Inside Sales–A Powerful Productivity Lever
What Is Inside Sales?
Inside Sales refers to your company’s in-house sales representatives focusing on remote (phone, video, digital) contact with prospective and existing customers. Inside Sales strategies revolve around the principle that remote connections can rival face-to-face interactions in importance when it comes to securing and growing customer relationships. Long associated with call centers, inside sales teams are often located in remote or distributed locations.
Employing talented office-based sellers focused on interpreting data and communicating with customers through telephone and video calls can drive revenue from important segments. These sellers should have the knowledge to uncover customer needs, share insights, explain (sometimes complex) products and services, and ensure buyers understand how the solution will impact their business. Like their outside counterparts, inside sales teams ultimately need to drive sales results.
When Should You Consider Inside Sales?
Recent societal and market changes have shown that Insides Sales is a viable approach across different customer segments. Enhanced video capabilities, virtual reality demos and other engagement tools are blurring the lines between traditional outside and inside roles. For example, a large number of traditionally outside salespeople spend a significant amount of time using video and digital tools to engage with their customers. While there are many factors to consider, a pure inside sales team tends to be most appropriate when:
- The sale is transactional in nature and customers value the ease and efficiency of the process
- It’s too costly to field an outside team in the markets being covered (e.g., a wide geographic area with few customers)
- Product demonstrations are relatively straight-forward
- Targeting small and medium customer segments
Inside sales teams can also be leveraged in consultative roles or in partnership with the outside sales team. They can have easier or quicker access to information and data that can help guide a buyer to a need-based solution.
Benefits of Inside Sales
Inside Sales drives results for businesses across industries. Here are some of the most common advantages.
Lead generation: Collaboration between inside and field reps can lead to a more consistent influx of warm and cold leads from different market segments.
Financial savings: The cost of inside sales reps is typically much less than that of field sales reps—not only is a phone call more cost-effective than a trip to a lead’s office, but the inside sales roles are often more cost-effective in terms of compensation.
Revenue increases: Inside Sales can be levered into new or underserved segments and territories. Inside Sales is often the first choice for organizations looking to enter the small and medium-sized business segment. Additionally, lowering sales costs can lead to greater returns even when sales remain consistent.
Productivity enhancement: Multiple sales channels broadens sales coverage and optimizes resource utilization. Each team focuses on specific segments.
Talent development: The inside sales department can function as a very effective training ground for future field representatives. The career progression of insides sales roles to outside sales can also help with technology adoption. Inside sellers are well-versed in the use of technology and take that knowledge into the field.
Customer satisfaction: Customers can receive the support they need through their preferred channels, leading to stronger relationships and additional sales opportunities.
Getting Inside Sales Right
To optimize your Inside Sales strategy:
- Implement the right software: Augmenting inside sales teams with customer relationship management (CRM) software–that’s configured to support their needs, enhanced sales tools and tailored analytics–will empower reps to drive shorter sales cycles, increase close rates and lower acquisition costs.
- Align marketing and sales strategies: Synergy between sales and marketing strategies optimizes buyer engagement so sales reps can utilize their skills and resources.
- Establish well-defined roles: Clear segmentation ensures each channel and its sales reps understand where to direct their focus, boosting efficiency and effectiveness.
- Prioritize listening skills: Attentiveness will help reps understand the customer’s problems and direct them towards a solution in a primarily verbal sales funnel.
- Ask questions: Thoughtful questions that include rationale enable reps to assess customers’ needs without appearing interrogative.
- Call on past successes: Establishing credibility and reliability through remote sales often requires extra effort, so inside sales teams need to be armed with examples they can use to demonstrate capabilities and value.
- Encourage perpetual learning: Always seek customer feedback, provide training and encourage active, ongoing learning to understand clients’ needs.
Biggest Mistakes Inside Sales Leaders Make
While companies across industries are realizing the value of Inside Sales, there are several common pitfalls:
Inability to Quantify the Value of Inside Sales
When Inside Sales is a new sales channel, skeptics may question the value of the investment. Set quantifiable, results-oriented objectives for the inside sales team and create dashboards that measure progress.
Lack of Programmatic Activity
Inside sales reps are left to determine next actions on their own rather than having activities clearly defined. Create playbooks and automated tools to support “next best action” and strategies for success.
Lack of consistent focus or prioritization of inside sales leads to corrupted inside sales roles. Business leaders may use inside sales teams for whatever hot-button issue they currently face—inside sales reps are unable to specialize and become proficient. Clearly define inside sales roles and responsibilities, establish deployment expectations and track key performance indicators. Gather regular feedback from inside sales team members on how they are spending their time.
Inside Sales as an Admin Dumping Ground
The average inside sales organization will handle more than its fair share of administrative activity. Clearly define the sales role, including which activities are in and out of scope. Regularly gather feedback on how much time is being spent on non-productive activities.
Lack of Professional Inside Sales Management
Effective inside sales management requires unique skills differing from those needed to successfully manage field sales teams. Simply migrating a field leader to the inside sales division without training usually results in suboptimal program performance. Hire an experienced inside sales leader if possible.
Account Poaching or Hoarding
Inside Sales covers all the low-opportunity accounts while the field hoards the crown jewels. Use an objective, defined process to segment the market and create territories/account assignments based on opportunity, cost-to-serve and customer needs.
Undirected Outbound Prospecting
Many failing inside sales departments lack focus in new lead pursuit. Even if inside sales reps are only covering early sales cycle activities, build in a more data-enabled strategy than dialing against an undifferentiated target list.
Unscalable Business Processes
The volume intensity of Inside Sales can break manual or inefficient processes. Stress-test and update business processes to withstand the increased volume typically associated with Inside Sales activity.
Subordination Within the Sales Organization
When inside sales teams lack voice and representation on par with field counterparts, they will inevitably be subjugated. Inside Sales can be an assistive channel to the field and can even work in the field’s direction, but ensure leadership has a voice in sales-related matters.
Lack of Field Support
In a paired inside-outside model, both the field and inside sales department influence productivity. Ensure the field has clear expectations, training, tools and necessary leadership to work within a paired model. Be aware this may require a material change in field behavior.
Faulty Sales Compensation Plan Design
Inside sales compensation plans that conflict with field-based goals or are based solely on in-process activity measures rather than production can cause problems. The inside sales compensation plan objectives must align with—rather than conflict with—other sales channels.
Inside Sales Case Study
Alexander Group has experience helping businesses transform their sales strategies to invest in, re-think or enhance the effective use of inside sales.
In one example, a large corporate hardware company partnered with Alexander Group to improve sales productivity.
The company’s field sales team spent a disproportionate amount of time accommodating existing customers’ needs rather than pursuing new leads. Consequently, the company’s revenue source shifted—93% of revenue came from 10% of accounts. Such a disparity presents a significant risk of a massive revenue loss from losing even one high-value client.
Alexander Group helped the hardware company pair inside and outside sales departments for broader account coverage. The company implemented a controlled deployment of its paired model across two significant and distinct geographic regions—Chicagoland and Michigan. Collaboration between departments reduced strain on the outside sales team, resulting in 36% revenue growth in Chicagoland and 28% growth in Michigan. Sales teams in both territories increased total accounts by double digits.
Learn More About Alexander Group
As your consulting partner, Alexander Group works with you to understand your specific situation and implement a solution that improves productivity, drives revenue and reduces cost per sale. For more on how our experience helps companies optimize inside sales and can improve your business, contact Alexander Group today.