Traditional (outside) sales tactics that involve sales reps traveling and meeting prospects in person are giving way to a new approach to selling. It’s called inside sales, and it offers many benefits that outside sales does not. This is why more businesses are incorporating it into their overall sales strategy.
But what exactly is inside sales and how do you excel at it? Below we’ll explain the concept in detail, then cover some of the most effective inside sales techniques and strategies to grow your business.
Inside vs. outside sales
If you’re aware of inside sales, you’re already moving in the right direction. If not, we’ll provide some context through which to understand the concept and why it’s growing in popularity. The easiest way to convey this information is by comparing traditional, outside sales with inside sales.
What is outside sales?
Outside sales reps target prospects and travel to meet with them in person. They make the trip, make the pitch, and in the process form a rapport with prospects through face-to-face interaction. Most businesses still leverage outside sales and will continue to do so. Inside sales won’t fully replace outside sales, but rather can be used to complement outside sales in a way that produces a highly versatile sales presence.
What is inside sales?
Inside sales reps conduct their prospecting, outreach, and selling remotely. Rather than traveling to meet prospects in person, they form connections with prospects through the use of technology. By leveraging email, advanced telephony, social media, and customer relationship management (CRM) software, they aim to form a rapport with prospects without ever meeting them in person.
The emergence of all-in-one CRM solutions that include built-in sales enablement tools has empowered inside sales teams to close more deals remotely. These all-in-one solutions also provide deep insight into each prospect’s needs, interests, and challenges, which inside reps can easily access through 360-degree contact views.
With these tools and the insight they provide, inside reps can use a more personal approach to prospecting and outreach. In this way, they can more easily form a rapport with prospects without the need to travel for face-to-face meetings.
To drive home the importance of using technology to drive inside sales, consider this: LinkedIn found that 33% of inside sales reps who use CRM and sales intelligence tools spend around three to five hours a week using those tools to uncover insights about leads and prospects. These insights are critical to the success of any inside sales team and are very difficult to maintain without the help of technology.
Inside and outside sales by the numbers
As mentioned above, businesses are increasingly incorporating inside sales into their sales strategy. We’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of inside reps working in sales.
According to InsideSales.com, census data from 2017 indicated that there were 5.7 million sales professionals in the United States. Of those, 47% are inside reps, while outside reps make up 53%. We’re looking at a near 50/50 split between the two.
We expect to see the percentage of inside reps continue to rise in the future. Mary Shea and Forrester Research report that inside sales jobs are growing 15 times faster than outside sales jobs. Simply put, inside sales is the way of the future.
Why? Many reasons support the incorporation of inside sales tactics into a company’s overall sales strategy. Key among them is that inside reps can make sales at a fraction of the cost incurred by outside sales reps. That’s because they don’t have to spend resources on travel, accommodation, etc., but rather can conduct their entire sales process remotely.
Inside sales techniques and strategies for success
There are many tactics and best practices that successful inside sales reps use to improve results and close more deals. Below we’ll cover the most important tactics you should include in your inside sales strategy.
Use the right technology
Although we mentioned this above, the use of technology to drive inside sales is so important that it deserves mentioning again.
CRM technology provides deep insights into prospects’ interests, challenges, needs, demographics, etc. Inside sales reps can use that information to personalize their outreach and more easily form a rapport from a distance.
Inside sales reps that use an all-in-one CRM can take advantage of a host of additional capabilities that increase productivity and streamline the inside selling process.
For example, advanced telephony features like an auto dialer allow inside reps to filter a target group of prospects and then the system dials each one of them in sequence, without the rep having to dial each number manually.
They can also use automated voicemail drops to leave pre-recorded voicemails when they call a prospect, and no one answers the call. These features drastically improve efficiency and allow inside reps to make more calls in less time.
Become an expert in your company’s offerings
Any successful inside sales rep worth their salt should know their company’s products and services inside and out. They should receive advanced training and be able to answer any question a prospect asks, regardless of whether it’s a technical question or a feature/benefit-related query.
When an inside sales rep gets someone on the phone and engages in conversation, they have already completed the most difficult aspect of inside sales: gaining a prospect’s interest and attention.
