We have all watched company after company, industry after industry, make decisions to outsource functions previously considered too proprietary or critical to ever trust with outsiders (IT, HR, Payroll, CRM, etc…). So we shouldn’t be surprised that sales and marketing is rapidly moving up the list of business processes now receiving that same consideration.
Sales and marketing outsourcing (SMO) is fast gaining momentum, perhaps because of challenges resulting from the economic downturn, but more likely because business, competitive and specialisation trends continue forcing companies to find ever more efficient, scalable and effective solutions to generating revenue.
When to Consider Sales and Marketing Outsourcing
• Entering a new market, geography or industry segment
• Launching a new company, division, services or products
• Supplementing internal sales, marketing or solution teams to gain a speed to market advantage
• Mentoring existing sales and marketing leaders during transitional periods
• Developing and launching new sales strategies, go to market models and pursuit processes
These are excellent occasions to engage outside sales and marketing expertise and benefit from external perspective and experience. Under certain circumstances it also helps companies avoid diluting the efforts of existing sales teams by overloading or defocusing them with new targets.
Knowing Where to Start
With the general exception of start-ups or other new ventures, most companies will have some existing internal sales and marketing resource to factor into an outsourcing decision. The place to start for most, therefore, is by assessing internal capabilities to confirm existing strengths and weaknesses and identify gaps prohibiting the company from achieving its revenue goals.
Many templates exist for business process gap analysis and there are plenty of consulting companies to help with the process. Look for firms with solutions specific to sales and marketing and the domain expertise to conduct the process. Inspire Sales provides a sales readiness assessment which may be helpful and others are available by searching on the leading sales and marketing association sites, on-line forums and resource centres.
Making the Decision
In sales possibly more than any other business activity time is an enemy of success. A favorite expression we share with Inspire Sales clients is “Time helps no sale”. It is not a statement we created but we sure find plenty of opportunities to say it. Boards, investors and owners set revenue goals for the companies they oversee and then (rightfully) expect the appropriate leaders to execute plans to achieve those goals. Moving fast does not mean moving carelessly, so trust and follow a structured process to sound decision making – then follow through by making the decision.
Of all the challenges companies face in outsourcing sales and marketing, the most overlooked is committing to make decisions and execute quickly. To keep internal processes from slowing down this outsourcing evaluation it is best to keep decision teams small and committed to two deadlines. The first deadline is to make the decision. Create a “decide by” timeline then stick to it. If a potential provider cannot meet the pace, drop them and move on, do not adjust the timelines. Second, commit to a solution start date and hold everyone in the organisation accountable to it. This means the internal organisation as well as the external provider teams. Outsourcing sales and marketing is often done to achieve a speed to market advantage, but to be successful, the provider will need the support, enablement and participation of key client resources to achieve their mission.
It is always a great time to sell, but in difficult conditions it may be the best time of all!
More than ever, prospects need quality solutions that can improve their bottom lines and in a slow down many competitors are less active as they tighten down to weather the storm. Providers that increase their sales efforts in difficult times, and sales and marketing outsourcing is a great approach to doing so, stand to enhance their market position and be the biggest winners in the market share and revenue competition.