In this blog, we delve into inside sales - what it is, how it has evolved over the years and its adoption in the B2B sales space. You’ll also learn what constitutes a successful inside sales framework, tools that enhance the productivity of your reps and help achieve your revenue goals. Read on to find out how sales automation is moving the needle on transforming this space and what lies ahead.
- What is inside sales?
- How has inside sales changed in the recent past?
- Why are B2B software companies moving on this model?
- How to build an inside sales framework for success?
- The most important inside sales metrics
- Inside sales automation - what is it and how does it help? Key features
- The future of inside sales
What is inside sales?
Inside sales is the dominant sales model in B2B, tech and various B2C industries selling high-ticket items. It involves conducting sales efforts viz. identifying, nurturing, and converting leads into customers remotely, via communication tech – phone, emails, VOIP solutions, virtual meeting software, CRM (customer relationship management) platforms, sales automation tools, etc.
How has inside sales changed in the recent past?
Digital transformation has increased the popularity of inside sales particularly in the B2B sales landscape. Also called digital selling, this field is now replete with a tech-savvy breed of sellers that know how to use new tools, channels, and strategies of the modern sales era.
In 2020, this trend got accelerated with buyers and sellers being forced into a virtual-only business setting, due to the pandemic. Not only did the COVID crisis shift customers’ buying preferences, but it also made the sales leaders more receptive to change – creating a big opportunity for rehauling the B2B sales model.
With access to cutting-edge tech and the right tools to enable workflows, inside sales reps in today’s day and time can:
- Scale their outreach to prospects in a much shorter time frame
- Have meaningful conversations based on insights derived through real-time data
- Personalize conversations, and understand the activities that add to the pipeline to make outbound sales revenue more predictable
Why are B2B software companies moving on this model?
Many B2B software businesses are rethinking their sales team structure. There is a prevalence of a hybrid model with companies trying to strike a balance between inside and field sales.
Some of the factors accelerating the adoption of inside sales are:
1. Changing consumer behavior
Buyers are expecting their B2B purchase experience to mirror that of their online shopping experience. B2B purchases now are much faster and influenced by high-quality content and automated personalization. The customers seek the best experience when buying high-ticket B2B products too.
2. SaaS based tech is empowering sales teams
The rapid influx of sales tech is improving reps’ ability to reach more people at a faster rate. At the same time, AI-powered platforms are using real-time data to measure and optimize the sales processes. There’s a huge opportunity to iterate and improve each step of your sales process.
3. Changing business models
Everything is “subscription-based” now. Customers want to try products before they make a decision. This trend is permeating the B2B software space at a fast pace. Software expenditures are now coming out of the operational budget and renewing on a monthly basis. This has shortened sales cycles and a greater number of decision-makers that the sales reps can target.
4. Professional sales in a virtual global marketplace
Technology has enabled a truly global workplace. This makes the role of an inside sales rep all the more important. He/she can work from anywhere in the world and you can hire the best talent to sell to businesses all over the globe.
5. Inside sales - increased efficiency, more cost-effective
A defined sales process with shorter sales cycles makes it easier to continually iterate learnings and improve your workflows to get quick results. What’s more? Taking away the travel time from the process aids the velocity of your sales process.
A Harvard Business Review article estimated that the costs associated with customer acquisition and selling could drop anywhere from 40% to 90% with inside sales. Also, PointClear data estimates that the cost of an outside sales call can be at least six times more expensive than using an inside rep.
How to build an inside sales framework for success?Here are six steps that you can follow to maximize the efficiency of your inside sales team.
1. Create a Buyer Persona
Start by building out an ideal customer profile (ICP). Once you’ve got that covered, you can focus on targeting prospects that are likely to be interested in your product.
To create your ICP, check out these account-based marketing tactics to narrow your search. This step deals with gathering information on a prospect’s company, such as its industry, annual revenue, the technology used, and current pain points. It’s also a good idea to filter prospects who aren’t a good fit.
2. Identify Key Decision-Makers
You can’t reach out to your target customers unless you have nailed down the decision-makers. Tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator help filter your search. Try reaching out to multiple people who have the authority to purchase as there is almost always more than one person involved in the buying decision.
3. Set Up a Sales Meeting
Inside sales meetings are typically initiated via a voice/video call or email, and the sales outreach process can be automated with a sales engagement software.
4. Come Prepared
Make sure your team has everything they need for a tailored sales pitch, in-depth product knowledge, and questions to articulate value and determine the customers’ interest.
Arm them with the right set of tools.
The reps here do a lot more than simply making calls. It involves sending emails, following up, making calls, gathering information, and even delivering product demos.
Since there is so much to do, it often becomes difficult for them to keep an eye on all these processes for multiple leads. Sales software is a savior in this scenario.
Tools that enhance the productivity of your inside sales reps
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software: CRM software allows reps to stay on top of their leads, prospects, and customers. They are equipped to manage relationships, track status, support nurturing, and enhance the customer experience to increase retention.
- Next-Generation Support Tools: Collaborative planning and communications platforms—like Slack and Asana—support sales and marketing teams working remotely in collaborating with ease.