But, if a prospect asks a question during that conversation that the inside sales rep can’t answer, the prospect will lose interest quickly. This means the inside rep will have wasted valuable time obtaining the prospect’s attention and interest.
Create buyer personas
It’s important to know who your target audience is and what their interests, needs, pain points, challenges, and goals are. You can do this by creating detailed buyer personas—hypothetical profiles of your ideal customers.
Buyer personas help inside sales reps identify and approach the right prospects—those with the highest propensity to purchase.
Research prospects to form a rapport over the phone
With the insight gained from the data stored in a CRM solution, inside sales reps can develop a deep understanding of individual prospects.
However, sometimes that insight is not enough. Inside sales reps often need to conduct additional research into each prospect to gain a fuller picture of who they are, what they need, and how best to engage them.
One effective tactic is to review your prospects’ social media profiles—particularly LinkedIn—to fill information gaps and gain additional insights that a CRM prospect profile does not provide.
With all that insight, inside sales reps can identify common ground with prospects and prepare for a sales call in a way that allows them to touch on those common interests. Doing so helps reps conduct a more personalized conversation and more quickly form a rapport with potential customers.
Listen to your prospects’ needs
One key, defining characteristic of inside sales is that it revolves around the prospect’s needs, not the sales rep’s needs. Rather than focusing on their need to close deals, inside sales reps produce better results when they listen attentively to a prospect’s needs and cater to them.
Forming a rapport with prospects over the phone is much easier if an inside sales rep uses empathy and truly attempts to understand the prospect’s needs from their point of view.
Inside reps should focus on gaining a very deep understanding of a prospect’s needs, use case, etc. Then display to the prospect that they can relate to their situation and offer personalized suggestions and solutions to their problems.
Taking this type of empathetic approach allows reps to deliver a better prospect and customer experience, builds trust, and sends the message that their company is customer-centric, with the primary goal of empowering their customers.
Align sales and marketing
Marketers, especially those that engage in inbound marketing, generate interest and demand for your product or service. Once a lead displays interest and a propensity to buy, inside sales reps take the baton and reach out in hopes of closing a deal and acquiring a new customer.
For this hand-off from marketing to sales to work properly, the two teams’ efforts must be closely aligned.
With the use of marketing automation—now built into many all-in-one CRMs—marketers can set up a lead scoring mechanism to score leads based on actions they take and demographic data they provide. They can also create prospect lifecycle stages that indicate where each prospect is in the buyer’s journey. Key among these stages is “marketing qualified,” which indicates that the prospect has shown enough interest and generated a high enough lead score to be considered sales-ready.
Automated notifications are sent by your CRM to inside sales reps when one of their prospects become marketing qualified. This lets reps reach out when the prospect is “hot,” meaning reps can focus only on the most sales-ready leads and leave cold leads with marketing for further nurturing.
Leverage social selling
Social selling is the practice of cultivating one-on-one relationships with prospects and customers. One of the easiest ways that inside sales reps can do this is by connecting with prospects on social media.
Reps can share valuable content directly with prospects, answer individual questions that prospects pose, and form closer, informal relationships with potential customers.
The end goal is for inside sales reps to position themselves as a thought leaders so that interested prospects come to them for advice and guidance. LinkedIn Pulse is a great tool for effective social selling, as it allows reps to publish their own thought leadership articles then share them with prospects when needed.
Once inside reps position themselves as thought leaders and form closer relationships with potential customers, those prospects will come to them. This approach is much easier and more effective than cold outreach and every company should include it in its inside sales strategy.
Inside sales is increasingly more effective with the constant introduction of new technology to aid in the sales process. With the right technology in place, they can reach more leads, identify the most sales-ready prospects, and focus their time and energy on those that are the most likely to make a purchase.
Follow the tips above, and you’ll see great results from your inside sales efforts. Remember, inside sales should not replace outside sales. Rather, the two should work in unison to form a highly-versatile sales presence that closes more deals and increases company and revenue growth.
Are you using inside sales tactics to drive growth and acquire more new customers? Which tactics are most effective for you and your business? Let us know in the comments section below!