What is Inside Sales?

Inside sales is the process of identifying, nurturing, and converting leads remotely. These tasks are performed by inside sales representatives who are responsible for selling a company’s products or services over the phone, email, or the internet.

Put simply, inside sales isn’t telemarketing. Inside salespeople are skilled professionals that sell medium or high-ticket items over the course of multiple interactions.

Why Does Inside Selling Exist?

The practice of using the phone to sell goods to customers started fairly early in the 20th century, but it wasn’t until centralized call centers became more prevalent in the late 1970s that it really started to take off.

The most common way of selling by phone came to be known as telemarketing, but a more sophisticated approach used by creative professionals was eventually dubbed “inside sales.”

Inside sales has always been about using technology to increase the efficiency of the sales process. Whether communicating over the phone or online, using early marketing automation platforms or today’s marketing tools to help close deals, this approach ultimately helps salespeople do their job more effectively.

How Customers Are Buying Today

While inside sales is an increasingly logical and profitable way of selling products and services to customers, it’s also becoming the preferred way of buying for many customers. According to the Sales Benchmark Index, 70% of customers don’t want to meet with a sales rep in person before making a buying decision.

This also holds true for customers with larger and more complicated needs. As stated in the Harvard Business Review:

“Inside salespeople who once performed only simple tasks (generating leads, getting renewals) are doing more complex steps, including assessing customer needs, crafting solutions, and closing sales.”

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Thanks to the proliferation of online information and modern marketing practices like inbound sales and growth marketing, customers are now better informed of their options and often prefer to contact sales teams instead of the other way around. This naturally leads to an increase in the popularity of inside sales.

The evolution of technology has led to inside sales becoming the perfect fit for today’s market. Now the dominant sales model for B2B, SaaS, and tech companies, inside sales will only continue to grow in today’s changing sales environment.

Why Inside Sales Makes Business Sense

Running your sales operation with an inside sales team is more affordable for most SMEs. According to Spotio, outside sales representatives earn 12-18% more in salary than their inside sales counterparts. There are also additional costs for businesses to take into account when hiring outside sales reps, such as company cars, flights, and accommodation.

Likewise, it’s easier for businesses to scale their inside sales teams. This means that concentrating on inside sales is a good strategy if you’re looking for immediate, cost-effective growth.

Large enterprises with slower sales cycles tend to rely more heavily on outside sales models, which is partially a result of them continuing to operate in the way they’re used to.

This is highlighted in a report from InsideSales.com (now XANT), which reveals that over 70% of a typical large organization’s sales force is made up of outside sales reps.

However, many of the more forward-thinking organizations are now moving towards a hybrid or inside sales model as technology progresses and customer buying habits continue to change.

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Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales

While we’ve established that inside sales representatives sell products and services remotely, outbound sales reps get things done the old-fashioned way by visiting customers in person. Let’s take a closer look at their job descriptions and team structure.

Inside Sales Representatives

An inside sales rep doesn’t meet potential buyers face-to-face, but instead interacts with them by phone, email, video meetings, and live chat. They’re able to interact with multiple prospects per day due to the remote nature of their work, which means that good organizational skills and the ability to manage a high volume of accounts are essential.

Seeing as inside sales representatives aren’t able to meet prospects in person, they need to be able to build rapport through remote communication. One way of doing this is to carry out research beforehand in order to establish common ground and find out more about their business needs.

A thorough understanding of the product being sold is also needed so reps are able to explain in detail how it works and the value it will bring to a prospect’s business.

Inside sales teams are responsible for contacting more leads per day than outside sales teams, whether that be by phone, email, or through social media.

This also means that they require more staff to act in a supervisory role and ensure that the various parts of the sales funnel are functioning well. This is helpful for spotting problems, as well as identifying and subsequently improving weaker parts of the sales process.

Outside Sales Representatives

An outside sales rep spends most of the time meeting potential customers at their offices and events such as conferences and trade shows. They need to have excellent social skills and the ability to build strong relationships with customers.

Outside sales reps handle less accounts at a time than their inside sales counterparts, but are expected to close a higher percentage of deals.

Although they work independently and spend a lot of time out of office, outside sales reps are now spending around 45% of their time working remotely. This figure is likely to grow in the future as customers become less inclined to buy from salespeople in person.

Due to the more independent nature of their work, outside sales teams are relatively small in scale. They generally consist of sales representatives, a sales manager, and an account manager. On top of that, a trainer is often necessary for keeping sales reps up-to-date with all the details concerning the products they’re selling.

Key Advantages of Inside Sales

Inside sales is growing up to 15 times faster than outside sales, which indicates that for most customers it’s now the preferred way of buying.

Inside sales reps are able to communicate with numerous leads every day and are proficient at using marketing automation tools to further increase interactions. The remote nature of their work also allows them to easily switch their focus between various sales funnel stages.

They work from an office, which gives them more predictable schedules and allows them to maintain a greater understanding of the team’s performance as a whole.

