Technology advances and shifting buyer preferences are elevating the inside sales role within B2B organizations, enabling reps to engage in contextual, relevant and timely conversations with prospects throughout the customer journey. A recent report from Forrester Research shows that an increase in demand driven by the marketing team has many B2B companies looking for tech alternatives that automate the aspects of the inside sales role that take up the most time and resources.
"[Inside sales] is undergoing some pretty significant changes," said Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and author of the report B2B Inside Sales: ‘Inside Or Out?’ — That Is The Question. "Our research shows that inside sales roles are growing 15X faster than outside sales. This can be attributed to new technologies out there that help companies better understand buyer behaviors.”
Companies such as Act-On Software have driven more pipeline and closed more opportunities from lower-quality leads thanks to new technology that includes advanced dialing platforms and other sales acceleration tools. Most importantly, the technology provides sales reps with the insight they need to create one-to-one engagement with prospects.
“Sales people can have much more contextual conversations,” Shea added. “All of these things allow inside sales reps to engage in customer intimacy over remote channels."
Another factor in this evolution is that buyers are savvier about using social media and other online sources to research their purchases — which means they don’t need to talk to sales for product information. Industry experts note that inside sales reps should be more proactive when engaging with prospects, initiating the conversation before the buyer makes his or her own decision.
Changes in the definition of success are also inspiring inside sales teams to adapt their processes. Previously, success was measured by the number of appointments created, as well as the amount of time and money saved. Much like how today’s marketers are redefining the measurements of success, sales reps are expected to do more to impact the company’s bottom line, too.
"Now C-suite is more interested in how you are driving profit and keeping their company relevant," Sittig-Rolf said. She added that they can prove their worth "any time an inside sales rep can speak to profitability and relevance."
Tech Helps Provide A Full-Funnel Inside Sales Approach
Other technologies are providing B2B companies cost-effective alternatives for engaging with an overabundance of leads that a sales team would not be able to handle internally. In her report, Shea highlights how Act-On Software partners with ConnectAndSell, an advanced dialing and appointment setting solution provider, to engage low-priority leads that their inside sales team would not have followed up on. Within three months, the company closed $175,000 and grew its pipeline.
Social media has also helped enhance inside sales engagement. There are tools now available that enable reps to gain insight into how potential opportunities behave socially.
Shea noted that this allows sales reps to engage "on [the buyer's] terms, instead of having to interrupt them via email." This enables inside sales reps to gain a better understanding of prospects' needs and pain points, leading to better conversations.
Going Back To Basics
The rapid development of technology has convinced B2B sales teams that more automation is key. However, industry experts caution that automation can often take away from the personalized, humanistic engagement that often makes or breaks deals later on in the sales journey.
"Sales reps have a tendency to overcomplicate things," said Sittig-Rolf. "But in this case, less is more, especially to the buyer."
She said inside sales reps are being trained to incorporate the basics with their strategies, with an increased focus on creating relevant messaging and engagement with buyers using whatever means are at their disposal.
"We tried for so long to automate these processes, and the biggest trend is we're now being smarter about having those conversations," said Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, an inside sales consulting firm.
Now sales teams are becoming more strategic, as inside sales become more important in go-to-market strategies. They will be asked to do more, experts said, even as they tackle their normal activities on the field sales side.
"You'll have different tiers to your overall sales makeup," said Shea.
While today’s sales enablement technology has a number of upsides for the B2B companies who invest in them, industry thought leaders caution that many inside sales reps are becoming too dependent on the technology that has helped streamline their processes. Sittig-Rolf noted that "sales reps hide behind email and social to avoid the call. That phone conversation is proven to be effective, and ultimately leads to sales."
Ultimately, marketing and sales need to work closely together to understand their brand's value proposition. "The value proposition has to highlight [the company's] credibility, be compelling and create curiosity," she concluded.