The world of work is changing. Increasingly distributed teams are continuously improving the way they communicate. As timetables become more flexible, people from within and outside organizations are working together in an as-needed and project-based way. This enables more flexibility in response to market demands and allows you to hire the right person for the right job right now.
Over the last couple years, we’ve seen a jump in interest in outsourced sales and lead generation. But that doesn’t mean we don’t hear objections. The same we’ve been hearing for decades now. We thought we’d openly talk about some of those common doubts with you, so you know what you’re getting into.
Most orgs have some experience with outsourcing lead generation — they understand it’s an excellent way to cover the various hats needed to offer full-service, multi-channel, modern lead gen, across multiple markets. But many of the same orgs become skeptical if you suggest outsourcing sales.
We often hear how, traditionally, sales have always been done in-house. Although that isn't totally true. Sales execs are the original distributed or hybrid team. In the field, meeting customers, not stuck behind a desk. It’s impossible to keep real control over a field sales team — you are just trusting them to represent you even when you’re not there to watch. This is the same whether it’s a full-time hire, contract, or outsourced. Outsourcing will typically include regional sales management, and, if you are not hitting objectives, you have in fact more visibility and can pivot faster.
“Sales is ours,” is something our French country manager Yves de Beauregard often hears. His response: “Sure, and I trust this is safe indeed. But our 400-plus customers find it quicker to outsource to us, cutting three to six months to get in front of buyers faster, using local, seasoned professionals, already fully networked and with entrepreneurial spirit to act quickly.”
Of course, especially in the UK in the time of IR35, our UK partner Nigel Pollard does find companies wary of using contractors. But, since we work outside of IR35 — and well within GDPR and CCPA — that’s not an issue. Plus, he says, “There are less loaded costs and an easier exit with contractors,” so the benefits often outweigh the unfounded uncertainties.
Wanting your inside sales team on-site at a European HQ is often more about control than anything else. We agree that junior to mid-level sales reps benefit from onsite coaching and mentoring, plus systems that can report on activities to ensure market feedback is tracking expectations. This is the approach that most professional outsourced sales teams like ours deliver.
Field-based sales reps are inherently distributed teams, better in front of your prospects than being watched behind a desk. We understand that you want to maintain close management of your reps, but this is actually more of a concern with those you’ve never worked with before and you only have their word to rely on. At Sales Force Europe, we’ve been working with our sales execs for a long time — many over ten years — so we really know we can rely on them.
In Asia, like we hear in Europe, there is a similar preference to hire sales reps in-house, even in a new country. Michal Waszkiewicz, VP of marketing at our partners Intralink, often hears “We need to immediately set up a [local, legal] entity and hire our own team.” Sure, that can be the end goal, but, as he says, for the first year or two in a new market, “it’s more effective and less risky to ramp up to that point using in-country partners.”
Our version of outsourcing means fully integrating with your sales structure. Representing your brand right down to LinkedIn profiles and business cards. Whether it’s us or one of our internationalization partners, your end customer knows no difference.
Plus, if you really do love our outsourced sales reps, you don't have to let them go once established in a new market. You always have the option to hire them full time for your own team in a build-run-transfer model.
Truth be told, quite a few tech companies don’t really know that sales outsourcing exists. They mistakenly think you can only build sales in-house. And then there are others who assume the worst based on outsourcing’s reputation. Not only is outsourcing often associated with offshore call center agents, a few people have had experiences that left bad tastes in their mouths.
“Some companies have had bad experiences working with the outsourced model,” Petri Rinne, our advisor in the Nordics, said, but in many cases it is because “they haven’t done their homework and expectations are unrealistic.”
What’s your homework? To start, you need to reflect on your current success in your home market, develop your ideal customer profile, and reflect it onto your new target markets and verticals. What are your objectives and what structure do you need to deliver on them? It's often a mix of internal and external reps. No matter what, they should act as one team, from sales meetings all the way feeding into your full sales pipeline.
When interviewing prospective outsourcing partners, be sure to ask them about your new target markets. Every conversation you have with them should be a learning experience. Proposed team structures in new markets should clearly demonstrate metrics to deliver on revenue objectives while maintaining a positive return on investment.
You’re part of the founder team and running your company from your home base. You don’t have time to head abroad but maybe once a quarter. It’s normal you’re afraid you will have no insight into what’s going on in foreign country.
Part of your homework is asking a potential outsourcing partner up front how they handle reporting. They should be able to respond to this directly with the data they gather, dashboards they report on, cadence of communication, and more — if they don’t, that’s a red flag. There should be no locked box or lines drawn between your in-house sales team and your outsourced sales partners.
We are quite strict with our reporting, right down to the activity level — how many calls, emails, LinkedIn messages for leads; and how many prospects spoken to in inside and field sales. Our lead gen and inside sales teams are colocated with sales coaches and biz dev data experts helping them continuously improve. And our regional sales management helps support our more senior, specialized field reps.
We deliver a detailed deep-dive into the data. Because you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Our team leverages CRMs and sales pipeline tooling, backed by a deep tech stack built for lead generation to give us — and you our customers — the granularity of reporting data you need to keep improving.
Yes, outsourcing may seem costly, but what can get really expensive is a lengthy recruitment process in a new country, which comes with burdensome long-term contracts and commitments. And, if you don’t get it right the first time around, you start this process over. Setting up entities, opening offices, building tax strategies, creating employee contracts and benefit packages, all takes time and costs money. These activities can be pushed out to when the market is proven, ROI is positive, and you have the funds to cover the costs.
Other companies skip this step by bringing a successful sales rep out of their home region and transplanting them to a new market. This often sets your top sales reps up for failure when they don’t know the culture or language. Where they have to start building a network from scratch.
What has already worked makes for a great starting point. We advise you do analyze your success in your home market, including:
But there are nuances, like language, culture, body language and meeting styles, that necessitates someone on the ground who already has a grasp. Some European cultures want to get right down to business, while others want to get to know you over a long lunch first. Bonus, when you work with a local tech sales partner, they come with an existing network.
Sales outsourcing isn’t a fit for every situation, but it’s certainly a good match for many international expansion engagements. Especially when you need a technological or vertical specialization. Outsourced sales will certainly save you a lot of time and money when entering a new market.
As Michal aptly put it: “In the end, an entrepreneur thinking of global expansion wants to have someone in their corner who knows their stuff.” That’s exactly what you get with the right sales outsourcing partnership.