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Selling Microsoft

6 Steps in De-Emphasizing Outside Sales

During your early-stage and late-stage implementation phase, consider other steps where an inside approach can be implemented.

Global sales thought leader Jonathan Farrington argues that outside sales positions are evaporating.

"This year, I anticipate we will see a reduction in external sales positions of around 20 percent: 10 percent will be lost for good, and the other 10 percent will move inside. I believe that this pattern will continue for the next three years, until we are left with less than 10 percent of the total sales population working externally. The reasons for this are obvious: Advances in technology mean that we can communicate just as easily from our desks, using video conferencing, etc.," Farrington wrote on topsalesmanagement.com.

I had a chance to talk with Jonathan about that article, and those kinds of futuristic conversations always spark other thoughts regarding partner owners and their sales management.

This column is the first of a series exploring the potential impacts and issues facing the future of sales and sales management as the utilization and sophistication of cloud, social media and unified communications accelerate over the next five years.

There are six basics that partner organizations can start with in making this transition:

  1. If you're in a cloud sales environment you might consider an inside salesperson to perform customer account management for your less active/less profitable accounts and to handle all incoming sales leads for opportunities of fewer than 25 seats.

  2. Whether you're selling a cloud or on-premises solution you will want to begin to implement and utilize both your Web site and UC/video during the sales process. You might consider using this during your second and third step of the sales process when you want to demonstrate a service/product, introduce the president of your firm or even give a tour of your facility.

  3. Using social media during the sales process can provide you the opportunity to connect with both your vendor and your prospect. With an inside approach, it would be easier to connect vendor SMEs with the appropriate level as the prospects, both in a formal and informal mode, such as texting.

  4. The use of software tools embedded with vendor line cards/products and collaboration software can easily allow for inside sales teams to work with existing clients on up-sell and cross-sell account management programs.

  5. During your early-stage and late-stage implementation phase, consider other steps where an inside approach can be implemented. The education of clients via a managed services approach has already started to train them on expecting more remote versus on-site services. Leverage this education in your sales model.

  6. Sales management will also change. As a sales leader you must recognize several facts: An inside approach allows a salesperson to triple the number of contacts per day with a lower cost of sales and the ratio of sales manager to sales people also triples. Sales training programs will evolve around better listening skills rather than body language, vocal training rather than physical sales skills, and listening to sales calls via a recording will be critical versus typical sales situational role playing exercises. The metrics of management will change somewhat as well. With an inside direct sales organization tracking the number of calls and number of actual contacts are important, but adding call duration and the number of minutes per average actual contact call become key to monitor.

As a sales leader I've managed direct outside sales teams, remote salespeople, channel partners and a business-to-business inside telesales team. Those experiences, along with the past 14 years of consulting, have lead me to agree with Farrington. We've seen Microsoft move to a telephone partner account manager (TPAM) organization so they can work with an average of 30 to 50 partners per TPAM and increase the level of services to partners. Pure customer service organizations have long been telephone-based -- why not sales?

More Columns by Ken Thoreson:

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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