I regularly meet with brands who have never outsourced their sales activity before, and so we often end up in a conversation about how outsourcing works, and what the real benefits are. If you, like many brands, have never outsourced before – then hopefully this article can help you to understand how it works, and answer some of the questions you may have around outsourcing.
So what are the key areas I often discuss with clients?
- Sales uplift vs Costs – It’s important for any investment to payback and outsourcing your field merchandising is no different. An outsourcing partner will work with you to create an ROI model that tracks costs vs sales uplift throughout the duration of any activity regardless of scale and size. This allows you to have visibility around the payback your investment is generating and to make tweaks to gain further ROI where applicable. For example; some clients find that focusing their field merchandising team on specific in store interventions drives a higher return and therefore you can be really targeted in the way in which you optimise the team’s time to drive the most value. Your partner agency should be advising on the best way to optimise your coverage to drive the highest returns. Working with a partner who understands and measures this level of detail provides you with the visibility to make strategic future decisions and the proof that having field merchandising support works. It is a common perception that outsourcing costs more than having your own sales team, however often costs can be misleading. When field sales teams are embedded within a business, it can be hard to get a handle on the true cost of those teams. Of course salaries, cars etc can all be factored in – but hidden costs around management, resources, bonus, expenses etc – can get lost into other departments. When you outsource – you are able to have transparency over the total cost of the operation. This enables return on investment calculations to be much more accurate. Paying on a cost per call model with an outsourced partner can also bring other cost benefits around coverage – only paying for visits completed, giving you the comfort that calls you are spending on, are always productive.
- Flexibility – For me, this is so relevant in today’s uncertain economy. Outsourcing gives you flexibility. Flexibility to switch activity on and off completely. Flexibility to make changes to your activity – the in-call objectives and focus, the stores you are calling on, the frequency of callage – just to name a few. Many brands that I speak to, cannot commit budget for a full year – their business works on shorter term tactical field sales budgets – so being able to determine from month to month what the allocated budget will be, can be beneficial for financial planning. Flexibility is also important when trying new things – perhaps you want to see what happens if you start to focus a team on a specific store group – you can do that, with a no risk attitude that if it doesn’t pay back for you – you can just stop the activity, or re-direct the resource.
- Speed – To recruit, train and develop a team takes time – and money. Buying into a fully developed team allows you to hit the ground running from day 1. Yes, the outsourced team will need to become fully adept in your brand – but the core sales skills and store relationships are in place from the moment you start using the team. Being able to switch on activity within 48 hours, gives the confidence that outsourcing doesn’t just need to be a long term strategy – it can also be a reaction to a problem in store, competitor activity etc.
- Scale – Having an existing team, calling into Grocery stores day in day out, nationwide – means that you can scale up your activity as much as you want – and then scale it down again. This allows you to match your coverage based on your brand plans, and your budget. Putting coverage into one area of the country v nationwide coverage, calling on the top 4 grocers, or focussing on just one – the choice is yours.
- Control – for brands who have not outsourced before, a common query is around a perceived lack of control. Outsourcing your sales team should not mean losing any level of control – quite the opposite. It should keep you in the driving seat as to your brand objectives but with the added benefit of another voice to shape how to best achieve those objectives – a voice with experience across your category among many others.
- Gaining experience from other brands – One of the areas we hear clients talk about a lot, is learning from other brands and categories – and outsourcing gives a great opportunity to do this. An outsourcing partner will take the best learnings and findings from across their clients to help shape your activity.
So that’s it – plenty of reasons to re-think about outsourcing, certainly if it’s not something you have done before. With more than 80 years experience working with brands in Grocery, and an average client tenure of 14.5 years – we like to think we have a pretty good steer on what good outsourcing looks like. We work with our clients to understand what is important to them and create solutions that deliver on their objectives.
For us, a successful outsourcing partnership is:
Doing what we say we are going to do – it sounds simple, but plenty of agencies over promise and under deliver. We believe it is vital to deliver on what has been agreed.
Trust and Transparency – working in partnership means there needs to be trust between brand and agency, and also transparency on both sides to really maximise the opportunity.
Continuously Improve & Evolve – we never stand still, and have continuous improvement imbedded into the way we operate, working with brands to strive for easy to deliver more and keep our clients ahead of their competition
If you would like to hear more around CPM helps brands just like you then get in touch.