It’s no Longer Outside vs Inside Sales. It’s Just Sales.

by Ben Simms

Even before COVID-19, the growth of inside sales was already underway—at a pace of 300% in the previous 10 years. But with the pandemic, traditional outside salespeople are now working from home and conducting business with customers and prospects virtually. Now, almost overnight, everyone is an inside salesperson.

It’s no longer a dichotomy of outside sales vs inside sales. It’s just sales.

Selling virtually requires many of the same skill sets as in-person selling but adds some complicated adjustments that legacy sales teams are not prepared for. COVID-19 has put all sales professionals into a new world of selling—a digital world that has been escalated in the blink of an eye. This is not only because of new tools and technologies available to sales teams and sales leaders but because of how buyers today prefer to buy.

The Shift to Inside Sales

The majority of B2B buyers actually do not prefer a face-to-face meeting, according to research conducted by Sales Benchmark Index. By now it’s been pounded into our heads that the B2B buyer completes 60% of their journey doing their own research before wanting to speak with a seller. The multi-channel generation of buyers doesn’t need face-to-face visits. They are willing to communicate with you via video conference, telephone, email, text, chat, or LinkedIn. Each buyer has their own preference.

And there are even more reasons that the shift to inside sales will continue to grow beyond COVID-19.

• B2B sales leaders feel competitive pressure to cut costs and are seeking more efficient ways to sell

• B2B buyers are becoming more comfortable purchasing and collaborating remotely

• Communication channels such as easy-to-use online webinar and videoconferencing technologies make it possible for inside salespeople to create customer intimacy

• Inside sales also can reach remote geographies more efficiently than the field sellers, expanding audiences and touching the account base more frequently

Specialization

Each part of the sales process requires a different skill set. You’ve likely already categorized your sellers as hunters or farmers, with each being stronger in one area and weaker in another. Now let’s take it a step further. Instead of relying on your sales representatives to be great at generally everything and training them to overcome weaknesses, put people into roles that maximize their strengths. You could fill your pipeline quicker.

Instead of paying large salaries to generalists who have strengths and weaknesses in various areas of selling, consider separating these roles. Some people are better and more comfortable as “openers” or conversation starters. Others are more adept at follow up and closing.

An inside sales model allows you to hire specialists who can cover each element of the sales lifecycle from lead generation for net new logos, to account executives that complete the sales cycle, to account managers or customer success professionals that reduce churn, ensure recurring revenue, or grow revenue with current accounts. All these motions can be executed in a more cost-effective yet revenue-generating process.

Multichannel Communications

In a contemporary sales acceleration model, sales teams use account-based selling methods, rather than calling individual leads. They identify potential clients and target many personas to have conversations with named accounts. Each type of buyer requires customized messaging from marketing and sales that addresses specific needs.

Gone are the days of building an inside sales center that just cranks out 100 dials per rep per day. The phone is only one communication channel and, while it will likely continue to be primary, is one of multiple channels that today’s buyers prefer. According to data from SiriusDecisions, 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is digital, and successful inside sales organizations will utilize a multi-channel approach to reach their buyers.

Video, as one example, is growing rapidly as a communications channel. We have seen email engagements, including open rates and reply rates, increase by 25% when using video in the messaging!

Most channels are affordable but require training and time to build. The point is to have your inside sales teams employ many communication channels to allow the buyer to engage in the manner he or she prefers. Many traditional salespeople are not willing to go outside their comfort zone to use social media messaging, text, video, or other preferred forms of communication from the younger buyer generation. This will cost you sales opportunities. Training, coaching, and having your sales team learn effective communication through a range of channels and documenting each one will fill your sales funnel more quickly.

Digital technology also gets more information in front of your sales team to have higher quality conversations. Unlike old school salespeople, modern sales professionals know to document all conversations and be prepared to research their customer’s activities prior to meeting. Some of the documentation can be automated using the right technology, giving time back to the sales rep. Augmenting your documented conversations with external signals prepares your sales teams to know when to contact the buyer.

What Can You Expect From Inside Sales?

The outcomes of a well-developed inside sales strategy include, but is not limited to, the following:

• Increased revenue from tier B, C, and D accounts and maximized mature products

• Quicker responses from potential new customers when using a multi-channel approach

• Faster pipeline as account executives or business development representatives with specialized roles will be focused on where they should be spending their time: presenting, proposing, and closing to gain new customers

• Scalability to grow market share

• Improved coaching and development opportunities when inside salespeople are in the same location

• Work-from-home benefits to attract talent, as today’s technology allows managers to see work activity in real-time, listen to phone calls remotely and provide coaching

• Optimized sales expense through reduction of the cost of sales by 40 percent to 90 percent – relative to field sales – along with increased revenue, according to the Harvard Business Review

Coaching a virtual team is different and more important than ever. Traditionally, coaching inside sales teams involved walking the floor, giving high-fives, and offering immediate feedback to calls. That is not the best type of coaching and is thankfully no longer available to a manager when their team is working remotely. Digital tools now give sales leaders visibility into activity and results in real-time, compare them against KPIs, and even provide coaching that is documented. Today’s athletes use science, metrics, and data to become better; today’s professional sales teams do as well.

Companies that had an agile workforce, defined processes, and modern sales technology before COVID-19 have been well-positioned to keep revenue conversations flowing with prospects and current customers. These companies will also come out ahead of their competition when we emerge from this pandemic.

Building an inside sales team is not easy. Considerable time and effort are needed to plan and train, attract talent, manage, identify and install technology, develop an operations structure, with cadence, metrics, and reporting, and create a professional culture that represents your brand. But the benefits of inside sales can be tremendous and worth a closer look.

If you would like to learn more, MarketSource offers an Assessment to help define your organization’s challenges and design a solution that produces results in the areas of gaining new customers, launching new products, growing market share, optimizing sales expense, or maximizing a mature product. Contact us to learn more.

 

 

Topic: B2B

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As the executive director of commercial client services for MarketSource, Ben Simms leads a portfolio of client engagements and teams to execute a wide range of B2B sales and marketing solutions across several verticals and industries. Ben deploys and manages inside sales, outside sales, sales training, and brand ambassador teams representing Fortune 500 companies.

At MarketSource, an Allegis Group company, we believe better sales begin with better relationships. Our proven alternative to traditional outsourced sales is led by a proprietary process that helps businesses thrive by fostering deeper connections between people and brands.