Sales - What You Can (and Cannot) Offload
Often when I am leading an owner workshop, the subject of sales comes up and the comments run something like this:
"I'm not a sales person. I'm an artist (or an inventor or a writer or a scientist or ...). How can I outsource sales?" "I'm too busy dealing with the day to day problems of running my business. I really need someone to close new business." "Look. I know I've got a great product here that people love. I just need someone to bring in the sales." "I have an online business. So if I set things up right, the sales will just flow in - right?"
Unfortunately, here's the truth: no one is going to care as much about your product or service as you. No one will be able to communicate the honest passion and knowledge of your business as well as you. As a business owner, only you can lead sales. But you do not have to carry the full sales burden by yourself.
You can (and should) look to outsource certain tasks to others with more focus and expertise:
- Initial response and screening: an administrative person with quick follow-up and attention to detail can be assigned to respond quickly to all inquiries. Set up a script and next action (typically a call with you or a sales person) so leads don't get ignored.
- Lead follow up: Set up a system such as salesforce or pipelinedeals to create a central place for the tracking and follow up of long term prospects.
- Sales to retailers: Independent industry sales reps are typically established in a region with a series or retail customers. You can insert your product in their portfolios and pay a commission for all resulting sales.
- Large account contacts: You may be able to contract an experienced independent sales person who has the contacts and clout to provide introductions to large corporate accounts or government contractors. Typically you agree on a finder’s fee for the introduction and/or a percentage of the resulting contract once the deal is signed.
But even if you hire some top-notch salespeople for your team, here are a few tasks you really cannot afford to offload:
- Negotiations/Closing of large partnership deals: Even if someone introduces you to a large partnership, you must be involved in the details and final closing of the deal to win the confidence of the other party, and to make sure your company interests are best served.
- Sales management: Ideally you should have weekly sales meetings to review the pipeline and next steps for all prospects. With independent sales reps, you still need regular contact to ensure your product line gets its fair and consistent push.
- Goal setting: You need to establish both the target finish line and the interim checkpoints to make sure you are on track.
How do you balance sales versus all your other functions? Share in the Comments section below.