The term ‘inside sales’ was first applied to remote sales in the late 1980s, when it was set up as the direct opposite of ‘outside sales’ – that is, the face-to-face field sales approach. For a long time, inside sales was seen as an outlier, a young upstart, and was relegated to the side lines of the sales department.
But this is no longer the case. Insides sales is growing 300% faster than outside sales, and what’s more, the lines between inside and outside are increasingly blurred. Indeed, according to research, modern outside sales reps typically spend 50% of their day selling remotely.
So what exactly are the benefits of inside sales, and how can these best be incorporated into an existing outside sales team? Here, we’ll highlight some of the advantages of employing a more joined up approach to sales, and give you some tips on how to make it happen.
Inside sales has significantly lower operational costs than outside sales, as it dispenses with the expensive outlays associated with travel in the field – for example, according to the Harvard Business Review, it costs 40-90% less to bring in new customers using inside rather than outside sales teams. As such, sales departments looking to cut costs and use their budgets more effectively often introduce an inside sales component to their operation.
Today’s buyers are growing more comfortable making purchases remotely. Many wouldn’t dream of investing in a product or service without first researching it online, and would prefer a quick phone call to a formal face-to-face meeting. As a result, it’s good business sense to have inside sales reps ready to engage with customers on their terms, rather than only connecting with them later on in the buying journey.
With the advances in digital technologies such as videoconferencing, webinars and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, inside sales reps are increasingly able to build the same sense of customer intimacy and rapport that has long been exclusively associated with traditional sales – but at a fraction of the cost.
Outside sales will often require a lot of travel, long hours and time spent away from home, which can make it unappealing to sales reps used to modern practices. On the contrary, inside sales is the ideal way to attract talented sales reps who love selling but still want to achieve a work/life balance.
Inside sales and outside sales have traditionally required different competencies and skillsets, with inside sales reps utilizing the latest technologies to generate quality leads and outside sales reps using their strong interpersonal skills to close the deal. Increasingly, however, sales reps of all stripes are being required to become proficient in all of the above.
For example, inside sales reps are using interactive multimedia technologies to demonstrate products to customers, while outside sales reps are spending less time in the field and more time warming up prospects remotely. As such, it is essential that organizations recruit individuals with a wide range of skills and, perhaps even more importantly, an open, collaborative and flexible attitude.
As new technologies emerge and buying behaviors evolve, the roles of sales reps, both inside and out, is changing. To help your sales reps master the array of administrative, prospecting and closing skills required of them, it is essential to invest in appropriate training and continuous professional development. This is especially true if you want your outside sales reps to develop the skills traditionally required by inside sales reps or vice versa, as many of the most experienced sales professionals will have developed with expertise in silos.
When a sales department contains a mixture of inside and outside sales teams, it is common for conflicts to arise – from clashes over commissions to disagreements over lead quality. To avoid turf wars between the teams, it is best to set out well-defined roles and responsibilities beforehand, and also encourage close collaborative relationships between sales reps from both sides of the divide. In this way, you can develop a sales team who view each other’s roles as complementary rather than competitive, and who can learn from one another.
While the crucial role inside sales plays in many modern businesses is undeniable, this by no means sounds the death knell for outside sales. Outside sales reps still have important contributions to make, and it is essential that they are not displaced in the name of ease or cost savings. Rather, it’s the responsibility of the organization to ensure that all of its sales tasks are being achieved as efficiently and effectively as possible, and that the right balance is achieved between inside and outside sales.
Want to learn more about the benefits of inside sales? Then check out NewVoiceMedia’s online guide, The Ultimate Guide to Inside Sales, to find out the everything you need to know about the ins and outs of growing a winning inside sales team.
Tim Pickard is SVP Marketing at cloud contact center vendor NewVoiceMedia and has over 20 years' experience as a leader in the IT industry.