What is Inside Sales?
Inside sales refers to the activity of reaching out to prospects remotely, using the phone in order to communicate and educate them enough that they become a qualified sales opportunity. Once the prospect is qualified (SQL), the job of inside sales is to hand them off to outside sales.
It is often the preferred method for B2B sales but can be a part of any high-ticket and complex sales cycle.
The goal of an inside sales rep is to develop a pipeline for the outside sales reps to pick up and take through to a close. The nature of the job is to cover a lot of ground at a reasonable pace, and that’s why inside sales reps mostly rely on the phone and email to reach out.
What makes an inside sales program successful?
If you want to build a solid and successful inside sales team, it’s important to understand that it requires experience and a specific skill set.
An inside sales representative must be comfortable reaching out and making multiple touches to prospects with whom they may never meet face to face. They are often the first experience a prospect will have with your company, so you want to make sure it’s a good one.
The job involves cold calling or responding to inbound leads, creating meaningful interactions with prospects, and then qualifying and nurturing the prospect well enough that they can be handed off to an outside sales representative as a solid lead.
Inside sales teams have the responsibility to drive the number of qualified leads that will support their organization. It is an extremely important role and the goal is to build and maintain a healthy and robust sales pipeline.
There is a tendency to want to fill inside sales positions with entry-level callers who rely on scripts rather than experience.
Inside sales is not an entry-level position.
Our business is outsourced inside sales for B2B lead generation and after decades of implementing successful programs, we have narrowed down the skills and traits that make a great inside sales representative:
Inside sales reps often need to make multiple touches with the same prospect before they can have a meaningful conversation and consider it a qualified lead. There is a fine line between being persistent and annoying, and an inside sales rep should be able to read and gauge the situation.
Because of the multiple touches and the number of prospects an inside sales rep might be handling, recording steps taken and results are extremely important. When a qualified lead is handed off to an outside sales team member, he or she should be receiving a detailed lead sheet with the relevant history and detailed information about the prospects business needs.
Follow-through and follow-up are essential to inside sales success. The sales cycle for complex B2B sales is long and usually involves multiple decision makers who are busy with internal operations. Even when they are interested and can be considered a solid lead, it’s up to the inside sales rep to follow through and keep the process moving.
Possessing Excellent Phone Skills
The majority of lead qualification in B2B sales happens through dialogue and conversations that reveal a business need. Someone who is comfortable on the phone, who knows how to get an interaction started and begin a meaningful conversation with a sense of urgency that will spark a prospect’s interest, has a good chance of excelling at inside sales.
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
While both are key components of the B2B sales process, inside and outside sales are not the same and require different skill sets and core competencies.
Inside sales teams generally, focus on two types of prospects:
1) Those brought in by inbound methodology
These prospects are not entirely cold as they have shown an interest in your product, solution, or service. The job of the inside sales rep is to respond immediately to the prospect so that they can be properly qualified.
2) Those acquired through outbound cold calling
These prospects require the persistence and multiple touches described earlier. The goal is to reach key decision makers and gain their confidence and trust through a memorable business discussion.
Outside sales representatives have a different set of tasks. They focus on the qualified leads that are handed off from inside sales. These leads need immediate attention and are farther along the sales cycle.
If an outside sales rep is trying to manage both sides of the sales process, things tend to fall apart because they will naturally gravitate towards opportunities that are closer to closing.
It’s common, and understandable, that an outside sales rep will focus on the leads that need immediate attention, including in-person meetings and negotiations with multiple decision makers. This means that the cold calling and qualifying leads will take a back seat and pipeline growth suffers.
Should you keep inside sales in-house or outsource it?
This is a common question, one that we hear often in our field. The answer is that businesses can be successful at keeping inside sales in-house, outsourcing it to a qualified team, or both.
It depends on the circumstances and capabilities within each organization.
Whatever the model, it is important to remember that inside sales is a valuable and necessary part of lead generation.
If you want to build your team in-house, it will need the expertise, attention, and investment similar to any other integral part of a company. The more experience and tenure your management and calling team have, the greater the chance of success building a healthy sales pipeline.
An in-house sales team also needs to be managed by an experienced leader who knows how to keep the group running smoothly.
Outsourcing inside sales can be very successful provided that the team retained has the business experience and acumen to speak to high-level people capable of carrying out a buying decision.
At the very least an outsourced team should have:
- Previous experience with B2B outbound calling
- Experience or knowledge of the types of solutions, products or services they will represent
- A history of calling into the line of business titles within an organization that will be targeted
Outsourcing can act as an alternative to an in-house team, or serve to enhance an existing one. It can be very successful if an in-house team needs to increase its bandwidth because of a new product or sales initiative. Likewise, if a company feels they need a larger and more consistently performing team but aren’t yet ready to invest in the overhead it would take to hire more full-time employees, outsourcing can provide a viable solution.
Or inside sales may be an area of expertise in which they are lacking and therefore they need to a firm that has experience in that particular industry or field.
As long as the outsourced firm you hire is qualified, and can provide you with a team of experienced business development professionals, you should expect great results and a positive ROI.