Having an outside sales rep come to a business can be a mark of distinction. Such a company is worthy of having the sales rep call on them regularly and cater to their needs. This would seem to engender loyalty from that customer and increase sales for the distributor. So, why not have an outside sales rep for every client?

Well, one reason is not all clients want an outside sales rep.

“Research show that 35 percent of business only either want a sales rep to come once a year or never,” says Bein. “The preference for shorter more efficient interactions on the phone is growing.”

One group particularly not interested in seeing a sales rep is millennials.

“They don’t see them as providing sufficient value, so the preference is to not have a rep,” says Sawchuk.

The role of an outside sales rep has changed. In the past, their primary goal was to chat up the clients and establish in-person relationships. They also served as an order taker and filler with some reps literally carrying product with them in order to ensure the client never ran out.

Between the internet making ordering product simple and the speed of delivery increasing dramatically, the outside rep has to operate differently in order to be of value.

“The outside sales rep needs to be proactive in the service rather than simply being a maintainer/supporter of customers,” says Pancero. “Their function must focus on how they are helping to improve customer’s situations, bringing them new solutions and helping them implement those solutions.”

Sawchuck also expects the outside sales rep to be proactive.

“The sales rep needs to ask great questions, figure out problems, recognize concerns and expectations of desired outcomes, and offer up best solutions and integration of solutions.”

Although more customers might prefer an outside sales rep if he or she added value, adding one would be cost and time prohibitive. This would impact both the distributor and the customer.

“The average field sales call costs about $125 versus an inside sales call which is $10-15,” says Bein.

The extra costs are compounded when one considers the difference in the number of clients that each sales rep can service per day.

“On a good day, an outside sales rep can get to four customers and the inside sales rep can get to 20-25,” says Bein.

Each distributor must determine how to best utilize their outside sales reps. Having them visit every customer could exhaust them and cause them to be less effective. “It’s a choice – being an inch deep and a mile wide with outside sales reps and they are run ragged and can’t serve nor prospect properly” says Sawchuk. “Flip it and have them go an inch wide and a mile deep and have them focus on where they need to be.”

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To Go With An Inside Or Outside Sales Rep
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