Every salesperson starts out to capture business and take a company to the next level through sales growth. Often, only scanty results occur (or none) and, before long, the company will struggle from lack of sales growth.
Jim Rockenbach, President, FastFireTM Advisory Sales, Inc., says the underlying problem is usually that the company tries to take its product or service to market from a tactical sales approach instead of building a foundation through a strategic sales approach first.
"The problem is they end up with marketing and sales not integrated," Rockenbach explains. "Sales is saying and doing one thing and marketing is saying and doing another thing. The two aren't on the same page, so the message to the market space is clouded and confused. Then everybody wonders why they're not hitting their numbers." It happens in early-stage companies as well as large enterprises.
In a tactical sales approach, a sales force merely tries to sell another product or service from a numbers game. FastFire helps its clients first take a strategic approach to the market. It starts with building a foundation around capturing strategic customers--those who bring more value than just the money they spend on a particular product or service.
"When companies outsource their sales efforts to us," says Rockenbach, "we first identify two-six target clients within a specific market segment. Then we actually capture those clients and subsequently build a methodology and process around how we did that. It includes such factors as the sales process, articulating the value proposition, sales tools, number of contacts, and the actual meetings it took to close the sale. We then build what we call a 'capture strategy guide' that we turn over to our client's internal tactical sales force (or to the FastFire outsourced sales force) to begin to capture market share."
Rockenbach claims that once his company captures one or two strategic targets in a particular segment, he knows they'll also capture the next 10. Those strategic sales become the foundation for sustainable sales growth. The tactical sales force then has a story to tell--one that actually works--and documented best practices. They know the concept, ideal prospect, ideal prospect value, how to start the conversation around a particular product or service in a particular market, the sales arguments, and collaborative-discussion questions.
At this point, the process is easy to replicate, so the client can move seamlessly into a tactical sales model and really start capturing market share. As Rockenbach points out, "You cannot just walk out into a market space with a product or service that nobody knows about and for which you don't have a story to tell around it, and not know how the market space perceives the value, and expect to be successful."
Moving a Healthcare Client to Marketing Success
"We take companies from a market space position and accelerate them into a market-leadership position," states Rockenbach. FastFire's outsourcing clients include global enterprises (PricewaterhouseCoopers and SunGard were the first two clients), SMBs, and early-stage companies. No matter the size, they all have the same tactical-versus-strategic-approach problem. But the extent of the role that FastFire plays in the client organization often does depend on size.
Building a foundation is always the first step. From there, FastFire's responsibilities might be to train the client's internal sales force, recruit a sales force, or even become the outsourced sales force. At Pensacola, Florida-based KAMedData, for example, FastFire is the outsourced sales force on an ongoing basis.
Niels K. Andersen, President and CEO of KAMedData, began outsourcing his sales force function to FastFire in spring 2006. KAMedData is an outsourcing provider with best-practice services and products in consulting, medical staff development planning, and optimization for patient throughput. It's also the parent company of three other companies (KontactIntelligence.com--a software developer in physician recruitment and retention management software for hospitals and healthcare systems; VeritasHealthCare--a staffing firm providing nurses, healthcare technicians, pharmacists, etc. predominantly for the US Department of Defense providing civilian staffing to augment active-duty personnel at military treatment facilities; and eCVMedSearch--a physician and healthcare executive recruitment firm).
Andersen cultivated a sales force for four years, but they didn't deliver the necessary results. He had formal sales training as part of his career development and successfully sold in other roles before founding KAMedData. However, Andersen says, "Now sales is only one of many important aspects of my job -- business development, software design, consulting, operations, accounting and finance, HR, strategic planning, and customer relations--all are equally important and require attention on a daily basis. So it was difficult for me to be able to pay attention to the sales side as much as I needed to in order to have an effective internal team. For success in sales, you need to really on focus on it--or find the right people to do that for you."
He turned to FastFire. Rockenbach had significant sales expertise in the healthcare industry and in technology. Andersen comments, "He understood the strategic planning requirements and needs of C-level executives in hospitals as it relates to the consulting and technology needs of our clients and quickly picked up on how to sell to our target market."
