Article

How to build the ideal virtual sales team for your business

With the recent rise in remote work, virtual sales teams are likely to become the norm at organizations. Should you hire an in-house or outsourced team?

By Molly Murphy

Published January 29, 2019
Last updated August 26, 2020

With remote work on the rise, virtual sales teams are likely to become the norm at organizations.

The question is no longer whether you should hire a virtual or in-house sales team but what kind of virtual sales team is right for you. It used to be that a remote sales team meant outsourcing to a sales provider. But nowadays, virtual sales teams can be your full-time employees.

Like an in-house team, a virtual sales team wins new accounts and maintains existing accounts. Use this guide to decide if an internal or external virtual sales department is best for your organization. Then, follow the steps to building the sales team of your dreams.

Should you hire or outsource your virtual sales agents?

For more control, hire employees

An in-house virtual sales team will be closer to your product or service, and gives you the most control. However, it also takes a big financial and time investment compared to an outsourced team.

Pros to internal teams

  • You'll work more closely with in-house employees, so you can ensure that every agent gets the knowledge and training to deliver the sales experience you want
  • In-house team have more opportunities to develop a deep understanding of your products
  • Since agents are working within your company, communication between teams is more seamless
  • All employees work with the same software, for the same managers, utilizing the same communication tools
  • More likely to deliver an on-brand experience than outsourced agents, who may work for a lot of different brands

For starting quickly and easily, outsource sales

An in-house team is a much bigger time, training, and expense commitment than an outsourced team. Outsourcing can get your sales team up and running much faster, because the process of hiring, training, and building your team is already in place.

Pros to external teams

  • Outsourcing to virtual sales experts means companies that specialize in the process are taking care of team building for you
  • Delegating the building of your sales team eases operational inefficiencies, like hiring, onboarding, and employee development
  • Overhead costs of external teams are often lower than internal teams, because outsourced agents don't require a full-time base salary. Administrative, training, and management costs are also lower for an outsourced team
  • You can hire by the month, day, or hour — whatever makes sense for your budget and sales needs
  • Lower commitment: If there is a problem with the team, you can easily switch providers with minimal damage to your business

How to build a virtual sales team

Building your virtual sales team takes a few key steps, for both internal and external teams.

Outline goals and budget for your virtual sales team

Step 1: outline goals & budget

Create a strategy that breaks down your business needs and desired outcomes. What are your sales goals? If you're testing a new product or breaking into a new market sector, how many sales do you need to know if you'll be successful? How much money can you allocate to sales?

For internal teams: Look to your current internal onboarding budgets and industry salary trends to estimate how much it will cost to hire and train an in-house virtual sales team.

  • Average onboarding cost for a full-time employee: $4,125 (though there are additional costs to consider—see BambooHR’s onboarding calculator for details)
  • Average compensation (including base salary, bonus and benefits) for full-time in-house sales agent: $94,437

For external teams: If you are outsourcing the entire sales process, you need a provider that does it all, from lead generation to qualification.

Let’s take a look at average costs:

  • Independent sales agent: The price ranges from $40 to $60 per hour (as compared to $87 per hour for an in-house sales rep).
  • Agencies: Price varies based on your needs and your desired team size, but sales agent provider CloudTask suggests budgeting $3,000-5,500 per month per dedicated rep.

Research and hire your virtual sales team

Step 2: research & hire your team

Create a company sales hiring strategy and a “want list” for your ideal sales agent. Consider your company culture and values, and research what makes sales agents successful in your industry.

For internal teams: Focus on candidates with a successful history of working and selling remotely for a similar product.

  • Source candidates from a variety of platforms. Along with posting on industry job boards, ask colleagues, employees, and your social network if they can refer a good candidate. ForceManager suggests that LinkedIn can be the best place to find great sales reps.
  • Interview the candidates to determine character and cultural fit. Ensure they have experience selling in your industry and in a virtual work environment.
  • Hire on a trial basis. Staff onboarding is a significant business expense, so hire for an initial probationary period. This ensures the candidate is a good fit for your product line and company culture before committing to them as full-time employees.
  • Hire for quality, not quantity. Focus on desired core skills to expand your candidate field. It’s better to have fewer strong agents than many weaker agents that end up costing the company time and money.

For external teams: Interview providers in a similar way to how you’d interview employees. Choose based on their expertise, your budget, and company goals.

  • Decide if you want a provider that builds an outsourced team specifically for your company, uses their own sales reps to manage your sales process, or acts as an independent sales agent
  • Stick to providers that specialize in your industry and have a track record of success with similar products or services
  • Interview providers not just on services offered but also on cultural fit. You want your external reps to match your internal company culture as closely as possible, and you want a provider you’ll enjoy doing business with.

Engage virtual sales team

Step 3: engage with your team

Once you’ve hired your sales team, it'll take time for reps to get onboarded and ramp up the sales process and for results to show. There are certain challenges you may experience as your remote sales team gets settled. Step in as a manager to ensure that the process is on the right track and that end goals are achieved.

Here are a few steps you can take to stay proactive:

For internal teams:

  • Schedule weekly meetings with your virtual team to ensure they’re connecting with other employees
  • Establish an open line of communication with sales reps
  • Provide continuous employee e-learning opportunities on your products/services
  • Regularly check on key metrics and analytics to measure the sales team’s progress

For external teams:

Is a virtual sales team right for you?

Still unsure whether outsourcing or direct hiring is the right approach for your virtual sales team? Try outsourcing certain sales activities first, such as administrative work or lead generation. Compare your experience with your in-house sales experiences to determine the best long-term fit.

Whether you choose to go with an internal or external team, using a CRM like Zendesk Sell is a great way to streamline the sales process. Our cloud-based software enables easy oversight and management of virtual teams. But don’t take our word for it--start a free trial of Zendesk Sell today to make your seamless transition to virtual work.