- Communication Tools: Inside Sales needs new-age communication avenues such as Skype for Business (Teams), web conferencing, and email to connect with prospects conveniently in virtual settings. Conferencing tools give a rich audio-visual experience that allows for multiple influencers to be present on sales calls.
- Sales Engagement Tools: Reps must focus their time on selling and not be inundated with administrative tasks. This is why automating a lot of mundane tasks helps increase performance exponentially.
- Live Demo Tools: Buyers and sellers can discuss product functionality in real-time using these tools.
- Online Content Management: Content that is not specific to your customers’ needs no longer fits the bill. It needs to answer their questions and speak to their needs. So, your reps need tools that help them quickly identify and deliver the right content at the right time.
- Analytics: How do you improve your sales outreach process without getting activity insights into what works and what doesn’t? Real-time insights enable sales teams to iterate workflows for continuous improvement. It also gives managers and leaders visibility into the performance of individual team members.
5. Close the Deal
Inside salespeople will come across some objections or resistance from prospects. These usually fall into four categories: budget, authority, need, and time. Train your team to handle these objections effectively.
6. Keep Customers Retained
Customer retention is as important, if not more, as customer acquisition. Once you have on boarded a customer, make sure your post-sales process is flawless. Offer excellent customer experience and product support, and seek feedback to improve the product continually. After following the above steps, you will hopefully find yourself with a new customer. Not only will this spruce up your customer retention, but it will also give you an opportunity to upsell and cross-sell.
The most important inside sales metrics
Once you’ve set up the inside sales process and are acquiring customers, the next step is to measure the success of your performance.
Here are five useful key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep track of your efforts and streamline your goals.
- Frequency of Contact: 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls whereas 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call (Source). Given the high likelihood of conversion after multiple calls (the percentage of converted leads jumps from 48% to 70% on the second call, and up to 93% after six calls), it’s important to monitor the frequency of prospecting.
- Average Call Duration: You can observe the correlation between the average length of a sales call and success in converting a prospect of your reps.
- Number of Call Attempts: This helps check how efficiently is your rep utilizing their time and effort.
- 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. The percentage of leads that inside sales representatives contacted within the first hour is a valuable metric to see if your team is maximizing quality conversations.
- Activity Efficiency: Activity efficiency measures how many different touchpoints it takes to turn a prospect into a customer. This can prove extremely useful when paired with the more quantitative metrics such as the number of call attempts, as it helps discern the efficiency of inside sales reps rather than their productivity.
Inside sales automation – What is it and how does it help? Key features
Meandering through the many admin tasks can be a distraction while trying to close a deal. Inside sales automation software is built to leverage new-age tech such as AI, ML to save time and energy the reps spend on repetitive tasks such as phone calls, emails, follow-ups and creating reports.
Some of the benefits that your sales team can reap by adopting automation include:
- Increased productivity and performance of sales reps.
- Greater efficiency and accuracy of the sales process.
- Improved quality of tasks and reduced response time – leading to customer delight.
- Better insights to measure performance and iterate the sales process.
The goal of an inside sales automation tool is to ensure the reps keep their pipelines full, automate their busywork, and focus on what they do best — sell! If you’re exploring various inside sales software solutions, here are a few indispensable features that you must look for:
- Lead qualification and scoring – qualifies leads based on triggers or actions (sales qualified leads vs marketing qualified leads) and scores them based on readiness to buy.
- Lead distribution – distribution tools help you create parameters to distribute suitable leads to the rep’s funnel to maximize his/her chance to close it.
- Sales tracking – tools to provide real-time insight into prospects, revenue and the sales funnel, leading to better productivity.
- Off-page lead capture – integrate seamlessly with various lead sources to capture off-page leads and reduce leakage.
- Automated multi-channel outreach – Send personalized emails, track engagement, automatically schedule follow-ups or other tasks, and ensure a meaningful interaction without spending additional time on each task. A unified sales automation tool has the capability for email automation, scheduling meetings, calls, proposals through the tool can make the rep much more productive.
- Reporting – automate numerous reports to gauge the efficacy of your sales process, and keep your reps motivated by monitoring their performance and helping them improve through focused feedback.
The future of inside sales
As you’ve seen, the last few years have led to big changes in how customers are buying. As the expectations and behavior of buyers continue to change, inside sales leaders too will have to evolve. Check out how technology will continue to transform the sales landscape.
- Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven tools will continue to automate tasks to allow sales reps to spend more time on selling, reducing the need to increase headcount.
- Predictive analytics will give insight into sales data, leading to better predictions and resource planning.
- Sales enablement tools will enable better collaboration, alignment, and customer conversations between sales and marketing teams to drive sales without increasing headcount.
- AI, integration, and conversational UIs will usher in new growth – Intelligent chatbots will help shorten your sales cycles and close leads more effectively.
The shift towards more automation will help sales teams leverage the power of advanced tech to sell more effectively. Also, human talent will always be an integral part of the sales process. Sharing stories of how other customers have found your product and providing personalized service during the final stages of purchase will help strike and maintain a connection with your customers.