What are the downsides of outsourcing sales?

Sales outsourcing is an option that is a good fit for many industries, particularly tech. However, it’s not one size fits all, and you may have reservations about whether it’s the right choice for your organization. It makes good business sense to look at pros and cons when it comes to hiring options for your expansion into Europe, and making the decision of whether or not to outsource sales. 

You have successfully built up your own tech company to the level where you are comfortable enough to consider expansion, and wish to introduce your product to a new European customer base. Consider all the options before you go, and plan carefully. The biggest part of that plan, after deciding on location, is who will be the face of your brand abroad. Who will help to introduce your products and secure new customers, keeping your good reputation intact and allowing you to build further on that European expansion? You may well have a top sales team that you want to bring with you, or consider outsourcing all or part of that team locally. If you choose sales outsourcing you will want it to really impact your top and bottom line as well as get the most from that relationship. So before you commit and invest, ask the question: What are the downsides of outsourcing sales?

The cost of partnering with an outsourced sales agency

Budget is a big part of any plans for your business including any that involve international expansion. It could be argued that sales outsourcing is expensive, and that’s true enough, it’s a fair argument, it’s certainly not a cheap fix. There are, admittedly, inexpensive consumer-facing call centers out there that offer to do what seems like the same job of being sales providers for a lot less cash. In actuality, these call centers are set up for tech help or customer assistance. They don't come with the necessary education about your product and industry. And they often don't come with the local language and culture that you need. Especially, they may not have the local privacy regulation — in Europe, that's GDPR — expertise that you need.

Essentially, be careful because you often get what you pay for.

Instead, if you choose an experienced and dedicated outsourced sales agency, it won’t necessarily be cheap, but you’ll get expert advice and a plan tailored to fit your exact business needs. You will be able to leverage a sales team with expertise and a real understanding of local culture. You may end up paying more up front than if you were to hire internally, but with a lot less hassle when you take into account the lengthy recruitment process of a traditional hire. Consider the real total cost of hiring in-house versus the services of a sales outsourcing agency. When hiring a permie, you won't just be playing that employee, you will be paying for a local recruitment agency and taking on the risk of commitments to employment contracts even if your product-market fit doesn't work.

As Sales Hacker advises, don’t engage with a basic call center, find a proven sales agency. Go by reputation, testimonials from happy clients, years of experience. You have to invest if you want to quickly and efficiently create new revenue streams but be sure to invest well. No venture and investment, no gain, but do your homework first.

Think also of the cost savings when it comes to the flexibility of sales outsourcing. You can scale up and down to suit your business. For example, any fallout from the current pandemic that causes you to regroup and change tack. Remember that outsourcing doesn’t have to be a full-time employee either. You don’t have to go all in, and can change your mind as your expansion starts to take shape. You may need to move money and team budget to different countries in response to the market. Options are there such as using outsourcing on a part-time basis to mitigate the cost if required. Depending on local market response, you can adapt your plan accordingly.

A benefit of outsourcing sales, especially in regard to your international expansion, is you can consider your existing model and pretty simply map out the maths over your new target countries. If you need X amount of sales, you can understand the budget you need to commit to the top and middle and all the way down that new funnel to nurture leads and close deals. With a single contract, sales outsourcing becomes the most cost predictable way to address the unpredictability of uncharted territories.

Of course, if you have a limitless budget, plenty of time and expertise then you might prefer to do it all yourself in-house —  it all depends on your situation. And how fast you want to launch your product in a new market.

Loss of control with an outsourced sales agency

This is probably the first worry that comes to mind when looking at what are the downsides of outsourcing sales. As a founder, you have been used to having full control over your business and all of its activities as well as keeping a close eye on all of your international sales representatives and the whole sales process. You’re concerned about losing control of close customer relationships which could leave you with a damaged reputation, even before you've had a change to build your brand abroad.

Understandably, you might be apprehensive about handing over the reins to an outsourced sales agency and perhaps wonder if it’s a good idea to outsource at all.

With a reputable outsourced sales agency you will get to keep full control. It’s your business — so expect full insight into sales activities and a close eye on budget. You will be involved all the way with creating a bespoke sales outsourcing plan for your business. KPIs will be discussed and defined from the outset and you will always be on the same page. Sales representatives will directly report to you. Regional sales management provides support and all of this with a single, hassle-free contract and monthly invoice. There will be checks and foolproof measures in place regarding confidentiality contracts so trust is built from the outset. Far from being left in the dark, you’ll be an active participant all the way. 

But follow your instincts. You don't need a snake oil sales rep telling you to just leave it to them. You need a sales outsourcing partner who is very data-focused so that they engage with your CRM and tools, and transparently update you along the way, where you expect to see that information. Loss of control is a real fear, if you don't have transparency and radical honesty from day one — because international expansion can be a bit of an experiment, so you need a partner who offers rapid feedback so you can pivot quickly in response to your new markets.

A disconnected sales team

An in-house sales team must be connected and involved — because they are right there in front of you, right? We already know that's not always the case. Whether in-house or outsourced, hiring a trusted sales rep takes time and proven relationship building. The fear of a disconnected sales team can be the same no matter where or who they are.

An outsourced sales and marketing team, especially international sales representatives in the field, might feel like a step too far. How well will they know your customer base? How will you know the conversations they are having with your prospects if you can't go along with them? If the whole process is done in a language you don't even speak in a country maybe you haven't even visited yet? Until now you've been a founder or an early sales leader who has had full visibility into each sale. And those customer relationships you've built are important and inform your next ones — but you can't be the face of the company to each and every client forever. You cannot scale, but your tech company and international sales team can.

Another fear is that outsourced sales agencies work with many companies and multiple organizations so how quickly will our sales agents get to know your brand and prospects? Perhaps you’re concerned that the required information will not be shared with inside sales staff, or that outsourced sales reps will just go rogue and move on to another job taking your pipeline of business with them. Are they building up their own networks with your contacts and business? That’s a real concern to be addressed. 

Make sure you are always in charge and connected by asking these hard questions of your potential outsourced sales partner upfront.

Choose an outsourced sales agency with local vertical experience that will provide you with a hand-picked international go-to-market team of professionals. Reputable outsourced sales agencies will ensure that those sales teams follow the correct procedure to the letter, and you will always have direct access to all information with complete transparency. More than that, you will likely be able to leverage their existing local tech buyer networks to get where you’re going, faster.

Three tricky questions to ask a potential outsourced sales agency

If you’re still on the fence about using an outsourced sales agency, and worried about the downsides of outsourcing sales, then take the advice of Revenue Grid and ask three tricky questions before you commit to an outsourced sales agency. 

  • Can you describe your sales process step-by-step?
  • How do you define results and KPIs?
  • How do you report?

We would add to this, make sure you ask any potential international sales partners about the local target market and especially your vertical or type of tech. They haven't sold your particular tool before but they should be able to easily educate you on the intricacies of the local culture and the local tech market. Every conversation should be a learning experience for you.

If they cannot answer all of these questions in detail and assure you completely then they’re probably not the service for you. To be fair, these are also really valuable questions to ask a potential permanent hire too. Remember it doesn’t have to be intimidating if you are in possession of all the information to make an informed choice, allowing you to hire a good sales team outsourcing company and create a new and successful partnership to benefit your European business.

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