Today’s post is by Justin Roff-Marsh, founder and president of Ballistix and author of the new book, The Machine: A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function. He is also the editor of the popular Sales Process Engineering blog, which can be found at www.salesprocessengineering.net.
The days of face-to-face selling are numbered for most organizations. Most customers don’t want it – and most businesses simply can’t afford it!
- Customers are smarter: with instant access to whatever data they need.
- Technology has rendered face-to-face meetings less necessary: there’s the phone, Web conferences and, yes, even webinars!
- The market’s more competitive: customers might still like relationships, but they are less prepared than ever to pay for them.
Sales today is an inside endeavor, supported – in some cases – by discrete field activities.
Still not convinced? Follow one of your field salespeople around for a week. You’ll probably discover that your field salesperson spends less than 10 percent of his or her time in the field. The balance of the time will be spent in an office of some kind (your head office, a branch office, a home office, or a makeshift office in the back seat of a rental car). If my prediction is correct, you’ll probably conclude that your salesperson is not really a field salesperson at all, but an inside salesperson who performs occasional field activities.
Ask yourself the following: If you are making a purchase, is your default starting point to look for a person who can come and visit with you in the field? I suspect not! It’s more likely that your first instinct will be to turn to a medium that enables you to purchase with no human contact whatsoever. Today, customers are no longer isolated from their vendors. Vendors’ organizations are as close as the nearest Web browser.
If you need to communicate with a human in order to make your purchase, you’d probably prefer a phone conversation rather than a face-to-face visit. And, even when a face-to-face visit is critical, that’s not where the conversation will start. You’re more likely to start with online research. Then, at your leisure, you’ll have one or more conversations with telephone advisors.
Although it’s clear that, at some point, you’ll schedule one or more face-to-face meetings, you will likely defer these meetings until you absolutely need them.
If sales is a battle, the new front line is inside. And if we agree on that, then the only logical choice is to build a new inside-out approach to closing deals!
- The centralization of customer service and account management: the handling of simple transactions, quotations, and resolution of customer inquiries and issues. Under no circumstances is this done by the sales team (their only job is to sell!).
- A shift from outbound to inbound marketing: the generation of inbound opportunities via online (SEM, SM, SEO, email, webinars, etc.) and traditional media.
- A transitioning of most sales activities from the field to an inside team. An inside salesperson can comfortably have 30 meaningful selling interactions (including email) a day, whereas a field salesperson will work hard to average four meetings. If you insist each prospect accepts a field visit, you are turning your back on a number of potential selling interactions you would otherwise not get.
- Add field resources only as they are required. Opportunities that genuinely require field representation should be performed by a field specialist or BDM. A field specialist is a person who supports inside sales by performing discrete field activities. These activities are likely to be technical or semi-technical in nature. As with inside sales, the BDM is responsible for winning new accounts and selling materially different services to existing accounts.
It’s critical to acknowledge that, for this new approach to work, your inside sales team members must be viewed and treated as true salespeople – equivalent in every sense to the type of person you would otherwise have in the field. They are knowledgeable, ambitious, and engaging. And they are paid roughly what they would expect to earn if they were field salespeople. They can also be trained more easily because you have team members operating in close proximity to one another.
By eliminating or reducing the traditional role of a field sales team, you can better envision the kind of sales function that will support your (and most likely, your customers’) preferred approach to purchasing and, therefore, dramatically increase sales opportunities and results.