The Next Emerging Sales Trend: Syndicated Selling

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Building out a sales organization has historically been an incremental process: Scale in a linear fashion by hiring one salesperson at a time. However, relying solely on employing full-time sales workers may soon become a restrictive and potentially detrimental model. Retention in the sales department is exceedingly low; average salesperson retention is just 18 months1. Further affecting turnover is the fact that more than 40 percent of salespeople never make quota2. And now, due to the zeitgeist of COVID-19, more salespeople than ever are looking for the personal independence and career autonomy to sell what they want, when they want, from where they want.

It’s time to rethink how to grow a sales team in a way that capitalizes on the realities of these new underlying market conditions. An emerging trend is to crowdsource part or all your sales to independent sales contractors. While hiring 1099 independent reps isn’t itself a new concept, a distributed, virtual sales force has never been more feasible and accessible.

Internet-based watering holes such as social media groups for salespeople and sales contractor platforms are enabling forward-thinking sales leadership to find and tap into freelance sales help. As a result, we are seeing a rapid pace of change in which the evolving capacity of self-determined salespeople and innovative business leaders is ushering in an entirely new approach. Syndicated selling is redefining the sales department and magnifying the depth and breadth of the total sales team footprint.


The need for salespeople isn’t going away anytime soon

Globalization has fundamentally changed core concepts and beliefs around how things get bought and sold.  Of the $80 trillion-plus in global GPD3, almost all items fit neatly into one of two buckets:

  1. Commodified goods and services that can be sold hyper-locally or through e-commerce and generally don’t need intervention from a salesperson; or
  2. Considered value goods and services, generally with a transaction value at or above $2,500, wherein a purchaser either wants or expects some level of salesperson interaction in order to receive information, education, or de-risking the purchase decision.

More than one-third of global sales involve salespeople. And with the convergence of personal/mobile computing, fast internet connections, gig economy mindset and workflow/CRM software enabling digital discovery, procurement and fulfillment, there is little reason that salespeople need to be relegated to specific vertical markets or geographic territories when they can easily be syndicated, embedded and leveraged across global supply chains.


To sell is human

While process is fundamental to sales success, it is also important to identify the fact that personality and personal selling skills play an instrumental role in moving others (customers). The structural flaw (if not extant peril) of the current model of building a sales organization is that sales leaders are often tasked with hiring salespeople based on previous sales experience instead of hiring people grounded by core expertise and affinity for the products and services the company has to offer. 

In short, this square peg, round hole paradigm can have adverse outcomes when the salesperson isn’t qualified or motivated by what they sell. Instead, what is needed is a way for businesses to discover salespeople who bring proficiency and passion that are aligned with those specific products and services offered by the business.


Architecting a virtual sales force

This syndicated and elastic sales force of the future, depending on the type of products and services your business offers, may account for over half of all your sales, if set up properly. To assemble this type of virtual sales force you will need to recruit, find, contract, train, incentivize and compensate them appropriately. It’s not an easy task, but the unrestricted nature of this model has the potential reward of scaling faster and bigger than the most well-intentioned internal sales org buildout.

There are abundant benefits to syndicating the sales of your company’s products and services. A few of the top reasons are:

  • A potential source of net-new sales from unrealized or unanticipated markets. Are there new types of customers, vertical or geographic markets to be discovered, but would be too risky to make upfront investment to explore? Perhaps you can uncover these new markets by testing them with a virtual sales force.
  • W-2 sales employees require meaningful and often prohibitive capitalization. Whereas the syndicated sales model enables low-/no-capitalization requirements since the salespeople are incentivized by the sales transaction. This performance-based model is low risk but high opportunity.
  • The syndicated sales model attracts salespeople who self-select into your business based on their enthusiasm for and commitment to specific types of products and services, rather than simply filling a “sales” role vacancy. As a result, their interactions with prospects and clients tend to be more thoughtful and thorough, which results in better conversion ratios and happier customers.

In summary, the traditional way of building out a sales department can be prohibitive, costly and risky. A viable option is to syndicate the selling of your products and services to a nascent global network of virtual salespeople.  As a result, you may find ways to grow larger in less time. 

Lief Larson is the founder of Salesfolks, a marketplace for crowdsourcing on-demand salespeople. He is also a veteran salesperson who has sold into hundreds of client organizations including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the NFL, The PGA Tour, Mutual of Omaha and others. 

1 The Bridge Group – SDR Metrics & Compensation Report
2 Sales Performance Report – CSO Insights, research division of Miller Heiman Group
3 The World Bank – Current US$ GDP

  • Originally published November 18, 2021