A couple of years ago we created a post concerning “Outsourced EVP of Sales” and whether or not they were fact or fiction. Candidly, the post didn’t get a ton of visibility and we couldn’t figure out why. After all, the world we live in considers outsourced execs an essential way to grow, so surely the rest of the world understands this too. While the benefits and uses of outsourced execs have been noted in a multitude of fields (e.g. technology, finance), sales certainly seemed to be lagging behind.
Over the course of the next year, we noticed an influx of outsourced sales companies, and independent consultants, that were popping up and offering their expertise to the market. While this influx certainly pointed to an increase in needs and perhaps awareness, there seemed to be a lack of excitement concerning this long-overdue sales remedy. But why? Why would a company not take advantage of every resource at their disposal? Why would some parts of a business be able to leverage outsourced execs, but sales was not one?
Fast forward to a Covid-19 world, and it seems the demand and excitement concerning an outsourced sales leader has finally caught-up with the supply. There are a myriad of reasons for this new, albeit long-overdue, interest, namely:
- Reduced costs and overhead while keeping sales moving in the right direction
- Objective advisor that has a fresh view of your business and its gaps, versus a myopic view like your own
- Flexible models emerging during Covid, allowing you to hire someone fractionally, or project-based, versus the standard 40 hours per week term
- Added “down-time” giving leaders the ability to re-evaluate their sales strategy and determine what’s working and what’s not
- Understanding that 2020 was unlikely to be a banner year and therefore its critical that companies reset their game plans to ensure a successful outcome in 2021
With all the excitement surrounding outsourced sales leaders, we thought it would be prudent to bring in an outsourced sales leader ourselves and do a quick Q&A on when it may be appropriate to consider bringing in your own outsourced sales leader. We asked Dan Morris, founder of MindRacer Consulting, a series of questions aimed at helping you determine when best to bring in an objective advisor.
What are the warning signs to look out for that may indicate you are ready/need an outsourced VP of sales?
- We realize that the people who are hiring us need to find time, or they need to gain experience, or they need both. Most CEOs (in fact most people) don’t have enough time, right?
- Mostly, business leaders don’t have the time or experience to develop a repeatable sales process and run a successful sales organization. Quite often when they reach out to us they have failed in some way. They’ll have brought in a sales team or a sales rep or a sales leader who’s fallen and failed and that hurts. They don’t want to let people down. They want to grow their business, they don’t want to waste money, but often they’ve had that experience before they realize, “Hey, this is not something I find straightforward, it’s not a natural thing for me, I need help.”
What are some of the triggers or pitfalls, or issues that these companies generally need to fix? And can they really fix these issues by bringing in somebody with your background?
Triggers that we really notice are:
- That they’re trying to maximize their performance, but they don’t know how.
- They’re just thinking, “if I add more salespeople, then I’m gonna get more sales”. But then they haven’t succeeded. Often they know they haven’t maximized the performance of the team that they’ve got already. They tried a scattergun approach, with loads of different strategies, and some of them have worked and revenues increased. But they’re not really sure what worked and what did not.
- They want to try and be more efficient with the use of capital, they recognize that they’re out of their depth and could use some help.
- They may not be out of their depth in terms of experience but just need to gain time back for other priorities.
When you’re growing a business, you need a lot of time to run the business and look at the rest of the teams. Bringing in somebody who’s got the time and the experience to help them think something through is helpful.
So in regards to size could a solopreneur, or a company of five benefit from an outsourced sales leader or is there a better mix?
- Most of the businesses that hire us have got a salesperson at least, or a couple of salespeople and the CEO is currently running the team. They need more experience, to be more strategic, and have us step into that management structure and set that thing up so that we can then show them how to run it, step back and they can run it.
Are there any industries that are primed for an outsourced leader, and furthermore, would a b2b or b2c company benefit more?
- We have worked in 20 industries, so far. All of them are business to business. We mostly work with software companies selling to enterprise or to SMB, and have also done successful work in service businesses, like agencies and consultancies. I know there are many other use cases outside of SaaS or services based for Fractional VP sales, but that’s really where we’re focused due to our years of experience in these areas.
Can you speak a little bit about the difference between a fractional leader and a fully outsourced sales leader? Is this something that you would do indefinitely?
- I actually see that there’s a very big difference in mindset between having an outsourced sales leader versus the fractional VP. The mindset of hiring an outsourced sales leader is that you want someone to run a whole outsourced team of reps to fulfil a project for a company, with little likelihood that team would ever be integrated into the core business.
- The fractional VP is what we focus on, and it requires being part of the core team to help them build their own team as an asset. Generally, we’ll go in and we’ll do a review in the first month. We’ll look at everything that they’re doing, we’ll look at their systems, their processes, their documents, and work with our team to understand what is missing. Then, we start making recommendations and rolling those out within the first couple of months. It’s quite common for us to be in a Fractional VP engagement with a client for between three, and well north of nine months.
- We’ve also done a lot shorter engagements, such as when it’s just a one off consultation or assessment service that’s required. We are really there to help the business get to that next stage. Quite often, it’s to the point where they feel confident to spend the money on a full time sales leader, because, remember, you get one of the value propositions in the fractional VP is that it’s a much lower cost than having a full time VP of sales. Also, a lot of VP of sales are much more successful when there’s a repeatable model in place that they can come in and run.
- One of the things that we are particularly good at is setting those systems and processes up so that hiring a full time VP generates more of a return on investment, because they’ll get up to speed quicker. And of course, we can actually help with that selection process as well to make sure we get somebody who’s going to thrive at running that system. So, there is no specific end time, if the company is doing well and we’re helping them to grow. It’s a great partnership that really gets the business to that next stage.
Can you give some examples of some of the actual work that a company would maybe expect from an outsourced VP of sales?
- So the first place is always to get a really good understanding of what they’ve actually done so far and what they’re doing right now. It’s looking back at all of the things that they’ve done for marketing campaigns. What’s worked, what hasn’t worked, right into things like web analytics and email performance.
- We see what’s generating leads for them, and if there is something that we should be doing again, as well as what has fallen off, or didn’t work. Then looking at other strategies that we’ve seen work across lots of different industries, bringing in ideas that can add a lot of value to that business at that time. This last year has been a big pivot time for everybody.
- As an example, we have an SMB focused SaaS client that was generating most of their sales from trade shows, and partner referrals. What we’ve done is we’ve helped them to make their virtual sales process more efficient and focus on markets that had high growth potential for them. We supported the team through the evolution, and helped the executives develop strategy and plan for the growth of the team going forward. They increased their ARR 5x in 2020 and have now hired additional team members confidently to support growth goals for ‘21…
Whether or not it’s an outsourced sales leader or a fractional VP of sales, the goal is the same- fix what’s broken and drive revenue. While a lot of companies feel compelled to hire a full-time sales leader, this is not always the right solution. In fact, many times we will suggest that our customers start building the sales process through use of an outsourced or fractional VP, like Dan Morris, opting for a full-time resource once the appropriate foundation has been built. This allows the company to reduce costs, but continue moving the cursor in the right direction, capitalizing on sales opportunities as they present themselves. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that the world is fluid and the old way of approaching problems, may not be the most expedient in this new world.
Beau Billington- the founder of the Free Agent, a consulting company immersed in the strategic-layer of the Gig Economy-
With Cooperation by: Dan Morris is the founder of MindRacer, a consulting company working with growth focused business leadership teams to ensure they are maximizing growth using the right modern sales process, targeting their best possible customer, and maximizing revenue opportunities.