Sales Channel Insights from Netpique's Chief Operations Officer
An Interview with Sales Outsourcing Expert Cindy Campbell
Please describe your role as COO of Netpique.
My role is to provide the leadership that ensures we have the people, processes and systems in place to achieve the vision and objectives of the company. In doing so, we create a compelling work environment and achieve the objectives of our clients.
What are the most common misconceptions about sales outsourcing?
People are concerned about protecting their brand, and understandably so. Millions of dollars and years of performance go into developing a brand, and any action that threatens the brand position is simply wrong. A good sales channel partner will be able to provide a complete sales function that compliments the client’s internal organizational culture and structure. Additionally, a professional sales channel partner articulates the measures they take to protect a brand. Steps should include descriptors around training, quality control, certification, management involvement, team tenure and extensive business reviews. A good sales channel partner will develop teams that are dedicated to the client brand and who take enormous pride in representing that brand—and they will provide references that can attest to the quality of the service.
What is the most common question you get about integrating sales outsourcing into a company’s sales operation?
Clients want to know, “Will I have visibility into who will be representing my brand, and how do you ensure that my corporate culture will be represented through your sales channel solution?” Initial discussion typically centers on why to use sales outsourcing. It’s a very important, strategic question because the use of outsourcing can be very different depending on the client’s objectives. Sales outsourcing can be done in whole or in part; it can be focused on a particular type of customer; it can be used for new customer acquisition, sales support for current programs or penetration of existing customers; it can be used for test marketing or market expansion. The uses are many and the primary question clients need to answer is not "if" to use sales outsourcing, rather "where" and "how" to use it.
Once the strategy is determined, discussion turns to “how” to get the program developed, launched and tracked. A critical consideration: Does the business model of the sales outsourcer use independent contractors (1099’s) or employees (W2’d)? This will “flavor” the entire engagement in terms of the management influence and direction that can be applied to the program (and hence, the influence over brand protection). Other considerations include: What technology integration needs to take place? What are the financial and operating reporting requirements and how will they be delivered? How will training, both initial and ongoing, be developed and delivered? A qualified sales outsourcer will help guide the discussion to ensure a complete program is developed.
What is the biggest mistake companies make when outsourcing their sales, and what steps can they take to avoid making it?
A sales outsourcer must deliver results on an accelerated timetable. That said, the timetable needs to be realistic. An open, honest conversation must be had at the beginning of a relationship (and I mean prior to contract signing!) to establish goals and objectives. This understanding will have financial investment and expected return as a cornerstone of the relationship. Clarity around expectations is critical.
Another potential pitfall is lack of program ownership. It is very important that the client have a point of contact who is invested in the outcome of the program. Clearly the sales outsourcer must manage and deliver on a continuous basis. However, in a successful program, the client program manager learns from the sales outsourcer and makes critical program adjustments based on feedback.
What advice do you give companies that are considering outsourcing all or part of their sales operations?
Some common advice:
- Develop a test plan built on a reasonable duration and size. Ensure the test plan has measuring points that are understood by all. Develop a worst case, expected case and best case scenario. Expand only after test success.
- Ensure that you have the financial resources to fund the test period assuming the worst case scenario.
- Appoint a program manager that will represent the company well and who commands internal respect.
- Develop a robust internal communication plan. Identify the stakeholders and develop a communication plan regarding the sales outsourcing program, goals and their role in supporting success.
- Identify reporting periods, put them on a calendar and stick to the plan.
- Find ways to deepen brand importance with the outsourced sales representatives. These people will develop a strong loyalty to the brand they represent, and they will truly appreciate even small gestures of support.
Can you give an example of a company you’ve worked with that has benefited from sales outsourcing?
There are many! Contracts prevent me from mentioning them by name, but we have had the privilege to work with leading brands in energy, telecommunications, logistics, website design, office products, and other business services. We were engaged in a variety of ways, including new customer acquisition, customer contract renewals, launch of new product lines, entry into new territories and penetration of specific verticals, to name a few.
How does Netpique differ from other sales outsourcing companies in its approach to working with clients?
We believe we have several important differentiators.
- In our most successful relationships, we are viewed and treated as an extension of the client’s staff. We share successes and failures, always with an eye to improving the program.
- Because of our emphasis on a compelling work environment and a business model that is based on W2’d employees, our sales representatives become tenured, expert at the products they are representing and protective of the brand they represent. We are committed to this approach because it delivers dividends in terms of productivity, ROI and brand protection.
- Nothing is more important to us than integrity. It permeates everything we do. More than one of our clients has remarked that they have found sales outsourcers who can produce but lack integrity and others that have integrity but don’t produce. They appreciate doing business with Netpique because we deliver both: results with integrity.
Netpique COO Cindy Campbell has more than three decades of corporate experience, including such roles as VP of Business Information Services for GTE Corporation and Executive Vice President of the Business Solutions Division of Office Depot. Have a question for Cindy? Email her at email@example.com.