The job of an inside sales rep requires them to sell an organisation’s products or services via phone, email or other online channels.

 
Inside sales reps typically work alongside a team of other inside sales colleagues in a shared office environment – making their job different from the face-to-face sales model pursued by outside sales reps at their clients’ business locations.

There are typically two divisions within the inside sales department: Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and Business Development Reps (BDRs). SDRs focus on inbound sales like warm leads from potential clients who have performed an action on the website — downloaded content, requested a demo, utilised live chat, or attended a webinar.

These warm leads are typically from small businesses and commercial industries. SDRs make contact with these leads, and log information into a CRM platform where a more senior sales person, called an Account Executive (AE), will begin nurturing these opportunities in the sales pipeline.

Business Development Reps are the cold callers. These outbound sales reps focus on higher-end commercial and enterprise opportunities. Once a lead is qualified, it is sent to an Account Executive.

These sales process stages allow SDRs and BDRs to provide a constant influx of leads from two different market segments: small business/small commercial and large commercial/enterprise. Account Executives follow these opportunities through the sales pipeline.

Modern salespeople will be familiar with the growing need for a connected customer experience that segues neatly into the first personal contact. As a result, many organisations are re-examining the advantages and disadvantages of traditional sales in the field and how well it serves the needs of a customer in the twenty-first century.

After many years of inside sales reps playing backup to their higher-paid counterparts in the outside sales field, the internet has caused a shift in the way that buyers and sellers interact, meaning that many organisations are shifting their focus to keep up.

This is not to say that outside sales has no advantages. Some argue that an imbalance towards inside sales fails to exploit the value of face-to-face conversations – and certainly, an interaction in person does add value to a transaction. When a salesperson travels to meet a client at their premises, it is often easier for them to build trust and articulate exactly how the product would resolve the client’s pain.

That’s why, for most organisations, outside sales still forms at least part of the strategy. But with businesses now seeking ways to grow conversations at all stages of their sales funnel, the establishment of a skilled inside sales team is a logical way to compete for their share of ever-shrinking buyer attention.

 
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  1. Leveraging technological opportunities to increase cost efficiency
  2. More time for ancillary tasks
  3. Revenue predictability
  4. Opportunity for specialised roles
  5. Better opportunities for collaboration and coaching
  6. Greater scalability
  7. Ability to adapt to a changing buyer demographic
Thanks to CRM systems, marketing automation, social analytics software and social selling tools, inside sales reps are able to contact the right prospects more quickly, shortening the sales cycle and reducing the cost per acquisition.
Selling isn’t just about the close – numerous administrative and prospecting tasks accompany a successful sale. Inside sales reps spend far more time in the office than field reps and are better placed take on their workload in a time-efficient manner.
On the basis of CRM, companies are now able to predict how much revenue a salesperson will produce and the ROI this represents. Predictable revenue necessitates a lead-focused approach. Since inside sales is more closely integrated with marketing, they are in a better position to work together and fill the sales pipeline.
Engaging with prospects at all levels of the sales funnel requires an appropriately segmented sales force. Traditional field reps work to quotas and are thus poorly placed to exploit less profitable opportunities that take longer to close. The problem is that such prospects may very well be valuable to an organisation in the long run. Mapping roles and responsibilities for different members of your inside sales team allows you to cater for all buyers at all stages of the customer journey.
Thanks to the physical proximity of sales reps to their managers, inside sales facilitates better team cohesion and enhanced opportunities for coaching and professional training. It also reduces the time required for onboarding new employees.
Inside sales teams can be scaled up without the expense and inconvenience of relocation.
Nowadays, it’s probable that a target buyer will be someone who is more likely to respond to digital funnel campaigns than to being wooed over lunch. A strong inside sales team can capitalise on this trend to lower the cost of sales and take advantage of cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Sophisticated customer requirements call for a properly nurtured team and a well-honed approach. Here are a few points to consider when you’re putting together your plan:

Inside sales is all about capitalising on the potential offered by effective lead management. Precise targeting of prospects requires a data-driven approach – which is why user-friendly SaaS tools like CRM databases, web conferencing platforms and social analytics tools are vital for inside sales success.
It’s a conflict as old as the disciplines themselves: sales teams complain that marketing doesn’t provide enough genuine leads, while marketing complains that sales doesn’t make use of them. Take time to optimise the alignment of your inside sales and marketing departments so you can take advantage of the resulting synergies. Your sales department should be clear about their needs, while marketing must be prepared to run transparent campaigns and be flexible about the assets they provide.
Each member of your inside sales team should have a clearly defined role and responsibilities. You might decide to segment your team according to a market segment, product/service, stages of the customer journey, geography or any combination of the above. Look at the data and decide what works for your brand.
Unfortunately, dealing with difficult clients and facing recurring sales obstacles can take its toll on a team’s motivation. That’s life. Your job is to motivate accordingly: by encouraging your team to make the best of rejection, celebrating small wins, and thinking about the best way for your reps to visualise their sales performance – real-time tracking for a continuous feedback loop or a broader weekly/monthly perspective?
Thanks to innovative sales enablement technologies, inside sales teams can sell even more complex products and services without seeing the buyer in question. Long-term sales success depends on nurturing the sales skills needed to handle these complex transactions.
 
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Whether in the cloud or in the field: twenty-first-century salespeople require a wide range of knowledge and skills to succeed. Salespeople need to be good administrators (logging results and obtaining approvals), prospectors (deciding who to contact and how) and closers (creating proposals and dealing with objections).

But what about the skills that are particular to inside sales?

 
 
Sales reps dealing with customers remotely don’t have the benefit of body language to understand what their customers are (and just as importantly, what they aren’t) saying. They must possess strong listening skills and be able to focus on how a customer answers questions.
In a similar vein, “making friends” over phone or email is much trickier than in person. Customers are quick to sense a lack of authenticity. Sales reps should be themselves and demonstrate that they’ve done their research – speaking in general terms or making unrealistic promises are sure-fire ways to turn a prospect off.
Inside sales reps are likely to be handling many different accounts, and must always have vital information about each account to hand. Optimising an organisational strategy is fine; however, continually switching from strategy to strategy will waste more time than it saves.
 
People are generally less likely to trust what someone tells them over the phone. Because of this, inside sales reps need to manage their time so they are able to deliver on every promise made, no matter how big or small. If a customer is expecting a call at 2, it’s essential they receive it on time!
 
As sales reps are required to handle an ever-increasing workload in a shorter amount of time, the ability to leverage efficiency-enhancing innovations such as CRM databases presents a clear advantage.

The Harvard Business Review reports that when utilised effectively, inside sales can shave 40-90% off the cost of sales while maintaining or even increasing revenue.

But these outcomes require a certain level of investment in inside sales skills; as well as in the right software and ongoing training. It also means organisations must understand and exploit the role of their inside sales team at the intersection between sales and marketing and, where necessary, align these departments effectively.

If you’re prepared to take the necessary measures, you’ll reap the rewards: more contacts for the same cost, faster response times for customers, better scalability and more. The benefits are vast - and the number of online B2B customers is only continuing to grow. While there’s no doubt that outside sales still fulfils a necessary function, the time for relying solely on field reps is very much in the past.
 
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