What they don’t tell you about building your own field sales team

Starting your own field team can be daunting, and it’s very tempting to sidestep the hassle and find a more plug and play solution like an agency. At Bowimi, I work with brands of all sizes who do it really well themselves, and agencies who can accelerate the growth of a brand or help maintain their position as a leading brand. 

As I’m always on the lookout for new FMCG brands to show Bowimi to, I’ve found they’re often at the point where they’re weighing up building out their own sales team or outsourcing it. 

So, I asked some of my contacts about when you’d want to start your own team and where it might be smart to look at agencies.

You want to scale founder-led sales

Great brands come from their founders pouring themselves into the product, and truly caring about the end product. So, when a founder goes to do sales, they bring all of that passion and expertise to each stockist they speak with.

Founder-led sales are often super effective, and if the conversion rate of these early sales can scale linearly then the business will have a bright future. However this often isn’t just a plug and play with a business just adding four sales people and expecting 4x the output. 

One advantage of building your own team is that you can curate the salespeople and their pitch a lot more closely than you can with an agency. Whoever’s selling it should be able to tell the gritty story and eloquently explain the benefits of the product, and you can handpick those people and train them to do it your way. 

Now, you could spend a lot of time trying to get an agency to go this deep into your product, however they’re usually trying to sell multiple products alongside yours. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the focus all on yours? As Louis Gill, the Sales Manager at Daily Dose, says “How can an external agency be as invested as someone that’s along for the ride?”.

You’ll own and process your data from the field

I normally tell people who are considering joining Bowimi that an underrated benefit of the platform is unlocking the knowledge that usually is either stuck with their reps or is left unexplored. Getting lots of anecdotal and quantitative datapoints from the field can help your team exploit the market better and helps you identify how to drive volume through the trade. 

It goes without saying that you’ll need great technology to fully utilise this (I can show you how Bowimi helps with this, book a time here). 

Although you can instruct an agency to report on specific things, and carry out research on your behalf, when you’ve got your own field team you are better equipped to find weird things and react to them quickly.

For example, Weekend Drinks, found it difficult to get stocked in the off-trade. By getting their reps to pause selling, and start asking why they quickly got to the bottom of the problem. It wasn’t price, quality or branding, it was the size of the bottles. The secret to their quick reaction was having an internal team who were able to investigate what was going wrong and get the answer conveyed quickly. 

Surely there are disadvantages?

While organically growing your own field team has many upsides, you’re going to have a ramp time as you expand it, so it will take a while for the return to come back on the investment. If you want to get 100 salespeople on the ground to take your brand national, you might be better off looking at field sales agencies. 

However, John Morrissey from Vocation Brewery is on the money with this analogy:

“Sometimes it’s necessary for brands to utilise other breweries to brew their beer for a whole variety of good reasons, but we would all prefer to control production from hop to glass to ensure you have the best product possible. The same is true for Field Sales, your sales teams may be the first ever interaction with your brand and making the right impact is crucial.”

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