What is Inside Sales?
If you’re over 40, when someone mentions salespeople you probably think of guys in suits going door-to-door offering their latest wares. Or maybe you think of guys at a car lot in their shiny suits and too bright smiles who look more like hungry sharks than helpful advisors.
And yet, in the 21st century, sales has changed. Thanks to technology, the days of the door to door salesman are largely over (when was the last time you had someone try to sell you something at your front door? I can’t even remember the last time it happened).
These days, salespeople in many industries never actually end up in the same room with their potential clients. The days of the sales trip seem to be numbered thanks to one thing: inside sales.
If you hear someone say they’re an inside sales representative and immediately think that just means they work indoors in an office….well, you’re half right.
A more accurate inside sales definition is that it’s a sales methodology that looks to find, nurture, and convert leads into sales, but it’s all done remotely. The inside sales representative doesn’t log a million frequent flyer miles meeting clients every year – but they’ll probably spend thousands of hours on Zoom and Skype.
Not every industry is perfectly suited for inside sales – but some have made it the main component of their sales initiatives. B2B (business to business), SaaS (Software as a Service), and some B2C (business to consumer) industries do the bulk of their business through inside sales.
So, at this point, you might be asking, “is there outside sales as well?”
And the answer is yes.
While inside sales is all about salespeople working with clients remotely through the use of modern technology, outside salespeople still do things the old–fashioned way: meeting clients face to face.
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
At this juncture, everyone asks “which is better: inside or outside sales?”
And the answer is…it depends.
Years ago, outside sales was the clear winner. Salespeople went out and met with clients, did demos, made deals over golf or cocktails, and traveled around.
Today, though, inside sales has closed the gap – and in some cases, pulled ahead.
This is largely thanks to the Internet – which really was a game changer for connecting with customers in a way that didn’t require face-to-face meetings or the somewhat impersonal approach of a phone call.
Thanks to technology, inside sales associates can talk to their clients directly – even if they’re halfway around the world. They can do product demos for a client in Asia from their home in Los Angeles. Email, text, Zoom, Skype, Slack, and what feels like a billion other kinds of software have made us all more connected than ever before. And in the process, eliminated a lot of the need for traditional outside sales.
This is not to say that outside sales is dead, though.
Most companies take a two-pronged approach to sales at this point, mixing both inside and outside sales teams.
Even in a field like automotive sales, we’ve seen the shift from in person interaction with the sales specialist at the dealership now joined with internet sales departments that can complete your purchase from the comfort of your couch (but you still have to go in for the test drive…technology hasn’t figured out how to solve that issue yet).
Here are just a few of the benefits of inside sales.
Increased productivity (travel time is largely eliminated)
Without the need for constant travel for in person meetings and demos, the inside sales rep has more time to focus on what matters most: converting leads and closing sales. The more calls, meetings, and demos a salesperson makes, the better their chance of success. The inside salesperson has a distinct advantage in this regard.
Flexibility – it’s easy to work off hours to meet customer’s needs
Outside sales reps traditionally meet with clients during normal business hours – hours that the client could probably spend more efficiently working.
With inside sales, it’s much easier to set up after hours meetings, or meetings when there’s a lull in the day for the client. With no travel involved, meeting up is as simple as making a phone call or logging into a virtual meeting place.
According to this article, a whopping 75% of customers actually prefer inside sales. Even more interesting is that 78% have actually taken a remote meeting based on an email or cold call pitch. So maybe the face-to-face interaction isn’t quite as important as it once was after all….
We’ve talked about how eliminating time spent traveling can increase productivity, but it can increase efficiency as well.
Not only that, but having an inside sales team eliminates the need to have sales people in specific areas or regions – which means you’re a lot more flexible in terms of moving people around as projects warrant.
A better customer experience
We’ve already mentioned that a majority of customers actually prefer the remote sales experience – but let’s talk about why.
Let’s all just admit it – no one likes meetings (okay, a few of you probably do like meetings, but the vast majority of us would rather go to the dentist).
You know what most of us like even less than meetings? Meetings where we have to take time out of our day to sit in a room with a salesperson.
And while remote sales doesn’t eliminate the need to meet with a sales specialist, it can eliminate a lot the extraneous parts of the sales process. A phone call, an email, a virtual chat…all feel like less of an imposition on our time. Inside sales’ greatest gift to the customer is that it often streamlines the purchase process.
Increased savings (you eliminate a lot of travel expenses)
On top of all that, inside sales is great at saving you money. If you’re sending fewer sales specialists out on trips, you’re not booking airline tickets, renting cars, or reimbursing for miles.
