What is inside sales and why does it matter

The world of sales has evolved over the past few decades. While outside sales was predominately the sales model adopted by most businesses, the advancements in technology have created a whole new side of sales—inside sales.

Today, inside sales is the most widely used and accepted sales model in industries selling niche and high-ticket items. In this guide, you’ll learn the importance of an inside sales team, their role in an organization and what tools you need to have in place for your inside sales team to work efficiently.

What is inside sales?

Inside sales are sales that is handled remotely, or in other words, sales reps working out of an office. Unlike traditional sales or field sales that involves face-to-face interactions, inside sales rely on technology to engage and understand customer behavior to sell better and faster.

Why is a sales process important for your sales team?

Inside sales is not telemarketing. Although inside sales was evolved from telemarketing and both selling methods use the phone to make sales, they are not the same. Telemarketing focuses on selling low-ticket items and involves only a one-time contact with a prospect. Inside sales, on the other hand, involves multiple touchpoints—by phone, email, and social media—with a prospect to close a deal.

History of inside sales

1950s

DialAmerica Marketing Inc. was the first company to start sales and service via phone—in short, telemarketing.

1970s

The term ‘telemarketing’ became the common phrase to describe the process of sales and service over the phone.

1980s

The term ‘inside sales’ was created to differentiate telemarketing from the complex, multiple touchpoints, phone-based sales model.

1990s

In the late 90s and early 2000s, inside sales was the common term used to differentiate the selling practices from field sales.

Inside sales job description

The job of inside sales representatives varies from company to company. Some organizations use inside sales reps for both cold outreach and inbound sales, while others use inside sales team solely for inbound sales.

Depending on your sales model, you can define roles and responsibilities for your inside sales representatives.

Role of inside sales representatives

The role of an inside sales representative is to identify, qualify, nurture, and convert leads remotely. Your inside sales reps must have excellent product and industry knowledge, and they should be highly trained to answer any questions related to your product or to the prospect’s industry. They should also be trained to educate prospects on how your product solves their business challenges. On a day-to-day basis, the role of inside sales representatives include:

Lead/Account sourcing

Build your ideal customer profile by identifying companies who will benefit from your solution. Use sales intelligence tools and source companies and prospects to approach that match your ideal customer profile.

Setup quality meetings/demos

Understand prospect’s needs and pain points, and educate them through online presentations and demos on how your product can help solve their business challenge.

Sales prospecting

Reach out to prospects through cold calls and emails, and promptly follow up with those who have inquired about your product via phone, email, and social media.

Close new sales opportunities

Negotiate and close new opportunities, or pass them to field sales executives for further development and closure.

Skills of inside sales representatives

Reps working in inside sales have to be quick on their feet, excel in solving the prospect’s business challenge through your product, and should have a positive outlook that isn’t put down by objections. Some of the other skills to look out for when hiring sales development representatives for your inside sales team are:

Communication skills

Since most of the communication is over the phone, tonality and clarity in speech is an essential sales skill. Sales reps need to know when to speak and when to listen. They should be able to talk the buyer's language—features and functions.

Listening skills

Sales reps should actively listen to conversations and understand not only what the prospects are saying, but also what they are not saying. With great listening skills, sales reps can empathize with prospects and learn more about their business and pain points.

Prospecting skills

Instead of just picking up the phone and calling numbers in line, reps in inside sales should conduct pre-call research to learn a thing or two about the prospect and their business, and use the information as talking points in their conversation.

Product knowledge

Sales reps should have adequate knowledge of how the product works, what business value it offers, and the reasons it appeals to the ideal customers. With good product knowledge, reps can craft a compelling sales pitch, highlighting the best features of the product.

Demo skills

In B2B landscape, sales reps should not only have a good understanding of the product, but should also be able to showcase its capabilities to prospects through demos. Reps should discover what benefits will solve the customer’s business challenges, and highlight the value of those features during the demo.

Objection handling skills

Sales reps can’t prevent objections, but it’s essential to learn how to handle them. Reps need to understand the prospect’s problem, ask for more information, and offer clarity on how your solution helps solve their business challenge to help them overcome their objection.

Inside sales vs. Outside sales

Scaling capabilities
Inside sales

Reps establish and nurture relationships with a larger group of people every day from their computers.

Outside sales

Reps reach out in person to only a few but well-targeted prospects.

