People working on laptops in coffee shop - Building a virtual sales force

SEO and paid ads are great ways to sell, but they’re far from the only ways. One thing franchisees can consider is creating a virtual sales force — people who sell on your behalf. It sounds expensive, but it’s actually very affordable, considering there are different ways to structure payment or reward. You may think that this sounds like a pipe dream, but it’s actually a very common practice across the Internet and among a lot of businesses in today’s modern selling world.

There are many reasons why you should consider making people outside of your business part of your sales strategy, but perhaps one of the most convincing is that this is a way to extend your reach without expanding your payroll. There are formal ways to do this, as well as more informal, less structured ways to set up your virtual sales force programs. Let’s take a look at each.

The Informal Approach

One of the best ways to have other people sell for you is through customer reviews and referrals. If you have a satisfied customer who is willing to tell others about their experience(s) with your business, they can become one of your biggest advocates, convincing others to make a purchase or pay for your services. They may do this through social media, online reviews, or even testimonials on your official website.

Formal Partnerships

In a more formal partnership, a franchise may establish an affiliate program with another business, a website, or even a blog. This is a more structured approach in which the referring business will actually receive some compensation when they refer new business to the franchise. If the referral comes from a trusted source, it’s an automatic endorsement of the franchise brand. In these types of programs, fees can be paid out in several different ways: per lead, per product, as a flat rate, or as a percentage of the total sale. Generally, the franchise company will provide the affiliate or partner with some ideas or materials to help with promotions (coupon codes, promo codes, key phrases, and such).

Getting Started With Your Virtual Sales Force

Building a virtual sales force should be part of any business’s marketing strategy, because it’s a great way to expand your reach by capitalizing on the customers or fans you already have or partnering with brands that complement yours. By partnering with other brands, you’ll have the opportunity to co-promote, offering customers a bundle deal that “makes sense.” Your fans are the ones who already believe in you and your products or services, and they’re willing to tell their friends and family all about it, so why not let them take on a more active promotional role, too?

When starting to create this type of sales force, think about what approaches make the most sense for your business. How can you entice even more fans or customers to tell their friends about what you sell? Can you encourage them to leave reviews or submit longer testimonial videos? Can you partner with any other local businesses to offer a bundle that “makes sense” to the group of customers specific to each of you?

A Summary of Effective Virtual Sales Force Strategies

  • Have satisfied customers or clients tell their families and friends about your business, post reviews online, and create testimonials for your website (in both written and video format)
  • Partner with another business, a website or a blog and provide them with some form of compensation when they refer new customers or clients to you
  • Pair up with a business in your area (or more than one) to offer a bundle deal of products and/or services to consumers

It's Not All About the Yellow Pages Anymore

In today’s changing world of commerce, capitalizing on social networks and expanding your viral reach is integral to a modern marketing plan. After all, we’re a digitally connected society, and many of us are willing to photograph our every meal and share our every retail experience — good, bad, or mediocre. Franchises are no different than any other business today, and need to be ready to recognize new and unconventional sales and business opportunities, because they’re not all coming from the Yellow Pages anymore.

To stay up to date on the latest franchise news, to learn more about franchising or a particular franchising opportunity, and to gain access to our complimentary collection of Franchise Disclosure Documents, sign up for your free membership to Birkhoff Research Group»

image: Jay (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)
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