Though the lines are sometimes blurred, inside sales and outside sales are generally separate functions within an organization that require distinctly different skill sets. Outside or field sales teams spend the majority of their workday on the road meeting with clients and prospects face-to-face, often performing hands-on activities like product demonstrations or account setup.
Field sales managers have unique considerations to keep in mind to empower their teams to be successful. We’ll outline some of the best practices that high-performing field sales teams have adopted, talk about why they work, and discuss how to incorporate them into your own business.
1) Align with Content Marketing Initiatives
Sales and marketing collaboration is more important than ever. The two functions have a symbiotic relationship; sales needs marketing to generate demand, and marketing needs sales’ feedback to fine-tune their strategy. Effective outside sales teams understand in particular the value of marketing content for driving deals forward.
Knowing what piece of content a prospect has interacted with, helps prepare sales reps for their in-person meetings. For example, if a prospect is continuously reading blog posts on a certain topic, then the sales rep should make sure to cover it in their meeting. Has the prospect viewed multiple pieces of your company’s content? Then they’re probably more invested in the buying process than someone who’s simply signed up for your newsletter.
To reap the benefits of sales and marketing collaboration, be sure to implement processes that encourage communication between both parties. Perhaps marketing team members draft a summary of a prospect’s touchpoints with your company for a sales rep to review before meeting with them. Conversely, sales reps can send a post-meeting report to marketing that addresses what types of content the buyer is looking for and how they prefer to be contacted moving forward. Keeping both departments in the know prevents confusion in the sales cycle that could hurt the deal.
2) Build Community Amongst Remote Team Members
Many salespeople are competitive by nature, and it can feel discouraging for field sales reps to frequently work remotely and thus be disconnected from their peers. Creating a community amongst team members keeps morale high and promotes healthy competition between reps. What’s more, over half of the salespeople report leaning on their peers to get tips for personal improvement.
Managers should work to incorporate regular communication with and between their team, either through instant messaging or scheduled check-in calls (instead of cumbersome emails). Using digitally-accessible leaderboards is another way to keep reps on their toes and motivated to stay on par with their fellow team members’ performances. Finally, instituting competitions with tangible prizes (as opposed to just bragging rights) helps to fuel the desire for closing business.
3) Focus on territory planning to maximize time and optimize scheduled visits
Since field sales reps spend so much of their time on the road, efficiency and organization are of the utmost priority. No one wants to be wasting time traveling more than they need to between account visits or risk showing up late to an important meeting because of poorly designed routes.
Gathering data from tools with a GPS component that field sales teams use allows better planning for more optimal travel routes. Using this data, managers can look at which accounts aren’t getting the most attention and which ones to prioritize. It will help them devise new sales territories accordingly based on reps’ travel and account visit histories.
Standout field sales reps know how to maximize their downtime. If a meeting unexpectedly falls through, high-performers will prioritize other accounts in the nearby area. Staying resourceful in this way ensures that time between meetings is well spent.
4) Choose the Right KPIs to Track
Although they have the same objective of closing deals, inside and outside sales teams go about achieving this goal in very different ways. Hence, they shouldn’t necessarily be responsible for hitting the same key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPIs for field sales reps need to be considerate of their detachment from the desk. Time frames for measuring KPIs should also be based on the average length of the sales cycle. The following are some examples of KPIs for field sales teams:
- Number of account visits (measures how productive reps are during work hours)
- Opportunity-to-win ratio (indicates how effective reps are at closing)
- Number of new opportunities opened (shows how effectively reps prospect on the road)
- Sales volume by location (reveals which accounts or geographies are most profitable)
- Contact rate per account (ideally reps should visit a prospect as few times as possible before closing the deal)
- Number of face-to-face meetings booked (demonstrates the rep’s ability to connect with prospects in-person)
Field sales reps face unique challenges and opportunities that influence their ability to close deals. They need all the help they can get to become successful and it starts with having the right tools and content to work with. Meeting with prospects outside of the office affords the chance of moving deals along more quickly, but can also isolate reps from the rest of the organization. This is why building a community around these sales reps is very important to maintain the flow of communication. Time and resources management also has a huge impact on their overall performance. Knowing which goals to prioritize and how to measure success keeps the team on the right track.