10 Ways to Integrate Field Sales with Inside Sales and Reduce Departmental Tension

Do your field and inside sales team work harmoniously with one another or do they operate unto themselves in separate kingdoms?

Unfortunately many inside and outside sales teams exist in open conflict with one another vying over accounts, sales and territories. The time and effort it requires to handle the subterfuge is simply not worth it. Not only does it impact the morale of your reps (and your company), it affects the relationships and perceptions of your customers and prospects, not to mention your sales revenues.

Inside sales and outside sales can and should work in unison to produce stellar results. Here are 10 ways to bring these two powerful sales teams together and maximize their results.

1. Report to a Single Executive

If the field sales team reports to a sales executive and the inside sales team reports to a customer service or operations executive (as it often does), conflict is inevitable. Each department has different priorities and there are bound to be clashes. But the moment a single sales executive is made directly accountable for the results both teams is the moment that the squabbling ends and entire department begins to fire on all cylinders.

2. Develop Blistering Clear Plans & Communicate

The biggest battle with inside and outside sales teams is ‘who handles this and who gets credits for that.’ While there will never be perfect division of accounts and territories take the time to think and plan your approach. Marginal, inactive and geographical remote accounts are perfect for your tele-sales team and will force you field sales team to focus on priority accounts.

Explain the rationale in writing so it is indelible to them and to you! If accounts are given up or traded, reduce sensitivities by paying double commissions for three or four months. This step will save you hours of needless conflict and help make the transition smoother.

3. Compensate and Motivate in Like Manner

You do not have to pay your inside sales team exactly the same as your field sales reps but you must pay in ‘like’ manner. If your field sales comp program includes base, commission and bonus so too should your inside sales team on a proportionate basis. This strategy reduces the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ mentality.

If there is a sales contest, make certain inside sales is an active participant and ‘mind the gap.’ Avoid the temptation of offering lavish rewards (e.g., the trip to Vegas or Hawaii) for field sales and offering pathetic rewards (toaster ovens or movies passes) for inside sales. If the recognition gap is so vast- and it often is- it sends a resounding and discouraging message to your inside sales team.

4. Create an In-to-Out Career Path

One of the best strategies is to develop a career path where you inside reps can be promoted to outside reps; a farm system. This will do several things. First, your inside team works harder and smarter for a chance at achieving an outside sales position. Second, the cost of recruiting and selecting a field rep is reduced dramatically. Third, the customer barely notices the transition because they get an experienced, knowledgeable rep. Finally, once the inside rep becomes an outside rep, the integration process becomes much more complete.

5. Attend Conferences, Trade Shows and Other Event, Together

Tension, frustration and confusion are reduced dramatically when the sales teams meet together at the same events, conferences and trade shows. Typically they have to work as a team on the trade floor. They begin to bond at lunch and dinner. They ‘play’ together in evening. It works if for no other reason then they get to know one another.

6. Attend Sales Meeting Together

This is so obvious that it is very often overlooked. Integrate inside and field sales by having them attend the same sales meetings. Have them participate, present results and be held accountable to one another. If the team is geographically spread out, have a conference call so that communication is fostered. If you have a sales rally or president’s club, make absolutely certain that both attend.

7. Train in Exact Manner

If training is required train the teams together. For example, ‘boot camp’ training is a great way to get reps to bond together from the get-go. If you have skills or knowledge training sessions throughout the year, pull your teams together. Do NOT train inside and outside teams separately.

8. The Day in/Day Out program

Here’s one of the best tips to pull your teams together. Every quarter or every six months have the outside reps spend a day on the phone with the inside rep. Have the inside rep spend a day on the road with the field rep. In short order, each rep will have a great appreciation of the job and one another.

9. Do Not Tolerate, Excuse or Permit Saboteurs

Here’s the cold hard truth: depending on your situation and environment, you can expect that some reps will seek to sabotage the efforts of others. A saboteur is a rep who subconsciously and often consciously, seeks to wreck, dilute or cheat the policies you have established.

For example, a field rep might say to customers, “I can’t deal with you any more. You’re stuck with an inside rep” and thus taint the entire program. Equally, an inside rep might remark, “Your field reps never visited you in the first place, so I’m your new account rep” which simply shows the customer that your sales team is on shaky ground.

Sentiments like these will lose you customers in a heartbeat. Deal with these saboteurs quickly, efficiently and if necessary, brutally. Stick to the policies. Do not tolerate belligerence because it will fester and spread.

10. Be Vigilant and Keep Your Word

Continuously monitor the integration of your teams. If you get wind of dissension, act fast and deal with it. Get your managers together and talk. Don’t ignore the situation.

Above all, keep your word. Beware the temptation to change the rules as you go because it will have a significant impact on sales results, morale and customer satisfaction. Walk the walk.

Summary

Integrating inside and outside is really a matter of common sense. The ultimate key to making the integration program work for you is to have the WILL to stay the course. There will be a brief struggle as reps learn to change and adjust but if you follow these tips you’ll weather the storm and your sales will grow.

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