Brand reputation and field sales: the untapped competitive advantage

Let’s say you’re a sales rep knocking on the door of a potential customer. The door opens. You’re greeted kindly enough. You begin your pitch about fibre-to-the-home, and you think you’re onto a winner. But then they stop you.

Oh, someone already came by about that – and we’re not sure we want to hear it again. The last person didn’t give us a lot of space. In fact they signed me up to something I didn’t know I was committing to.

Poor practices serve no one, so you’d be forgiven for thinking situations like this were long dead, especially considering the UK’s history with field sales and fines. We thought these were relics of bygone decades. However, if you browse TrustPilot it tells a different story, even for long established players in the market.

Even so, we were surprised to be having a discussion with a telco who was experiencing these issues recently – via another company on the same wholesale network. We’re talking misrepresentation, putting pressure on prospects, and getting customers to sign up to things they hadn’t agreed to.

The thing is: in our experience it doesn’t take much to fix the issue. Whether you’re a wholesale provider, ISP or sales agency, you have a lot to gain from viewing compliance through the lens of your brand reputation.

The situation for telcos and sales agencies

If you’re struggling to stop poor behaviour in your field sales reps, we empathise. You can define what you want reps to say and do, and you can communicate this to them, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll do it.

We’re not out to blame the reps either. Poor behaviour is more of a symptom than a cause. It’s a tough climate out there, and if a sales rep needs a commission, they may well bypass what they’re told to do so that they, or their family, can make it through pinch point moments of the cost of living crisis.

While bad actors exist, the core of the issue isn’t the reps or the management, it’s the level of control that management have. And whether you’re outsourcing your sales, scaling your organisation or recruiting for a project in a new region, that control is hard to keep hold of.

For telcos and the sales agencies that work with them, ramping up those new projects is a lot of work. There are considerations around what you’re selling, the commission structures, the tech you’re using, the people you’re hiring… and it often needs to happen very, very fast.

So how should we handle field sales? How do you optimise your performance while dealing with so many variables? How do you manage risk, meet targets, and make sure the brand’s reputation is intact?

Play the long game as well as the short

In the telco industry, particularly at the beginning of a new project, it’s very easy for sales goals to become about two things: numbers and speed. And there’s good intentions behind this: to get people out there, make it all happen, get the sales flowing… and worry about the rest later.

This short termism does help with speed to market, but it often produces a lesser set of results. Potential customers aren’t just for lead generation, and customers don’t just exist for the moment they sign on the digital dotted line. You want them to stick around, and to think well of the brand the reps are representing.

That starts with compliance. Better quality interactions with reps will lead to fewer broken sales and less churn, and this becomes your competitive advantage.


How to set yourself up for success

With the right systems, processes and technology, you can see the sales results you need while building a robust brand reputation. Here’s what you need:

Smart systems and structures

The structures you put in place will reinforce the culture you do or don’t want in your sales teams.

In particular, it’s worth thinking about how your pay structures work. Commission-only based pay often leads to ‘sales at all costs’, but there are innovative ways to approach this that incentivise reps in smarter ways and inspire collaboration between sales teams.

Training and monitoring

A high sales employee churn in the telco industry means that training is a constant need and can end up being very costly. There are ways of delivering this training via device and games… but there’s also something to be said for pairing up experienced team members with more junior members in the field.

Experienced reps count for a lot here. A new ISP we worked with chose to hire a team consisting only of experienced sales reps. Combined with our muliichannel sales technology, this ensured they only delivered best practice. As a result, they were able to penetrate a market and their brand currently has an excellent 4.4 out of 5 Trustpilot score. One reviewer commented: “For once the man who sold me the product was true to his word.”

Training and experience only gets you so far, however. Like this ISP did, brands need to monitor their reps to ensure the training sticks and the experience is formed of good habits. That’s where sales technology comes in.

Technology and effective territory management

We’ve seen this aspect go wrong in two different directions. For ISPs and wholesale providers, we’ve seen them opt for whatever technology their sales agency is using, without thought for how suitable it is for their product and market, and their overall business needs beyond this one team and channel. On the other end, we’ve also seen sales agencies forced to use the technology, if any, that their client insists upon. Both approaches can lead to a poor technology fit.

The technology you need to monitor compliance is easy to define: it should provide real time data reporting fit for the telco industry. While to avoid mis-selling, you want technology that puts that data to work across your sales cycle, automating route generation so no rep prematurely knocks on the wrong door.

BillSave is a sales agency that uses our sales software in their pitch to clients. Their team recognises how important the compliance aspect is to what they do, and they’ve found that educating their potential clients here has helped them to win contracts.

Investing in the right kind of technology has paid off for other kinds of brands too. When UNICEF put their donor teams back on the streets after the initial COVID waves, they could do so with real time oversight of the teams, so they could be sure the team were working in the correct areas, and biding by the rules and guidelines.

To learn more see how end-to-end sales software can futureproof your organisation check out our free report on whether you should build, buy or customise the software you need.