Focusing on inside sales means committing less time to individual leads and allows companies to have shorter sales cycles. This is especially useful for SMEs that are looking to grow quickly.

Advances in technology mean that inside sales representatives are now able to carry out functions more typically associated with outside sales reps, such as giving demos and presentations.

As remote buying continues to grow in popularity and outside sales teams spend more time at the office, it makes more sense for businesses to invest in salespeople that specialize in that aspect of the job.

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Disadvantages of Inside Sales

Inside sales teams are less likely to build relationships with prospects that are as strong and meaningful as those created by outside sales teams.

Outside sales reps work with fewer leads at a time and are able to focus more on the needs of the ones they do meet with, which leads to them having a higher closing rate than inside sales representatives.

The trust that outside sales reps build with prospects and the amount of time they can dedicate to them also reflects in their average deal size. Deals closed by outside sales representatives are an average of 130% bigger than those worked by inside sales teams.

For some professionals, the more detached and less diverse nature of being an inside sales rep may not be fulfilling enough. Motivation may also be higher among outside sales representatives as they generally receive higher commissions.

The Inside Sales Process

To maximize the efficiency of your inside sales teams, there should be a sales process in place that they can follow. Here are six steps you can keep in mind when creating your own inside sales process.

1. Create a Buyer Persona

Before you make contact with prospects, it’s best to build an ideal customer profile (ICP). Once you’ve got a good idea of what your ICP looks like, you can focus on targeting prospects that are likely to be interested in what you’re selling.

In order to create your ICP, it’s beneficial to use some account-based marketing tactics that will help you narrow down your search. This could involve gathering firmographic information on a prospect’s company, such as its industry, annual revenue, technology use, and current pain points.

This stage is as much about finding the kind of customers that aren’t a good fit as the ones that are. You can rule prospects out if your product doesn’t meet their needs, they don’t have the budget to afford it, or their purchasing behavior doesn’t match up with your sales cycle.

2. Identify Key Decision-Makers

Once you’re ready to get in touch with a company, you’ll want to find out who has the authority to make buying decisions. Using a tool like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator helps out here by allowing you to filter your search based on the details of your target prospects.

It’s a good idea to try to find more than one decision maker at a single company, as there’s almost always multiple people involved in the process. Keep in mind that one of these people is likely to be the company’s influencer.

3. Set Up a Sales Meeting

Now you can contact the relevant person and initiate a meeting. Inside sales meetings typically take place via video call, and the scheduling process can even be automated with an app like Drift Meetings.

When contacting the prospect, it’s helpful to get the message across that the meeting will be about how your product or service can help them. You can try to sell your company later, but to start with you just want to convince them to make room for you in their calendar.

4. Come Prepared

It should go without saying that preparation is everything when meeting with a potential customer.

Make sure that salespeople go into meetings with a tailored sales pitch, knowledge of how your product will solve your customer’s biggest pain points, and an idea of what questions they will be asked.

The best way of doing this is getting to know the prospect a little bit by asking a few questions before the meeting.

5. Close the Deal

Before a deal is closed, the prospect is likely to present inside salespeople with some objections. These usually fall into four categories: budget, authority, need, and time.

It’s essential that salespeople are understanding of prospects’ qualms and are prepared to help them overcome each kind of objection.

6. Keep Customers Retained

After following the above steps, you will hopefully find yourself with a new customer. If you want them to remain as such, however, you should implement a post-sales process that will improve your chances of customers buying from you again and again.

By offering excellent customer service and product support, as well as gathering feedback to further improve your product and process, you’re doing everything you can to take care of your customers’ needs. Don’t focus 100% of your energy on new customer acquisition, you might lose more customers than you gain if you’re not careful.

Not only will this boost your customer retention rate, it will also give you a platform to reach out to customers for upselling and cross-selling opportunities when new products come out.

Inside Sales Best Practices

Use Selling Software to Scale

Choosing the right software and ensuring your team uses it correctly will enable your inside sales reps to effectively target prospects and boost the effectiveness of their lead management.

First and foremost, inside sales reps need to make use of a CRM platform that stores customer and prospect information, shows the status of leads, and automates tasks like inputting data and scheduling meetings.

Other useful and time-saving tools include email automation and tracking software, lead generation software, web conferencing platforms, and productivity apps.

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Use Bots to Accelerate Inside Sales

Although inside sales is about communicating with buyers remotely, that doesn’t mean that you can’t build human connections. By taking a conversational approach to sales, you’re able to build trust and credibility with prospects and ultimately turn them into customers.

In order to succeed with a conversational marketing approach, inside sales reps should begin by using intelligent chatbots to initiate conversations with prospects when they visit your website.

If correctly built, bots will be able to ask qualifying questions and connect interested leads with the appropriate sales rep. From here, sales representatives can take over and use the information gathered by the chatbot to improve their chances of closing the deal.

Don’t Snub Cold Calling

Cold calling may have gained a bad reputation over the years, but it’s still an essential part of inside selling. By taking on board the five elements of a successful cold call, inside sales professionals can avoid the experience being a painful one for either party.

