Sales is NOT an Outside Activity. It Hasn’t Been for Years.

Justin Roff-Marsh argues that if you design your sales function around the concept of sales as an outside activity, you will seriously handicap growth.

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Most salespeople (and executives) think of sales as an outside activity.

Justin Roff-Marsh claims that it isn’t and that it hasn’t been for at least 15 years.

Furthermore, he argues that if you design your sales function based upon the assumption that sales is an outside activity, you will seriously handicap the growth of your organization.

This blog is by Justin Roff-Marsh, author of the book, The Machine: A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function. You can get the first 4 chapters of this book absolutely free here.

Today, sales happens inside. Like it or not

Sales certainly used to be an outside activity. The image of Ray Kroc hawking Multi-Mixer machines from the trunk of his car in the 2016 move The Founder springs to mind.

Things are different today, however. Few salespeople drop in on prospective customers unannounced. And most executives prefer to make purchasing decisions with as little face-to-face contact with salespeople as possible.

Consequently, salespeople today spend most of their working hours inside. Either in a company office or in a home office. What’s more, if you examine the specific activities that genuinely need to be performed face-to-face in pursuit of a deal, those activities are increasingly not performed by salespeople. Technical tasks (detailed requirement discovery and demonstrations) tend to be performed by engineers, and formal presentations in major-account sales environments tend to be performed by senior executives.

WATCH: 5 With ID -  Justin Roff-Marsh Wants to Set Salespeople Free

Roff-Marsh’s advice is to recognize that sales is an inside activity and to design your sales function in accordance with that. He counsels that salespeople should work inside exclusively and that all salespeople should be based in the organization’s head office, making management easier.

Critical field activities should be pushed to engineers or technical specialists, or to senior executives, as appropriate. He also maintains that salespeople should focus exclusively on the pursuit of new business. Leaving the management of inbound transactions to the customer service team.

Face-to-face meetings and probability

Most salespeople are convinced it makes sense to get face to face with prospects because their odds of winning the deal are much higher when they do.

Salespeople’s observation is correct. But their causality assumption is not! They assume that getting face to face increases the likelihood of a win, however, the more likely conclusion is that prospects only allow themselves to be talked into face-to-face meetings when they have already made up their minds to purchase.

The economics: inside vs outside

Where new business is concerned, the primary driver is selling conversations. You obviously want your salespeople to have as many of them as possible. Turns out there’s an order-of-magnitude difference between the number of selling conversations your salespeople are likely to have if they are inside, vs outside. It’s very difficult for an outside salesperson to average more than one face-to-face selling conversation a day. However, an inside salesperson can easily average 10. Consider Roff-MarshRoff-Marshyour most capable salesperson. Do you really want them in the field, averaging one selling conversation a day. Or would you rather they worked inside, where they can perform 10 days’ worth of work, daily?


Justin Roff-Marsh is the founder and President of Ballistix. He is also considered by many as the thought leader in Sales Process Engineering, a radical new approach to the management of the sales function. Justin is also author of the award-winning book on Sales Process Engineering, The Machine: A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function. You can get the first 4 chapters of this book absolutely free here.

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