Since FastFire took over the sales effort, KAMedData now has a high rate of software sales and renewals. In addition, in a six-month period, Andersen says the effort moved from its former pull market strategy (where potential clients heard about KAMedData and its family of companies largely from networking and referrals) to a push strategy. "With a push strategy, we have a more aggressive marketing and advertising campaign coupled with defined client-development goals via proactive sales calls executing against achievable revenue objectives," Andersen explains.
Why Outsource a Strategic Function?
Building the strategic foundation is not as easy as it sounds, especially considering a key issue is speed to market. Speed to market will accelerate a company to a market-share position, and that creates shareholder value. "It doesn't matter what methodology or sales process you use," says Rockenbach. "What matters is that it closes business in the shortest amount of time."
Speed requires a wealth of expertise not only in selling but also insight and knowledge in various market segments the company wants to target. FastFire brings that expertise to the table. Rockenbach, for example had 18 years' experience in executive sales in 14 market spaces (healthcare, healthcare technology, pharmacy technology, finance, banking, insurance, professional services, professional services technology, manufacturing, retail and wholesale, etc.)
Rockenbach says that whether the client is a small company where the CEO or founder is also still the sales force or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, it's a large company with a sales force not attaining sales goals, the first step in outsourcing the sales function is deciding to trust resources like FastFire. Because of the nature of the contracted performance goals, the outsourcer must represent the client company with the same passion as the founder would.
FastFire's approach differs from a consulting firm. "We don't come in and tell our clients how to sell. We don't know how to sell a product or service unless we've sold it and sold it in a particular market segment," says Rockenbach.
Once FastFire succeeds in capturing strategic clients/partners, they're turned over to an account manager in the client's organization who takes on an up-sell objective. The outsourced FastFire sales force is the hunter; the client's internal team becomes the cultivator.
How the Relationship Works
When a company outsources to FastFire, the outsourcer first conducts an assessment as to how the sales organization is doing and how it is integrated with marketing and PR. Then both parties engage in an initial planning project to define the client's needs.
Rochenbach says the planning discussion starts with understanding the client's exit strategy for its business. Does it want market share, want to go public, or want to sell the company? This understanding sets the sales objectives (a realistic picture of how many clients the sales force must capture, how many calls will that take, etc. to meet the objectives), determines such factors as how many sales people will be needed and what level of experience they will need, and determines how the parties will measure "success." Next they define reporting functions and details.
Sometimes FastFire operates out of the client's office but most of the time works virtually. The FastFire executive assumes the title and role of VP of Sales in a small company or Director of Sales in a larger company. Its sales reps are titled "sales executives," "sales representatives," or whatever the client prefers. Whether FastFire's team is the only sales force or is working with the client's internal sales team, the identity and integration is seamless to customers.
The pricing model is a fixed-fee arrangement (with differing parameters for a tactical sales engagement from a strategic engagement), plus commissions and bonuses.
FastFire has a track record of quickly accelerating its clients to successfully achieving their objectives. KAMedData is a good example. Since FastFire came on board in spring 2006 as KAMedData's only sales force, KAMedData has increased its sales goals and is building a durable and reliable sales foundation.
"Thanks to outsourcing our sales function, we have been able to secure an experienced sales structure and department where we can plan our revenue targets, report on our status, and make needed adjustments quickly," says Andersen.
He adds, "Early this year, we'll look at next steps. One item we will look at is whether we need to build an in-house team here that FastFire can train, manage, and mentor to eventually start taking over our needs."
Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:
- In small and mid-sized companies, where the owners and executives wear many hats, it is difficult to devote enough time and attention to developing an effective in-house sales team. Outsourcing this effort allows the executives to focus on the core business.
- Speed to market in sales processes depends on expertise not only in selling but also insight and knowledge in various market segments the company wants to target. An outsourced sales force will bring this expertise to the table along with best practices.
- Outsourcing the sales function requires trusting the service provider's sales team. Because of the nature of the contracted performance goals, the outsourcer must represent the client company with the same passion as the founder would.
- Commissions paid on sales the outsourcing service provider achieves will act as an incentive for faster time to market.