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Death of a Salesman: Taking a Balanced Approach to Online and Offline Sales

Sales are the lifeblood of any company. Without healthy sales, a company cannot grow, and revenue stagnates.


Sales are the lifeblood of any company. Without healthy sales, a company cannot grow, and revenue stagnates.

Since the digital revolution, many companies have shifted focus away from building a sales force to establishing quick and efficient online sales channels. While the Internet does present lucrative opportunities for growing businesses to expand their reach, it doesn’t diminish the importance of the human element: a real, live sales team.

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Sales are the lifeblood of any company. Without healthy sales, a company cannot grow, and revenue stagnates.

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Photo: Evrim Oralkan, Founder and CEO of Travertine Mart; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Evrim Oralkan, Founder and CEO of Travertine Mart; Source: Courtesy Photo

It is essential for companies to keep in mind that Google’s proprietary search algorithms are known to change consistently, and your business could disappear from Google search results overnight. It’s not uncommon to see websites penalized for something as simple as a user comment, typo, dead link, or an inclusion on the wrong list somewhere online.

And for every Amazon and eBay proving the Internet is a valuable retail channel, there’s a company like Warby Parker moving from online-only to building brick-and-mortar stores to open another sales channel. For example, an Omnichannel Shopping Preferences study surveyed a cross-section of demographics and found that some consumers still prefer to evaluate and make purchases in person rather than online.

No small business can ignore these realities. And the key to healthy sales for most companies is a balanced approach of online and offline sales.

 

Creative Ways to Build a Sales Team

Building a sales team is expensive, but if you have a great sales strategy it isn’t a bad idea. Even though you have to pay for training, benefits, equipment, and utilities to get them started, your sales force will be an invaluable stream of revenue that you can also hire out to other companies.

In fact, many companies are better off outsourcing sales. If another company can do it better, faster, or cheaper than you can, you should consider external sales. It can free up your time, and you generally don’t incur any costs until a customer purchases your product or service.

Sven Harms, co-owner of Pioneer Research Inc., is a huge advocate of outsourcing sales. Harms wanted national reach, but needed his 45 employees focused on designing and marketing underwater binoculars — not selling on the road. He didn’t have the cash flow, revenue, or connections to make sales a focus internally, so he hired outside contractors.

External sales worked for Harms, but that doesn’t mean your company has to hire sales agents. External sales also encompasses using existing distribution channels, which is a common practice in the entertainment industry.

Licensing agreements are another popular way entrepreneurs outsource sales. Kevin O’Leary has popularly chased licensing deals from entrepreneurs throughout the “Shark Tank” series. With a licensing agreement, you let a major player do all the work while you sit back and collect a check.

 

Red Flags to Watch For With an External Salesforce

To manage external sales successfully, you should constantly be asking whether you would buy from your company. If you (or your salespeople) don’t believe in your company, you won’t be successful.

Here are several red flags that could indicate a problem with your external sales force:

 

  • Clients have the same complaints.

    Every company has “problem clients,” but if the same issues continue to pop up, it may be more than the cost of doing business. It’s possible your external sales team isn’t correctly setting expectations … or meeting them.

  • Clients are confused.

    If you hire an external sales team, make sure the firm you outsource to has experience in your industry or will provide training to its sales personnel. If your salespeople don’t understand your product or service backward and forward, they’re going to confuse more customers than they sell.

  • Calls with leads are extremely short.

    Short sales calls often happen when a prospect hasn’t been educated on your product or service or when there’s a massive discrepancy between price and budget. If you’re using an external sales force to quickly generate qualified leads for your internal employees to convert into customers (as PhishMe did when it was short on time and resources), watch out for a glut of unqualified leads that could be wasting your time.

  • Sales have flatlined.

    There are many possible explanations for why external sales have stalled. It could be that your salespeople lack motivation, or it could be that you haven’t clearly defined expectations. Always make sure you outline concrete sales goals for your external team.

 

These types of problems can only be diagnosed and corrected by turning your focus inward and asking how your company can better communicate its value to clients. If your salespeople are given the opportunity to start a sales pitch and don’t land a sale, the problem lies with your team.

Today, companies have so many new channels to drive sales, but a balanced approach is the best way to ensure a healthy, consistent stream of revenue. Even if your company is small or you don’t have the resources to create your own sales team, you can still benefit from the face-to-face experience salespeople have to offer.

 

This article has been edited and condensed.

Evrim Oralkan is the founder and CEO of Travertine Mart, a boutique online flooring company specializing in premium-grade travertine pavers, tiles, and pool coping. Until Travertine Mart’s founding in 2007, travertine could only be found in brick-and-mortar shops. Travertine Mart has provided a cost-effective solution that brings high-quality travertine straight to your door. Travertine Mart was named to the Inc. 5000 list in 2012 and 2013 and was a nominee for the 2013 Edison Award. Connect with @TravertineMart on Twitter.

 

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