The Shift To Inside Sales

(and What It Means For Outside Sales)

Published on: July 2017

Written by: Andrew Dornon

Increasingly, sales forces, especially in technology, are moving responsibilities that used to be the domain of field sales reps to inside sales reps.
Why are firms making this shift?

Firms are shifting to inside sales because their customers want it—many buyers prefer to communicate over the phone and email, are used to handling meaningful business virtually, and don’t want the interruption of a sales rep coming to their workplace.

On the organizational side, through specialization and lack of unnecessary travel time, sales organizations see big productivity gains. Inside sales reps are able to spend a higher percentage of their time having meaningful selling conversations with customers, and any field reps that remain can focus on those buyers and deals that really do require face to face interactions and skip those that are unwarranted (or even unwanted).

What’s happening?

Increasingly, many organizations (with tech firms leading the way) are placing more emphasis on building out larger and more highly skilled inside sales teams that are responsible for an increasing share of new revenue.

Is this really different?

The inside-outside sales split is nothing new. However, what looks different this time is what the inside team is responsible for. In the past, inside teams have been responsible for a variety of what are typically considered lower skill tasks—prospecting and appointment setting, initial qualifying calls, day- to -day interactions with existing clients, and up-selling.

We’re seeing early signs of an unprecedented volume of highly skilled inside sales reps who are being trained to take qualified prospects through the entire sales cycle, including closing, while never meeting face-to-face for large enterprise deals.

What does this mean for outside sales?

Field sales reps will need to reorient their efforts to focus on experiences that can only happen in person—often this means holding co-creation working sessions at the client site, bringing prospects to a customer experience center, or helping a prospect craft and present a business case to her stakeholders.

Ok, how would I do this?

First, uncover what percentage of your customer base would be comfortable buying entirely virtually—a survey of existing customers, along with a trial on current prospects should provide you with a good idea.

Then, decide what tasks each sales role will have. For example, this could be a team of a sales development rep, an inside sales rep, an outside sales rep and an account manager responsible for 100% of prospecting 80% of new accounts, 20% of new accounts and 100% of existing accounts respectively . Finally, find out what new knowledge and skills inside reps will need to become trusted advisors virtually. This is no small feat because it likely includes extensive customer and industry understanding that previously rested solely in the field.

We’ll all continue to watch as early adopter sales forces who are making big bets that more specialization and highly skilled inside salespeople selling virtually will drive up their sales productivity and decrease the cost of sales.

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