Sales Outsourcing: The Art & Science of Sales Growth with Strategic Partnerships

To outsource or not to outsource. Is that the question?

The key to sales success for a startup or small business is not one-size-fits-all. You can succeed without outsourcing your sales efforts—and many do. But maybe sales outsourcing is your key.

And we just might have your answer here today. How?

Well, ten years ago, there was a small little sales-as-a-service company, ElasticSales. Life was good, business was booming(ish), but the folks at ElasticSales soon found they needed more agile, sales-intuitive systems to effectively reach leads and close deals for their customers. 

ElasticSales grew into Close when we took a detour to build the CRM we needed for our own startup and SMB sales teams. That’s why we’re uniquely qualified to talk about sales outsourcing.

We’ve been on all sides of this equation. We’ve been the third party hired to build and scale outsourced sales activities, and we’re now the CRM company helping small and medium-sized businesses grow, grow, grow.

We know how to leverage sales outsourcing, and when to keep it in-house. So, if you’re wrestling with these questions, buckle up, we’ve got answers.

Sales Outsourcing: What it Means + 4 Types

Sales outsourcing involves handing over parts of your sales process to a third party or sales agency. They might tackle your cold outreach, drive sales prospecting, source quality leads, conduct market research—or many other sales functions, throughout the sales cycle.

Outsourcing gives you quick access to market expertise and allows your team to prioritize revenue-driving sales activities. And leveraging sales-as-a-service saves you the costs of hiring, onboarding, and nurturing new sales reps—while reducing risk and accelerating growth. Pretty nifty, right?

Seventy-nine percent of companies say that outsourcing sales has helped them scale faster than expected. And since more than one-third of small businesses outsource at least part of their business process—you should consider it, too.

So, what are your options?

Inside Sales Outsourcing

Inside sales refers to selling remotely. These teams use phone, email, SMS—and potentially, LinkedIn—to conduct sales outreach, build customer relationships, and close deals.

So, inside sales outsourcing is a solution for startups and small businesses that are looking to improve their sales process—without an in-house, inside sales team. (Or, just one that’s too small for the growth they’re after.)

Here, outsourcing partners will take over the "inside sales" process—calling, texting, and/or emailing—which frees up valuable resources for your small business

Outside Sales Outsourcing

Think inside sales—then reverse it. Outside sales focuses on face-to-face customer interactions, and so, requires some travel.

Outside sales outsourcing uses a sales agency or freelance sales agents to provide feet-on-the-ground salespeople for your product or service. Outsourcing offers on-field expertise with the latest sales strategies, relationship-building techniques, and cost-saving procedures. 

The outside sales approach is also typically more expensive and time-consuming than the inside sales approach. This makes outsourcing an attractive option for many B2B companies, especially in industries where in-person sales are the standard.

Outsourced Lead Generation

Outsourced lead generation is what it sounds like: You’re hiring a third party to generate qualified leads—and drive those qualified leads to your in-house sales team.

Outsourcing lead generation can help you tackle multiple top-of-funnel channels at once, which makes you more resilient to unexpected market changes.

These outsourcing companies may specialize in certain areas of business development, like cold calling, or approach it more generally. They might focus on inbound or outbound lead gen, as they prospect and qualify on your behalf. They can also help laser-define your target market, if you’re struggling there.

Lead gen involves both marketing and sales, so it’s important to get these teams on the same page about your lead gen partner—and your goals for outsourcing. 

Sales Outsourcing - Close Leads

Outsourced Sales Development

Sales development is all about nurturing those leads and prospects—so they can move toward becoming customers. 

Outsourcing sales development means handing over some (or all) of your follow-up phone calls, appointment setting-activities, and sales opportunity-creating efforts to the external SDR team. (That’s why you need a good one.)

So, is there one type of outsourced sales that stands out? Are you thinking, “I could really use that kind of support?” Great. But how do you know that you’re ready to outsource sales?

How to Know When You’re Ready to Outsource Sales

Deciding to outsource sales is a big step—and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not right for every team, and it might not be right for your team (at least, not yet). 

So, before throwing money at a sales outsourcing service, be sure you can check these three "that’s me" boxes:

You’ve Developed a Clear Sales Process

There are two distinct stages of sales: sales exploration and sales execution. Execution can be outsourced. Exploration cannot. 

