3 Outside Sales Best Practices

Elizabeth Scolari
June 21, 2016

Over the last several years, the line between “inside” and “outside” sales has become somewhat blurred. Where the fostering of long-term business relationships often involved face-to-face meetings, the presence of new technology––particularly B2B eCommerce––alongside evolving B2B client demands, has changed the nature of outside sales and the responsibilities that reps are expected to undertake. Nonetheless, outside sales reps are still important to the health and success of manufacturing and distribution companies. The acquisition and maintenance of high-value accounts, alongside the kind of direct point-of-contact that most enterprise-level companies desire, can only be achieved by reps with a certain skill-set. Whether you’re looking to hire an outside sales rep, or you’re already working as one, the tips in this article will help you maximize results by establishing effective processes and ironing out inefficiencies.

What do outside sales reps do?

Outside sales usually involves meeting face-to-face with potential and current customers. They are usually responsible for generating and closing high-value leads and maintaining a customer-base of long-term clients. Because of their importance to a company, especially in the case of B2B sales where single contracts can be valued in the millions, outside sales reps tend to be amongst the highest-paid employees. Let’s take a look at some of the things outside sales reps can do to up their game.

Outside Sales Best Practices

1. Embrace new technology

Only a decade or so ago, meeting prospective clients tended to involve long plane journeys, expensive stays in unknown cities, and a relatively high client-acquisition cost. The prevalence of new communication technologies - web-conferencing and smartphones - mean that it’s now possible to eschew many in-person meetings without any significant loss. The ability to achieve a higher ROI, a figure that outside sales reps should always be keeping a close eye on, is directly linked to the replacement of some costly travel activities with new technology. The point isn’t that in-person meetings are redundant - it’s crucial for outside sales reps to gauge when a prospective client would prefer to meet in person - but rather to limit needless expenses in the context of more efficient communication channels.

2. Coordinate with your whole department

Though a significant portion of an outside sales rep’s time will be spent outside company walls, it’s important to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. Outside sales is a very broad term than can extend across the whole gamut of sales and marketing activities. Both pitching to warm leads in the form of a presentation and attracting entirely new clients at trade shows or networking events are examples of activities that a rep will likely have to undertake. Because it’s probable that a sizeable portion of outside leads will be fostered by other departments or individuals within the company, it’s important that all aspects of the sales process - lead generation and face-to-face “conversion” - are coordinated. If a potential client has been led to expect a certain promotional offer or tailored information, it’s vital that outside sales reps understand what’s required. In a similar vein, it’s also important to be aware of support networks within a company. Data analysis and tight demographic profiling, for instance, can be important during the research phase, whilst an understanding of the nature of marketing campaigns responsible for generating particular groups of leads can be important for crafting effective pitches.

3. Capitalize on “inside” digital sales channels

Whilst the overlap of “inside” and “outside” sales channels has already been touched on, it’s worth reiterating again. The increasing adoption of B2B eCommerce has meant that more suppliers are exploring digital marketing and sales channels. Whilst on the surface it might seem that these new forms of promotion are the domain of the inside sales team, outside sales reps have an equally important role to play. An increasing number of high-ticket B2B buyers, for example, use social media to foster relationships with prospective suppliers, as well as to find information about them. Social media gives outside sales reps the opportunity to begin fostering relationships remotely on a far wider scale than has previously been possible. In a similar vein, the sheer range of targeting options that online advertisers now offer also allow outside sales reps to target potential high-value clients in new ways.