Cost
Inside sales

Cost-effective sales model as reps work on fixed schedules and have a stable salary. It involves a one-time investment in computers, internet, and software.

Outside sales

Expensive sales model as the base salary of the reps is high. Also, travel and accommodation add up to incidental costs.

Sales cycle
Inside sales

Shorter sales cycle as they can work on multiple deals at a time and move them towards closure from their workplace.

Outside sales

Longer sales cycle as reps have to travel different locations to meet clients and close deals.

Sales Tools
Inside sales

Rely on phone, email, CRM software, web conferencing tools, etc., to communicate with prospects.

Outside sales

Longer sales cycle as reps have to travel different locations to meet clients and close deals.

Skill set
Inside sales

Reps have to create engaging conversations with prospects and show confidence about the product or service they sell.

Outside sales

Reps have the ability to build rapport and long-lasting relationships with customers.

Why you need an inside sales team?

Improved collaboration

When sales reps work out of an office, they can quickly collaborate with other departments on deals and move them through the sales funnel. Managers can provide instant feedback and have regular meetings to discuss strategies.

Increased productivity

With phone, CRM software, web conferencing platforms, and sales acceleration tools, sales reps can make more calls, schedule more appointments and build a fast-moving, healthy sales pipeline without having to spend a lot of time on travel.

Reduced acquisition cost

Inside sales can quickly reach out to a larger group of prospects, reducing the cost-of-sale by 40-90% than their pricey counterparts. The sales model also has better predictability and forecasting of revenue.

Tools for inside sales team

Phone

The telephone is still one of the most widely used sales tools to reach out to prospects and have a conversation. Although inside sales don't use the physical device anymore, an auto dialer software or a CRM software with a built-in phone functionality makes it a lot easier for sales reps to call prospects. Sales reps can call prospects in a click, leave voicemails, transfer calls to other sales reps, and even have the calls automatically logged in the system. Some tools also have an option to create a local presence by calling prospects from the same area code number.

Email management system

Although social media like LinkedIn has changed the way inside sales communicate, email remains vital in business communications. In fact, most of the time, the initial contact with a prospect is done by email. With an email management system in place, sales reps can send out mass emails, create and save well-crafted emails as templates, create nurture journey campaigns, and even track email open and click rates. Most CRM software have the provision to integrate with email clients like Gmail, Outlook, etc., allowing sales reps to send and receive emails, and view every sales interaction without switching between applications.

Lead scoring

If your business receives a high volume of leads each day, your inside sales team is in for a hard challenge. Without being able to spot hot leads from the cold, there are chances to neglect viable opportunities because leads aren’t prioritized. A lead scoring tool solves the problem by effectively prioritizing sales leads. You can set scores based on the lead's characteristics—job title, country, company, etc.—and interactions with your website, product, and email. Lead scoring enables sales reps to quickly identify sales-ready leads who are likely to convert, and spend more time engaging with such leads.

Event tracking software

For inside sales team, having meaningful conversations with prospects is essential to build rapport since they aren’t interacting face-to-face. But to have meaningful, engaging conversations, sales reps need to have context into the prospect’s buying intentions. An event tracking software integrates with your website and product to capture visitor activity and engagement. By tracking their website behavior, sales reps can get a visual idea of the leads’ interaction with your website, where they are in the buying journey, and how likely they are to purchase your solution. A good CRM software can intelligently track lead activities and chronologically arrange their activity in a timeline to the relevant record in the CRM, helping inside sales reps track events and manage sales in one place.

Reporting tools

To build a successful inside sales process, you need to track metrics that matter and extract actionable insights from it. Using reporting tools, you can identify who are the top performers in your team and what sales activities—emails sent, phone calls made, tasks and appointments scheduled—correlated to the results they achieved. You can also track the response rate for each email template, analyze the time your inside sales team takes to complete a sale, identify which stage in your sales process reps spend most of their time, and view how many deals are likely to close in the coming months. While it’s essential to track all the data points in a system, a good sales reporting tool should also allow you to create reports quickly and easily, and slice and dice data to extract meaningful insights.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software

Since a majority of the activities revolve around prospects and engaging with them, inside sales representatives need a centralized database to store and access prospect data as and when required. A CRM software is a great tool to do that and a lot more. A good CRM software gives sales reps an overview of all their sales activities and helps them stay on top of their sales pipeline. It also automates manual and administrative work, providing more time for sales reps to do what they do best—sell.

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