It’s not unusual for inside sales representatives to feel intimidated by the idea of cold calling. If that’s the case, then it’s fine to use a script as a guide in particular situations, such as when prospects are presenting you with common objections.

In this situation, there’s nothing wrong with having a list of rebuttals close at hand. However, you don’t want to rely too heavily on the guide and come across sounding artificial.

Personalize Your Prospecting Emails

When it comes to sending emails to prospects, the best insurance against a quick trip to the trash folder is personalization. You won’t be surprised to hear that personalized emails are much more likely to be opened, read, and ultimately lead to a sale.

Writing personalized emails doesn’t need to be a long-winded process, either. By carrying out a small amount of research, inside sales reps can find a way of connecting with a prospect and increasing their chances of getting a response.

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This could be mentioning something you like about their company, asking a question about something on their website, or commenting on a recent news article.

Once you have written the email, sales strategist Jill Konrath recommends carrying out a three-step check before sending it.

Be Responsive

Don’t leave your leads hanging, as half of them ultimately choose the vendor that responds to them first.

What’s more, according to XANT, responding to an inquiry from a lead within five minutes instead of 30 will increase the chance of qualification by 21 times.

Find Prospects on LinkedIn

Don’t forget to make the most of LinkedIn and its Sales Navigator tool. Using it simplifies the process of searching for prospects based on your ideal customer profile, while the tool also makes lead recommendations for you based on your prospecting activities.

If you don’t mind playing the long game, then another useful resource is LinkedIn Groups. Inside sales professionals can visit this hub in order to build connections with potential customers by offering guidance and sharing their insights.

Measuring the Performance of Inside Sales

After setting up your inside sales process and expanding your customer base, it’s important to start measuring the success of your performance.

Establishing the right key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you keep track of your efforts and give you clearly defined goals to reach. Here are five of the most useful KPIs for inside sales teams to track:

  1. Frequency of Contact: According to Velocify, over half of all leads that eventually convert are not reached on the first call attempt. The majority of salespeople, however, give up after a single call.Considering that the percentage of converted leads jumps from 48% to 70% on the second call, and up to 93% after six calls, it’s worth monitoring how frequently your inside sales reps are reaching out to the same prospects.
  2. Average Call Duration: By measuring how long or short each conversation is, you’re able to see if there’s any correlation between the average length of time spent on a call and the success of individual sales reps.
  3. Number of Call Attempts: How many attempts are they making during a given time period? This is a valuable metric for helping inside sales teams to see how busy their reps are and how much effort they’re expending.
  4. Lead Response Rate (LRR): According to Harvard Business Review, sales reps that contact a lead within an hour of receiving a query are around seven times as likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision-maker.By checking the percentage of leads that inside sales representatives contacted within the first hour, you’ll be able to see if your team is maximizing their chances of starting quality conversations.
  5. Activity Efficiency: Activity efficiency measures how many different touchpoints it takes to turn a prospect into a customer. This is especially useful when paired with the more quantitative metrics such as number of call attempts, as it highlights the efficiency of inside sales reps rather than their productivity.

What is the Future of Inside Sales?

As we’ve mentioned above, the last few years have given rise to some big changes in how customers are buying. As the expectations of buyers continue to change, inside salespeople will have to evolve alongside them.

Here’s three actionable ways of future-proofing your sales strategy.

Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Successful inside sales strategies should never lose their human touch, but AI will play a much bigger role in the future when it comes to buying.

Over the next 10 years, AI is going to become more commonplace in both B2C and B2B sales, and inside sales teams will need to embrace it in order to keep up with the competition. One way of doing this is to use intelligent chatbots to help shorten your sales cycles and close leads more effectively.

It’s also important to remember that customers will still want to deal with humans at some stage of the sales process. Things like sharing stories of how other customers have found your product and providing personalized service during the final stages of a purchase will always be helpful.

Double Down on Video Selling

Video is already the best way for inside sales representatives to replicate face-to-face interaction with prospects. By communicating through video, customers are able to read your body language and get a glimpse of your everyday life, which ultimately helps in building rapport and creating trust.

In the future, making use of video will be absolutely essential (if it isn’t already). Using an interactive video service like Drift Video will provide inside sales teams with that much more of an advantage, however, as it gives buyers the opportunity to ask questions and chat with salespeople directly from the video.

This further improves communication between buyer and seller and simplifies the customer experience.

Personalization & Acccount-Based Sales

As an inside sales team, personalizing the communication that you have with prospects will continue to be a great way of turning them into customers.

Moving forward, it would be a good idea to make use of developing technology to find out information about your prospects. You can then turn this into actionable insights for your sales representatives.

Wrapping Up Inside Sales

Inside sales is on the rise and it will only grow in popularity as technology progresses and buying habits continue to change.

Employing an inside sales model will provide companies with an efficient way of selling and give them every opportunity for fast and cost-effective growth.

Just make sure you create a robust sales process and regularly monitor the performance of your team.

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