But what’s even more impressive is how much more indoor sales specialists sell. As this article points out, indoor sales people carry higher quotas than their outdoor counterparts – with some generating seven figures in revenue annually.
That being said, outside sales still offers up one thing that inside sales can’t duplicate (at least not yet…): the intimacy of personal interaction.
There’s definitely something to be said for meeting clients face to face and in person. Video chats are great, but being in the same room with a client can be invaluable.
Because of this, it’s not really a one or the other choice when it comes to inside vs. outside sales, but instead a “how do we better implement both?” situation.
How Does Inside Sales Work?
If you’ve never been involved with an inside sales team, it’s easy to imagine it looking a bit like a call center with a bunch of people sitting around working the phones to find leads.
That’s not entirely accurate, though.
The phone remains one of the inside sales specialist’s most valuable tools, but there’s a lot more to the job in the 21st century.
Today’s inside sales reps use a wide range of technology to help their customers along their purchasing journey. They not only have to be masters of sales, but excellent with computers, software, and tech in general. The good news is there are now all-in-one solutions that can deliver valuable real-time insights and recommendations with little to no user adoption using sales AI guided selling tools.
Here are a few of the key responsibilities for inside sales reps:
- Hit quotas and goals for sales, meetings logged, and other KPIs
- Provide accurate answers to customer questions
- Engage with potential customers and referrals
- Conduct product demos
- Maintain contact with customers during all phases of the buyer’s journey
- Close deals and provide follow-up support when necessary
- Create proposals, make calls, and conduct client meetings
One of the benefits of being an inside sales rep is the decreased focus on travel – which means this job has a much more 9 to 5 schedule than the outside sales professional.
And given that so much of the work the inside salesperson does is already done remotely, it’s entirely possible that you’ll never have to actually go into the office for your shift. With a laptop, a cellphone, and a good Internet connection, inside salespeople can literally make their home office their workspace.
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Keys to a Successful Inside Sales Program
Whether you’re thinking about implementing an inside sales program at your company, or you already have one, there are some things all successful inside sales departments have in common.
1 They use CRM software
In this day and age, if you’re not using Customer Relations Management software (CRM software), then you’re behind the curve.
CRM software offers up a lot of valuable data about your prospects, makes tracking interactions with them a breeze, and can help you target better to close more sales. It also streamlines your entire sales process and makes it easier for your team to coordinate on projects.
CRM is a game changer – especially for inside sales. If you’re having a hard time getting reps to enter their data, invest in a solution that will automatically capture all buyer/seller interactions.
A great inside sales operation has a lot of moving parts and tons of data to parse – therefore keeping things organized is key.
Make sure all team members have clearly defined roles with specific duties and well-defined expectations. Make sure everyone understands what metrics and KPIs they need to track.
Without organization, your inside sales operation might work, but not as efficiently as it could. Make sure you have the tools you need to check in on how your team is doing and promote training /process reinforcement to keep your team running like a well-oiled machine.
3 Coordinate with marketing
In a perfect world, marketing and sales would work together like peanut butter and jelly – but in some companies it’s more like cats and dogs.
Without getting into all the complaints each side has about the other, a truly successful inside sales program will find ways to unite these two departments.
At any rate, having marketing and sales aligned is important for any business, but it’s especially important for inside sales as the sales reps need to be product experts to be truly effective – and marketing can supply those materials to make them into your biggest product evangelists.
In order to keep marketing and inside sales on the same page, make sure your marketing team is equipped to measure their contents’ effectiveness, so they can continue producing engaging materials.
4 A great team
Finally, even though it may seem obvious, you need a dedicated team of professionals committed to making things happen.
That can be challenging in sales, given that salespeople are often met with rejection, but a good manager and a commitment to ongoing training can help your squad not only overcome the obstacles business puts in front of them, but inspire them to reach ever greater heights as well.
But having a team of solid performers isn’t just good for your numbers. It’s also good for moral, energy, and a united team mentality.
SEE ALSO: The True Cost of a Bad Sales Rep
It seems safe to say that not only is inside sales here to stay, but that it’s likely to become an even more vital part of your sales strategy in the years to come.
As technology continues to advance, it will be easier than ever for teams of sales professionals to connect with clients and potential customers without being in the same room with them.
With that in mind, the question becomes “are you prepared for a shift to inside sales?”
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into how inside sales works, shown you some of the strategies successful teams employ, and given you a basic understanding of how technology is changing the way we connect with customers.
If you want to learn more about inside sales and how customer relationship management software can take your sales efforts to a new level, be sure to subscribe to the Accent Technologies blog and reach out to us for more information on our solutions.
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