Liam McNally, Head of Agency, Sales Growth Division at Golley Slater, explains why brands should dare to try an out-of-the-box approach by finding the right agency partner and ensuring growth.
In order to come out on top in an ever-competitive business landscape, brands need to think strategically, analyse data, and create killer content that can fuel lead generation and boost business growth.
Considering a new sales and marketing business partner is a complex process. Whether you’re a telecoms, financial services or logistics business, deciding to place your trust in an agency is challenging and a risk, as ultimately the results will reflect on any decisionmaking ability. But it should not stop brands from daring to try an out-of-the-box approach to help achieve rapid top-line growth.
Making the right decision
Whether to recruit or outsource is a long-standing debate, and as businesses emerge from the pandemic either battered and bruised or victorious, it’s still being discussed in the boardroom. Which has the most value – internal industry knowledge or external discipline expertise?
Businesses have a set of core competencies, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they do everything well. In sales, a technical team for a complex manufacturer will be able to close the deal, but might not be great at keeping the funnel flowing with new opportunities – hybrid sales reps are expected to be the most common sales role, but only 28% of B2B organisations have hybrid sales roles today.
In making the decision to outsource part – or all – of your sales process, there are several benefits:
- The outsourcer is completely focused on performance outcomes for clients. As such, they will allocate the right resources to deliver results, which can be a significant shift away from carrying existing teams who need to pivot to new working patterns and business models.
- Outsourcers provide flex and fluidity to tight timescales to scale client programmes as necessary, such as when entering new markets, seizing time-specific opportunities, or scaling back quickly when the market retracts.
- B2B organisations can lack a sales culture, and as a result get by with average performance. The culture in an outsourced sales agency is focused on making clients the hero, and that can only happen by exceeding output expectations. Link that to the uncertain future of corporate HQs and future remote working, trying to run a remote internal sales team without a sales culture might be a challenge.
The B2B buying journey has changed
More decisions are being made before even speaking to a salesperson – according to Gartner 33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience, a preference that climbs to 44% for millennials. CMOs are being charged with growth in 12 to 24 months.
So why are there still silos? Unfortunately, sales and marketing are still not seeing eye-to-eye. Sales think the marketing qualified leads are a waste of time – as they bring in buyers who are nowhere near being qualified. Marketing is frustrated as they have spent ample budget and no one is following up the leads. There’s a gap that needs bridging. A B2B sales partner has an end-to-end customer view, and they can help create harmony and collaboration.
There are several practical tips for those at the beginning of their journey to finding a sales partner. Firstly, ensure there are case studies from similar industries, review their approach and strategy to engaging customers, get existing client references and speak to their people across different teams – not just the business development team who might be selling the dream.
Beyond that, consider how you want the relationship to work – are you looking for a supplier or a partner? If you want a partner, you must play your part in the relationship too… if not, you get what you put in.
And that goes for training too. Outsourcers have the training, skills, and systems to get a programme off the ground quickly, but the client knows their business the best, so putting aside time and resources to properly induct and train your sales partner will pay dividends in the long run.
Linked to the point above, siloes need to be broken down, so a partner with a wider view of sales and marketing will be able to approach client business problems with several lenses. As B2B sales continue to evolve, being focused on just one area will mean that they can only solve one problem.
But by no means does this mean you need a jack-of-all-trades. Look at how the agency is structured and who might be involved in servicing your account – make sure you’re getting the best thinking and people across all sales and marketing disciplines.
The importance of data and insights
Many B2B organisations still don’t have a view of their target marketplace and prospects. The first step is to build this out. Some of it can be done quickly, and you can start talking to your potential customers. However, not all prospects were created (or accessed) equally.
Different segments will require different communication channels and messages – and if you’re not considering a multichannel strategy, you’re not addressing your whole market. Using AI and tech tools to enhance contact data is one way of reaching more prospects.
Once you start talking to prospects and customers, you’re generating insights. Make sure you have a way to capture them, report on them, and turn them into timely campaigns. So much data is locked away collecting dust when it could be driving customers to purchase. External changes occur daily, from industry news to what your competitors are up to. If you sit on issues and don’t make changes based on what the data is saying, then you’ll get to the end of the month without making progress against targets.
Having a robust reporting suite helps piece together the puzzle, and data visualisation tools like Power BI and Tableau make sense of the wealth of information available.
That said, sometimes you need faith (and a bit of time) to see your actions through – changing the focus for the sales team daily creates confusion and causes your team to have a crisis of confidence.
According to recent research by Gartner, only 6% of chief sales officers (CSOs) say they are extremely confident about their team’s ability to meet or exceed revenue goals. So how do you go about delivering outstanding ROI? Find the agency with the right mentality for your business. That creates trust. And if there’s trust, the insights and recommendations that are put in place will not only lead to better collaboration, but better results too.
2021 and beyond
Rightly, or wrongly, we’ve become uber efficient in the past year – we pack so much into our day and can seem to handle more than ever. I think that clients look for efficiency in a partner. Someone that speaks their language, understands their problems, and has data and insight not only at their fingertips, but drops it in the clients’ lap at the click of a button.
For leaders considering an outsourced sales partner, the question is whether you can develop the right mix of skills by redeploying your existing teams, and whether you can create the sales culture needed in a post-COVID remote working world.