For many businesses — especially those that sell to other businesses — face-to-face appointments are an integral part of the sales process.
Buyers are, after all, still people, and people buy from other people whom they know, trust, and like — especially when it comes to major purchases. But these meetings don’t just help your team make sales, outside sales appointments also allow your company, as a whole, to maintain and strengthen existing relationships with your clientele. Face-to-face meetings offer an opportunity for customers to address concerns, resolve any issues they may have, and get updates on your latest products and services.
With so much riding on these meetings, the ability of your sales team to make a good impression is vital. And that means spending money.
While there is no question that the money spent on travel, on entertainment or for client gifts is money well spent — it is, after all, an investment in the growth of your company that represents future sales — you do need to ask yourself one question: "Am I spending too much money on outside sales appointments?"
Money Well Spent?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you analyze the effective use of your outside sales budget. Answering them honestly will help you fine tune your sales expenditures and ensure that you are getting the most bang for your sales buck.
What should I include when calculating my outside sales expenses? There is no way to tell if your money is being well spent until you know exactly how much you are spending. Without an accurate figure, you will not be able to calculate your benefit-to-expense ratio, with the benefit being represented by new orders placed. Travel expenses and restaurant bills are fairly easy to track, of course, but outside sales can have hidden costs. Have you figured in back office support, for example, for things like appointment setting and billing? Have you calculated the costs of specialized computer software or desk and office space that may only be needed on an occasional basis when your team members are not out in the field?
Is my money well spent? Be sure that your salespeople are targeting the right audience. A meeting with customers, no matter how genial, is time — and money! — wasted if the people at the meeting are not those who would be most interested in what you have to sell.
How can I get the biggest dollar-per-dollar return on this investment? The phrase "on the cheap" may not come up very often in business circles, but being a frugal spender and stretching your sales dollars just makes good, old-fashioned sense. Look at where your salespeople are staying at the end of the day, for instance. Quality accommodations may tell them that you value their contributions, but they don't need to stay in a five-star suite. Your team needs sales tools, such as gifts for potential customers, but consider buying them in bulk. And forgo the usual customer-gift catalogs — their gift options are usually overpriced. A little footwork on your part can equal big savings, and your customers will also be charmed by gifts that are more unique than the usual flowers or beef logs.
Is the money I'm spending accomplishing what I want it to accomplish? Keep careful track of outside sales expenditures and see if the money spent is actually producing results. Just because a client was enthusiastic at dinner, doesn't mean he placed an order the next morning. Knowing exactly what kinds of sales expenditures lead to actual sales can help you more successfully target your efforts, and your budget.
Your outside sales team is one of your most indispensable sales tools, and appointment setting, travel and gifts are an important part of their arsenal. Give them the tools they need to succeed, but do it in a way that maximizes your financial return.
RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.