During the exploration stage, you are developing your sales process—the pre-planned strategy to move prospects through the sales funnel, until they convert to paying customers.

As you develop that predictable, repeatable, working process, you are asking:

  • How do we generate leads?
  • How do we close leads?
  • How do we follow up (and does it work)?
  • How long does it take from lead gen to closed deal?
  • What is our CAC (and other important KPIs)?
  • And more.

You don’t need all the answers right away, but you should have at least 70 percent of them. That’s because you need a holistic understanding of your own sales process—to learn what works, what doesn’t—and why. It’s market research on the front lines.

If you’re struggling, find a consultant. They’ll help to develop that sales process until it’s (mostly) clear. And once you have a (mostly) clear sales process? It’s time to execute. 

This is where outsourcing shines. These sales professionals know how to execute and optimize a functioning sales model. They refine and polish—they don’t build from the ground up. 

You Don’t Have the Manpower to Scale

Your sales staff may be awesome—but even so, they have their limits.

Maybe your internal sales team can’t keep up with the volume of generated leads. Or your startup (or small business) is preparing to scale into new markets. Maybe you even lack the talent—as well as the manpower—to execute your sales strategies. 

Take a quick inventory:

  • Does my team show signs of burnout and/or corner-cutting?
  • Do we have the experience and expertise to tackle these challenges effectively?
  • Does our current team size hold us back from (realistic) growth trajectories?

A lack of internal resources blocks up your sales pipeline and slows growth. You know this. And one of the most important internal resources? Talented manpower. 

If your team just can’t cut it anymore—and you aren’t in the position (or mindset) to hire and onboard more staff—it might be time to bring in reinforcements.

You’re Getting Bogged Down in the Administrative Tasks

Did you know that sales reps spend only 35.2 percent of their time actually selling? The rest of it—a whopping 64.8 percent—is tied up in everything else.

And the top culprit? Admin tasks. 

If your sales reps are bogged down scheduling meetings, updating data, and managing the everyday non-sales tasks of sales—and it’s disrupting your growth—you may be ready to outsource. There are (other) people for that.

This point clearly ties into the point on manpower. Maybe you actually have the staff, but their time is "wasted" on grunt work. 

So, track the time your team dedicates to admin activities. Does it eat up the day? If so, pull in outsourced professionals to handle some of that manual overload—and/or tap into automation.

(And review your time management approach while you’re at it.)

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Sales

There are two sides to the outsourcing coin. On the one side, outsourcing is a star-studded solution for struggling sales teams in the pursuit of growth. And on the other? The stuff of migraines.

You’ll have to balance the pros and cons as you review different sales outsourcing companies—and outsourcing, in general. 

So first, the advantages of outsourcing sales:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Outsourcing sales operations can cost way less than keeping a full-time, in-house sales team. Compensation, tools, and overhead add up—while outsourcing often requires comparatively inexpensive fixed fees. 
  • Advanced expertise and experience: Outsourced sales professionals bring a deep, specialized understanding of their markets. They have access to the best sales technologies and practice the latest sales techniques
  • Scale easily: What happens when demand soars (or plummets)? With an outsourced sales team, you have the flexibility to scale quickly—without bringing on more (or firing, or re-training) sales staff.
  • Prioritize core sales work: By reducing sales admin and repetitive tasks, your team can prioritize high-value customers and revenue-driving activities. Outsourcing frees up internal resources—and personnel. 

The disadvantages of outsourcing sales:

  • Loss of control: Outsourcing involves handing over parts of your sales process. This may reduce your control over data protection and quality standards, and foster conflicting sales processes and/or approaches.
  • Communication concerns: Time zones and unclear comm routes, slow response times, and poor transparency. You’ll need to work for open, smooth communication between you and your outsourcing partner—if you want this to work.
  • Risk to brand image: Is your outsourced sales force aligned with your objectives and customer expectations? Inconsistent messaging and sour customer service will cause long-term damage to your brand’s reputation. 

So, how will you decide if outsourcing is right for you (right now)? Consider the pros and cons—and evaluate your business needs and sales goals. 

If you are "ready" to outsource sales (established above), and are looking to reduce costs while pursuing new growth opportunities, you can mitigate the cons via intentional communication and by choosing a reputable outsourcing company.

