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B2B Companies Expand Inside Sales Teams For Efficient, Relevant Lead Follow-Up

  • Written by Kim Ann Zimmermann, Senior Managing Editor
  • Published in Revenue Strategies

insidesalesfeature imageOver the past few years, many B2B organizations have been growing their inside sales teams, spurred by the better conversion rates and lower costs compared to a traditional sales team.

The most recent Inside Sales Market Size Study, conducted by InsideSales.com, revealed that inside sales is growing 7.5%, compared to field sales at only 0.5%. In addition, more than half of B2B sales reps (53%) sell remotely. Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the number of U.S. non-retail inside sales positions is projected to increase by more than 40,000 per year through 2020.

Inside salespeople are also more likely to meet their quota. The InsideSales.com study revealed that 85% of inside sales people make quota, compared to field sales, where 81% achieved sales goals.

While at one time inside sales was viewed as a more junior role, inside sales reps are now becoming “executive, fluent and able to have those top-level conversations,” said Mari Anne Vanella, Founder and CEO of The Vanella Group, a firm specializing in B2B telesales and lead generation services.

“Today, the inside sales rep has a much more sophisticated skill set and the technology needed to manage relationships remotely,” Vanella said. “While there used to be a clear demarcation between inside sales and outside sales, I prefer to think of it as all just sales.”

In addition, buyers have become more comfortable with communicating through online channels such as email, social media, screen sharing and Skype. “Internet technologies are pervasive, and buyers of all ages and industries are becoming more comfortable with them at every stage of the business cycle, including in B2B sales,” said Jeff Kalter, CEO of 3D2B, a global B2B telemarketing firm.

“Customers have become used to researching products and solutions themselves,” Kalter added. “Many are also comfortable communicating with salespersons via email, social media, and conference calls. Some customers even prefer these over phone or in-person meetings.”

Inside Sales Positioned For Quick Response

While driving more sales at lower costs is key, the fast-paced nature of B2B sales is also fueling the move toward an inside sales model, experts note. In its 2014 Lead Response Report, InsideSales.com noted that if a company attempts phone contact within five minutes after lead submission, the odds that the lead is contacted are 100 times greater than if it is contacted 30 minutes after submission.

“It is often the inside sales team that is best positioned to respond to those leads in the most timely manner,” said Ken Krogue, President and Co-Founder of InsideSales.com.

Kristina McMillan, Director of Sales Development at Five9, a provider of cloud contact center software, added: “The inside sales team has the productivity tools for scoring and follow up, so they can access information and respond more quickly in many cases than the field sales reps, who are often traveling and in meetings.”

Another inside sales trend that is sparking performance is the use of gamification, McMillan said. “When everyone can see how the leaders are doing in terms of responding to leads, it lifts the whole team.”

A more data-driven approach to the entire customer lifecycle is also helping to improve the productivity of the inside sales team.

“Technologically, things have gotten more advanced in terms of identifying hot leads throughout the customer lifecycle,” said Mick Hollison, CMO for InsideSales.com. “Predictive analytics and Big Data are having tremendous impact on helping the inside sales team work smarter and be more productive.”

Analytics have provided B2B organizations with the ability to standardize activities across the entire sales team. “It makes a great deal of difference when you can figure out what works and know the amount of sales that are likely to be generated by that effort,” said Peter Fuller, CMO of Salesvue, a provider of sales automation software. “When you know things such as how many attempts it takes to turn a lead into an opportunity and how many opportunities it takes to reach your goal of closed deals, it helps the entire sales organization, including inside sales. “

Corporate structure and training can also impact productivity of the inside sales team. Some B2B companies have inside sales fall under the sales team, while others are more aligned with marketing operations.

According to the Sales Development Rep 2014 Metrics and Compensation Report from The Bridge Group, Inc., 73% of groups with the sales development role report to sales. “We recommend that this team report to whomever has the bandwidth, passion and capacity to lead it,” said Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of the inside sales consulting and implementation firm.

Whatever department inside sales falls under, there should be a strong relationship with marketing and the same commitment to training as with the traditional sales team, Bertuzzi noted.

“Marketing is particularly focused on the top of the funnel, so it is critical that the sales reps who are making the initial contact with a lead be aligned with marketing even if they don’t report to them,” Bertuzzi said. “They need to be able to articulate the company’s message, and that is the responsibility of marketing.”