The Watchouts: In-House vs. Outsourced Business Development

August 01, 2023

Is it better to work with an external consultant or agency, or try and build the capabilities in-house?  


Well the answer to that is both, but the real challenge is how to get the right blend. For most businesses, bringing some element of sales in-house is the right solution. Fully outsourcing this is not the answer and can lead to complacency and inability to determine your own destiny.  However, rushing to employ an in-house sales team can also lead to many mistakes wasting time and money.  So here’s what to watch out for with both approaches as you grow and scale.


In-housing watchouts


1 needs to be 3 or more!

When thinking about your brand, reputation and positioning, it’s hard to think you would give this to someone outside of your organisation – someone you’ve only met a handful of times. 


If you do look to hire, finding the right people is tricky and to build a fully functional growth team you often need three different types of people: 


  1. The strategic thinker and experience closer 
  2. The sales hunter gatherer 
  3. The inbound marketing attracty person.  


But that could cost you a lot of money!


The other issue that you can encounter when jumping into hiring is that the foundations aren’t there for that person to be successful.  The key components to this are the mindset and culture of the business, your business positioning, growth plan, and the processes and resources that sit behind the sales machine (sometimes called RevOps).  


You may think you have this sorted but unless you’ve had an experienced sales person look under the hood of the organisation and some external validation, the chances are you’re unprepared.  


Even if you’ve had experienced people before, it doesn’t mean that their strategy and direction is right for the company now (the business world is constantly changing).  Salespeople need to have clear direction and also be given a certain amount of freedom to find a path.  I’ve seen many organisations jump into hiring and set unrealistic expectations that sales people are not fully equipped to handle the pressure of the role.  


Sales as a profession, lacks professionalism

Most salespeople are relatively untrained – they have developed skills through their own experiences.  Some have been on training courses but even these are taught by people who all claim to be gurus.  The reality is, sales as a profession, lacks professionalism (just ask the ISP).  And that makes it hard to benchmark and know who is good at sales in a short interview process.


If you don’t know what you’re looking for then you’re flying blind and that could take you on a merry-go-round trying to build the right sales infrastructure and creating inconsistency in your pipeline.  By understanding the FULL sales process you can start to understand the different qualities and skills required for all the roles and responsibilities a new business machine requires.  You should learn this, absorb it and then you can start to test and build the skills in-house.  You can use external consultants where you have gaps but to make them an effective partner, you’ll need to know your weaknesses. 


External partners need to be vetted

If you do work with external partners many of these people will have good experience in your sector and know more about the sales process than you.  So they will bring a new culture and operations to help you improve across the cold outbound channel, handling referrals, existing client development and inbound marketing.  Their role will only be a defined part of the sales journey. They may only need to open conversations; they’re not managing clients.  


So if you don’t have the skill set in-house then bringing in someone external can speed things up and avoid mistakes. Part of this is the acceptance of learning the FULL sales process from early stage awareness to lead generation, not just pitch management and closing. You can also vet these people and run review processes, so do spend more time interrogating the consultant or the agency.


So should we jump into Outsourcing?

Surely building all this in-house sounds far too complicated and who can be arsed!?  Just outsource everything and you’ll never have anything to worry about. Wrong.


It’s a craft

If you 100% outsource or delegate sales, you’ll never truly understand the FULL sales cycle.  Not just the tip of the iceberg of qualifying and closing opportunities; I’m talking about the long hard graft of building brand awareness, and nurturing prospects for years.  If you lack respect and appreciation for ALL the elements of sales that breed success; complacency will creep into your game.


You need to know your stuff

You really want to stay on the ball and know what KPIs to hit and levers to pull to ensure long-term success.  That doesn’t mean you personally have to be physically plugged into everything, but you need to know what you must be plugged into.  I’ve seen too many founders, MDs and Sales and Marketing Directors focus on too big a picture or the wrong picture.  They’re missing crucial steps, numbers, opportunities all over the place because their plan isn’t coherent.  They jump from solution to solution, swayed by senior management or taking a scattergun approach, waste time on opportunities that aren’t going anywhere, win work that doesn’t forge any identity for the organisation, piss money down the drain on uncreative and poorly thought out marketing, and leaving CRM systems to fester because no one can be fucked to update it.

That’s why sometimes you must outsource things – but do it to learn, not to replace.  


Don’t become reliant

Change your organisation through working with these external businesses and consultants, don’t become attached to them and rely on them to determine your own success forever.  Maybe plug into them from time to time, when you’re stretched or when you want to try new things, and find the best way to work with these partners to complement your own sales strategy.


Turn hate into love

Getting in the right headspace for how the FULL sales cycle works is daunting for most and unpleasant for the rest.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Truly engaging with how sales works and taking a test and learn approach.  Throwing yourself into the coldest conversation, to the unproven marketing tactic, to investing a decent proportion of your time and money, and experiencing the highs, the lows; it’s all required.  The beauty of sales!  Have I won you over yet!? 


I get that it’s not for everyone, and thankfully I learned to love sales but it wasn’t always that way, until I accepted it.  I accepted the inevitable rejection, I accepted the hard slog, because when I did it made me better and stronger at sales.  I learned how to operationalise new business and then it became easier and enjoyable. Once you get over the hurdle of sales being a constant burden, it goes away.  Sales is never getting any easier.  The more you grow, the bigger your overheads, the more sales you need.  Your sales problems aren’t going anywhere, ever.  So you can try to run and hide from them by outsourcing or delegating.  Sooner or later your current system is going to fail and become out of date, and you will need to be able to pick up the pieces and adapt, or you’ll end up with a big fat hole in your pipeline.  Now that doesn’t sound too good, does it?


I hope this article helps you understand sales a little better and you can start to think about the right building blocks to building your sales machine.  Use a blend of both these solutions as and when you need them.  Sales is constantly evolving, as you are, as your business is, and the world around it.  So keep evolving and trying new things, and most importantly enjoy it.  Rollercoasters are meant to be fun duh!


Watch out for our next blog where we talk about how to optimise your sales machine! 


Did you know Gray Matters can help build you an in-house growth team? We’d be your fractional new business solution until you’re ready to hire and transition. Here’s our intro deck or book a free workshop to know more.