So, are you sold on sales outsourcing? Fantastic. Before you go, let’s discuss how to prepare to outsource your sales. (And if you aren’t sold, go ahead and read it anyway.)

Final Thoughts: 3 Steps to Get Ready to Outsource Your Sales

Are you mentally (and practically) ready to outsource your sales? Are you really? 

Here are 3 steps to get you ready. 

Because having the wrong expectations, or just throwing money at some kind of sales-as-a-service company and crossing your fingers will not deliver the results you seek.

1. Make Sure You Set the Right Expectations

Back at ElasticSales, there was one type of customer that scared the living hell out of us. What type? The type that wanted us to fix their business with the ✨magic of sales✨.

They were over-the-moon pumped about their product, but sales were slow or non-existent. They were looking for “others” to “do the business stuff,” because obviously their product was sales-worthy, right? They just didn’t have the right sales/marketing/biz dev guy yet.

But here’s the truth: If you can't sell your own product, no one else will be able to sell it for you.

Outsourced sales teams can build on and optimize a functioning sales process, not a defunct (or non-existent) one, with a product nobody will buy. Even if you suck at sales, your pitch is flawed, and your hustle is lame—if your product is solid, somebody will buy it.

Outsourcing to professionals isn’t the fix-everything duct tape solution you may be hoping for. You’ll need to do some groundwork first, if you want to set your sales growth up for success.

2. Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams on Your Goals for Outsourcing

Sales and marketing. Bread and butter. Better together—when aligned.

Strong alignment between these teams before outsourcing will carry through to outsourcing. That means you both already understand your ICP, what makes a high-quality lead, messaging and KPI standards—in short, how to cohesively attract, nurture, and convert your customers. 

With outsourcing, each team must have a good understanding of why you are outsourcing. What is your goal(s)? 

Is it entering a new market? Ramping up lead generation? Improving customer lifetime value? What is the focus, and what can each team do to support that goal—or get out of the way?

This means jointly determining:

  • Success metrics and KPIs
  • Roles of each team (and staff)
  • Responsibilities of marketing vs. sales

Sales Outsourcing - Close Sales Pipeline View on Mobile

Once you’ve discussed your goals for outsourcing and team-specific expectations—sit back and relax. Just kidding! You wouldn't bring a moose into the office and leave it unattended. It’s powerful—but without guidance, it will create chaos. 

So, when bringing on outsourced sales support, maintain an open dialogue with the honorary team members. Keep expectations and goals front and center. Discuss challenges and concerns. Channel insights from marketing to (outsourced) sales, (outsourced) sales to marketing. All that good stuff.

3. Know the Type of Outsourced Sales Your Team Needs (And How You’ll Support Them)

Remember those four types of outsourced sales? That list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers the main candidates. And then—what type of company within that type of sales?

It’s time to take a hard look at what kind of outsourced sales your team needs. 

Maybe you have a clear deficit in quality leads—and you just can’t hit your goals (cue the experts). Or, you are in an industry where outside sales is the core sales approach—and you don’t have enough resources to build the team yourself.

It may be obvious. If it’s not, ask your team and examine the KPIs. Where could we (realistically) do better? What is blocking effective growth? Odds are—they’ll have some insights. 

And once you’ve figured out what you need, consider how you’ll find it.

Evaluate your outsourcing options by capability and goal alignment. Consider whether they (truly, truly) know more about the area of sales you’re looking to outsource. Consider the ratio of managers to reps—and what your sales team will like with this extension.

Then, discuss how you’ll support them. 

Put plans in place to ensure they are educated about your business processes, goals, and KPIs. Prepare for frequent communication and meetings to touch base on changing objectives and strategies. Loop the outsourced team into existing sales materials, forecasting efforts, and so on.

Taking on an outsourcing partner is taking on a business partner. You’ll need to develop the relationship—and be intentional about who you choose. But with the right mix of preparation and foresight, you’ll find that sales outsourcing unlocks a whole new level of growth.

Maybe it’s your key after all. 🔑

Curious about Close CRM? This sales engagement tool is its own killer form of sales outsourcing. And it’s one designed specifically to accelerate sales for startups and small businesses. Start your 14-day, no-strings-attached free trial today.

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