The main topic of conversation at any sales meeting is typically around the size of the pipeline and whether individuals or teams are set to reach their quarterly or even weekly targets.
For field-based teams that rely on face-to-face meetings to close sales, time can be a finite resource with long periods spent on the road, talking to prospects, responding to RFIs or creating proposals. In turn, this often means the volume of opportunities they create and convert can hit a ceiling.
What many organisations fail to recognise is that firstly, the nature of selling and how customers like to do business is changing and secondly, there can be a danger of losing existing customers faster than you are acquiring them.
With increased competition, the internet and technological advances, business decision makers are less likely to agree to a meeting, unless it is for a high-ticket item.
This means that although there is still a role for face-to-face selling, it will be reserved for more complex or expensive products or services that are best explained or presented in person.
So where does this leave the lions share of sales for smaller items or repeat goods?
Many of our own clients, particularly in the b2b arena, have begun to realise they need to put additional investment into areas such as new lead generation and qualification but also in nurturing relationships with existing contacts that may have stopped buying or were at risk of being lost.
To complement the efforts of field-based sales, the concept of desk-based sales (DBS) is now being used to both feed and maintain a healthy sales pipeline in parallel with the work of the core sales team.
Setting up DBS can be done in-house if you have the right resources, but getting through to decision makers can be very challenging, because sometimes gatekeepers don’t know who the best person to speak to is. Re-engaging with old customers or creating new opportunities can be a time-consuming business and takes plenty of practice and perseverance to get it right.
That’s why outsourcing to a third party can make sense, as they are focused on customer communication every hour of the day, so are more experienced in knowing how to make contact as well as having the right talents to manage the complexity of in-depth account management.
Another advantage is that you can turn it on and off, so they can work on campaigns that might only need to be operational at certain times of the year.
Where products have a 12-month sales cycle it is especially important to nurture relationships at different intervals, as they may not always be ready to buy.
What DBS gives you is the opportunity to focus on particular types of customers. For example you can set up a series of outbound contact campaigns that might focus on ‘lead generation’, cuddle calls for existing customers, special promotions, data cleansing and even debt collection.
The latter was particularly rewarding for Canon who through just one person on the DBS team was able to recover £250,000 in a single year and at the same time also reduced their customer attrition rate by 67%. At the same time, reconnecting with older customers revealed there was a genuine desire for them to re-engage with the Canon brand.
Each type of contact whether by phone, email or other direct marketing methods can deliver different benefits in the form of new sales opportunities, reviving old customers, market research or brand awareness.
By combining field and desk-based sales teams, brands receive more than the sum of its parts.
As Canons Head of Business Development Paul Isaacs says, ‘There are no silos between desk-based and field-based sales. For example even if an opportunity is identified by desk-based sales that is passed onto a Canon representative, the desk-based sales still have the total sale value registered on their target.’
This ‘one-team’ approach ensures a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial, with each group focusing on what they deliver best.
When it comes to examining monthly or yearly targets, setting up DBS alongside your core sales can help feed them with fresh leads and offer more time to convert sales.
The benefits of desk-based sales include: