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Can you really move sales chat offshore?

Written By: admin | Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2009

We’re often asked this, or some variant of this question. While we certainly have our own opinions about it, I decided to seek the advice of an expert. I turned to Chris Moschella, President of A Live Answer and here are the results of our conversation:

Steve: I’m sure your answer to the question above (Can you really move sales chat offshore) would be, “it depends.” So, what does it depend on?

Chris: The most important factor is the level of American culture involved in your product or service; some things can be taught, some can’t. Heavily commoditized items like cellular phones and long distance service could be easily off-shored from just about any country. However, products that require some knowledge of current events or in-country sensitivities like weight loss products or specialized brands, on the other hand, might be a challenge.

When you outsource a project you are depending on someone else to produce results. If you add bridging a cultural divide to the equation, here are some factors to consider when choosing a country for your offshore sales operations:

  1. What percentage of the population speaks the languages you require?
  2. How long will it take you to travel to that country?
  3. How stable is the government of the country?
  4. How many reliable forms of internet are available and how much do they cost?
  5. What are the payroll laws? Pay close attention to taxes, holidays, severance pay, holiday bonuses, and maternity laws.
  6. What is the cost to house a manager in a safe and convenient location?
  7. Can you legally participate in the business? (Some countries do not allow you to work at your own facility without a work visa.)
  8. How easy is it to move funds to the country?
  9. What is the common knowledge of American culture? What percentage of the population has visited the US? For how long?
  10. Will your service agreement be legally enforceable in the country?

Most of the items on the above list are factors that I have seen shutdown offshore projects that otherwise were doing well, so consider each of them carefully.

Steve: If you could offer advice for someone looking for an outsourced vendor for their sales chats, what would you tell them?

Chris: Ask for referrals and call them. The bottom line is results and they are not always easy to get, even here at home. In order for a company to sell to your nitch, they’re going to have to be very good at project implementation and fulfillment. You certainly don’t want to be their first project. Remember that the offshore company is not just trying to sell your product or service; they are representing your company.

Steve: What kind of timeline should someone expect to be dealing with if they decide to go offshore?

Chris: I recommend 30 days of due diligence whether your outsourcing or doing it yourself. Another 30-60 days should be allowed for implementation. If you go offshore, you really should consider traveling to the outsourcing company to provide personal training.

Steve: Would you recommend a pay-for-performance structure?

Chris: Most outsourcing companies charge per hour/per seat. This is wonderful for them, but usually doesn’t work well for you. If the company is serious they should be willing to be paid on a performance basis. I usually use 33% of my US cost as a starting point when negotiating the cost I’d like offshore.

Steve: How involved does the company have to be AFTER they outsource?

Chris: You should be as involved as you are in country. If you are watching lead costs and daily sales in country, you should do the same with your offshore company. If you have a sales manager to whom you’ve tasked the items to in the US, then you should expect to be able to task the same to your offshore sales manager. I’ve seen companies completely hand over their sales division to offshore companies with no regrets. I’ve also seen them let go of their well-trained effective domestic staff only to see sales crater in the offshore setting.

Steve: Tell me a bit about your business:

Chris: A Live Answer has been providing telephone answering services since 1989. In 2006 we began providing live chat solutions, primarily as a sales tool. While our competitors have focused on high volume customer service solutions, A Live Answer has built a solid lead generation and sales system. Utilizing BoldChat for our infrastructure we have been able to implement sales projects quickly and have delivered handsome results to our clients

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