The multiple concurrent disruptions that businesses navigated throughout 2020 forced them to reconsider how to best deploy sales teams to meet customers’ shifting preferences and expectations. As a result, many companies are planning to stand up or increase the use of inside sales. However, many companies make a critical mistake as they set up or expand their inside sales teams: they think of inside sales as simply a cheaper way to serve customers instead of as a better way. They build their inside sales teams like customer service call centers and often deploy them against their least valuable customers. Not surprisingly, the results are usually disappointing: low productivity, customer churn, and dissatisfied salespeople who view their roles as steppingstones to a field sales assignment.
By contrast, companies who get inside sales right view the role as a superior way to serve customers who prefer to engage remotely. They achieve revenue growth in the customer segments they serve, they do it at a lower cost of sales, and they do it with engaged employees who can make a career in the inside sales role. To build a high-performing inside sales team, there are eight crucial components to get right.
- Role definition and goals—The goal of inside sales must be to serve customers better. e.g., a value-adding call every month (or week) vs. a generic visit every six months
- Account ownership—Inside sales should own the relationships for customers who want to buy remotely and for whom the ROI vs. the cost to serve makes sense
- Strong sales skills—Inside sellers need strong sales skills and experience; the role should not be considered an entry-level position, e.g., field salespeople who want to travel less vs. recent graduates getting their first experience in sales
- Inbound leads vs cold calls—Leads must be based on consistent inbound lead flow generated through digital marketing, relationships, customer success, etc. rather than by inefficient cold calling
- Tech stack and processes—The inside sales team must have dashboards and analytical tools that can drive value-added discussions, e.g., product usage or adoption dashboards for each customer. Additionally, clear processes on whom to call, when to call, and how to work with other sales roles are essential
- Incentives—The variable/fixed mix should be similar to field sales reps, and quotas should be adjusted based on territory and opportunity
- Career path—Rather than being considered less important than field sales, there must be a clear career path within inside sales for reps to grow
- Deployment and organization—Reps should be deployed in co-located or tightly connected virtual teams to ensure proper sales processes and best-practice sharing. Often, this includes dual reporting to BUs/regions as well as to inside sales management
Take, for example, a manufacturer that stood up their inside sales team, a process that ultimately led to significant bottom-line improvements.
Given shifting customer preferences caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the increased use of inside sales teams, it is more important than ever to think critically about team set-up and deployment. When proper considerations are taken, Inside Sales teams have the capability to drive revenue growth while simultaneously reducing the overall cost of sales.