of the outsourced sales force. After identifying challenges, the sales leader provides structure and accountability for the team and sets clear objectives aligned with corporate goals. To ensure continued improvement, the sales leader measures results, monitors activities of individual sales reps, and provides coaching and mentoring as needed. The goal is to give sales reps everything that they need to succeed.
With effective leadership and oversight from the outsourcing firm, internal sales managers no longer need to question what sales representatives do with their time, because each rep will be held accountable. Daily activities are recorded and tracked in the CRM tool, and data (including weekly reports with sales forecasts, potential closed sales, etc.) is shared with corporate managers for utmost transparency. For long-term oversight, the outsourcing firm provides weekly meetings with each rep, monthly meetings with sales leaders, periodic assessments, and annual process review.
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