Will Remote Sales Forces Replace In-Office Teams?

Many companies are cutting back on office overhead and deploying their sales teams to work remotely.
Chief Ideation Officer, CODA Concepts, LLC
March 22, 2012

In today’s mobile environment, it’s no surprise that forward-thinking companies are challenging the static environment of cubicles. Sales people that once had to be in the office are now working in a quiet corner of their house or from the passenger seat of their car.

Remote sales forces are nothing new. Pharmaceutical companies have used teams to market their blockbuster drugs for decades. And who can forget the ubiquitous door-to-door salesmen selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias?

Many companies are now restructuring their sales forces to work remotely or contracting with sales force outsourcing companies.

“It has allowed us to grow faster and expand because we don’t have the overhead and other hassles,” says Robert Smith founder of Champion Media Worldwide. He has hired more than 25 representatives to help promote his public relations company and is seeing great success with the remote sales-team model.

Smith believes that the office environment is outdated and not necessarily conducive to productivity.

“There’s too much clowning around, too much busywork that’s not productive,” Smith said. He believes the remote work set-up plays to the strengths of the individual. “It’s a one-size-fits-all model. For example, I am a night person. I go to bed at 1 a.m. So that means in the mornings, I am groggy and not at my best. Remote sales offices allow workers to work when they are most productive.”

Customers may feel more connected and not geographically isolated when a remote team is in place. By having teams in place across various regions of the country, companies have greater opportunities for face-to-face networking.

One caveat is that some managers find it difficult to effectively supervise their teams remotely. “You can’t visually see people working and that can be a drawback,” Smith said.

As an alternative, some companies, like Exhibit Surveys, are turning to sales and marketing outfits. AG Salesworks is an outsourced sales team that helps large and small companies turn marketing leads into qualified sales leads.

According to Joe Federbush, vice president of sales and marketing at Exhibit Surveys, using the services of an outsourced sales team is an optimal solution for tight budgets or too little time to hire internally.

“It minimizes the churn and burn of employees either not working out or moving on to other companies once they are trained,” he said. Outsourcing has worked for Exhibit Survey.

“I expect and have been getting over 200 percent return without having to support extra staff, benefits and office space,” Federbush said.

The biggest advantage for Federbush however, may be the confidence in knowing that his sales people are actually performing.

“Having had my own remote sales teams in the past, I’ve often wondered how much they are truly working" said Federbush. "With AG’s remote sales team, the guesswork is removed because they are, in fact, closely managed and mentored.”

Federbush said he does miss the opportunity to watch as up-and-coming sales people work their way up the corporate ladder.

“The only major drawback of outsourcing to a remote team is not having an inside salesperson being groomed for promotion. I’ve seen a lot of salespeople, including myself, who have started out by doing inside sales for a company, pounding the phones, learning the internal process and then getting promoted from within.”

Will the remote sales force ever completely replace in-office teams? Probably not. But they are a great tool to augment a business strategy.

"Remote doesn't necessarily replace a traditional in-office sales team," Federbush says. "It adds value by allowing sales to focus on selling and nurturing."

Regardless of how the job gets done, sales is a critical component of nearly every business. Whether people are working in a cubicle, from the couch or out of a car, the foundation of the job remains the same.

Has your company considered shifting from an in-house team to a remote team? Would you?

Angela Stringfellow is a PR and marketing commmunications consultant and a social media strategist. Angela blogs for Contently.

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