5 Things You Need to Know to Make It in Inside Sales
Across the nation, businesses are shifting from outside to inside sales models.
And why not?
Technology makes it easy for customers to research products and prices on their own before ever talking to a sales person. Technology also offers multiple ways for people to communicate, including email, social media, texting, Skype and chat, which decreases the need for setting up face-to-face meetings. And although old-school telephones are still around and used for business, Millennials most definitely shy away from using phones for such a purpose when it comes to talking and leaving messages.
The shift to inside sales is well underway. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review citing research about this shift, 46% percent of study participants reported a shift from a field sales model to an inside sales model.
Why the shift to inside sales?
Post 2008 with the economic downturn, businesses turned to inside sales models to cut costs. Six years later, inside sales is continuing to grow three times faster than traditional field sales, in part due to the shift in customer behavior described above, but also because technology enables it and it saves organizations time and money. That last point matters a lot: In that same Harvard Business Review article citing research into the shift to inside sales, respondents ranked financial reasons much higher than societal ones when asked what would cause them to switch to inside sales.
…But it may not be so easy
As commonplace as this change has become, switching from outside to inside sales is not as simple as changing the job title on a business card or in an email signature, however. Sales organizations change their processes and create new business rules to promote the shift, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for the people in those sales and sales management roles to make the change.
If you’re a sales rep who will be transitioning from field sales to inside sales, or you’re a sales manager who will be helping your team make the transition, below are five ways to mentally prepare for the change and be ready for new ways to do the same all-important job: sell.
5 ways to prepare for the transition to inside sales
1. Prepare to travel less, but use tools more
An inside sales rep will spend more time in the office than their outside-sales counterpart, which puts them at a seeming disadvantage because they won’t have the face-to-face meetings they’re used to. That said, all kinds of new technologies have sprung up to enable inside sales, including web-conferencing platforms, intelligent dialers, CRM databases, social selling tools and slide analytics. Communications tools such as Skype and chat are also becoming commonplace, offering an informal, casual way to converse online that email simply can’t emulate.
2. Prepare to think like a team player
The inside sales rep will no longer be flying solo, on the road generating leads on their own. Instead, they will be relying to some degree on marketing to generate qualified leads for them to follow up on. This means a business must have a proven marketing automation solution in place for lead generation, as well as the appropriate sales technologies in place for lead follow-up. In addition, they will be working with other parts of the organization as well, as team players who are part of and reliant on a bigger system.
3. Make sure you’re proficient with the CRM system
Along with this shift comes increased accountability. The organization will want to ensure that their shift in strategy is working. That means that even the inside sales rep who is used to prospecting for their own leads will need to brush-up on their administrative skills to ensure that their sales activities are well-documented in their CRM. Don’t think this means more time on paperwork and less time on sales, however. The good news for sales reps is that technology has made keeping up with the CRM documentation easy to do, and some steps are even automated.
4. Practice the art of building rapport without meeting someone in person
We humans are incredibly adept at reading body language and facial expressions without even realizing we’re doing so. But once a sales person is taken out of the field and put into a cubicle, the opportunity to read and react to a prospect’s body language in person is gone. In addition, it’s harder to build rapport with someone you’re meeting online or via the phone rather than in person. Those who are new to inside sales will need to develop skills in reading other nuances in prospects’ behavior and get familiar with the variety of communications tools mentioned above, as well as feel comfortable with building rapport from a distance.
5. Start to think about becoming part of a corporate culture
While outside sales reps often work from home or even from their cars and favorite coffee shops, inside sales reps will be inside the building, working regular 8-to-5 hours and interacting with their colleagues. If those transitioning to inside sales are ready for this change and can embrace the opportunity to become part of the corporate culture, the interactions and relationships that develop can be definite career boosters later on.
Inside sales (or, as Ken Krogue calls it, remote sales) will likely become the norm in the near future, and many younger sales people will only know that way of doing business. For those who are already established in their sales jobs, however, gearing up for the transition to this different way of selling will help to make the transition a smoother one.