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SCORE: Weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing sales

November 30, 2017

Here is an interesting question I got from a small business CEO recently. “I really need to grow my business this next year, but I am not a good sales person because I have tried and tried to do it myself and it isn’t working. What can I do? Is this something I could outsource?”

If you’re not a natural-born salesperson and aren’t confident in your ability to become one effective enough to grow your small business, you might consider outsourcing your company’s sales efforts — but consider the pros and cons.

“Without a strong sales effort, your business is not likely to succeed,” said Steve Koenig, a SCORE mentor with expertise in sales management. “You can have the best product or service available, but if people do not know about it or cannot easily find and obtain it, the value is limited. Selling is a process and requires more than just putting up a website. It is the sale that makes your business viable.”

There are advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing sales initiatives, so give it careful thought before putting your business’s sales function in the hands of someone outside your company.

Some of the potential pros of outsourcing your sales to experienced, skilled sales professionals include:

Cost-effectiveness

Because subcontractors aren’t on your payroll, you’ll have more flexibility in expanding and contracting sales activities to accommodate seasonal highs and lows. In addition, you won’t have the expense of paying payroll taxes (or certain benefits) as you would with hiring an employee.

Expertise in countering resistance

Skilled sales subcontractors will have experience in dealing with hesitation from leads. With familiarity of the nuances of managing resistance, they know how to keep the lines of communication open rather than pushing back too hard and scaring off prospects.

Shortened sales cycles

Seasoned sales professionals will know what it takes to close a sale. They’ll feel comfortable with the sales process and typically are adept at working through it efficiently to secure commitment from prospects.

On the flip side, outsourcing sales has these potential cons:

Lack of familiarity with your brand’s persona

Subcontractors might not be in tune with the core values and culture of your small business. Therefore, they might not intuitively be effective at authentically representing your brand.

Confidentiality risks

Any time you make someone from outside your company privy to confidential or proprietary information, you put your business at some risk of having your ideas or plans getting out to your competition. It’s important to consider securing agreements to protect your company.

Less control over relationship building

When you outsource contacting prospects and nurturing relationships, customers might feel more loyalty and a stronger connection with the subcontractor than they do with your brand. If at some point you part ways with the subcontractor, you might find it challenging to step in to maintain relationships with the prospects and clients the subcontractor has built rapport with.

“A great salesperson knows when to ‘ask for the order’ and stop talking. Some people are just not inclined to sell, while others can sell almost anything,” Koenig said. “If you can afford it, put a great sales team on your payroll. If you can’t afford it, use outsourcing. But be careful in crafting outsourcing agreements, and follow through with rewarding your agents.”

Next week, we’ll debunk eight common excuses for not taking action on improving sales.