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The Rise Of Inside Sales Is Shaking Up The Sales Pipeline

  • Written by Kim Ann Zimmermann, Managing Editor
  • Published in Demand Generation

Inside Sales imageTraditionally, the inside salesperson has been a junior staffer who does some of the legwork and generates leads for the more seasoned field sales professionals, who close the deals. That role is rapidly changing, and many inside salespeople are more technically savvy than some of their more experienced counterparts. Even the title “inside sales rep” is evolving, with many organizations now referring to this role as business development representative.

There is a move toward inside sales professionals who make calls from their offices but also travel outside to visit prospects and sometimes even have a hand in closing deals. Industry observers say that this new breed of salesperson is adept at using the variety of technology available — from live video conferencing to social media and text messaging — to connect with prospects.

“The responsibilities are certainly shifting,” said Josiane Feigon, CEO of TeleSmart Communications, in a presentation at the recent Inside Sales Virtual Summit hosted by Insidesales.com, a provider of technology for inside sales professionals. “It used to be that inside sales reps were only involved in certain types of sales at a certain level and never took a sale from beginning to end. But that is changing.” She added that the ratio of field sales to inside salespeople is shifting and that by the end of 2015, inside reps are expected to outnumber traditional field sales reps.

Feigon noted that inside sales is more efficient and less expensive than the traditional sales process, thanks largely to technological advancements of the past few years. “Today’s inside sales reps are early adopters of all of these tools, including prospect identification, pre-call resources, communication, lead nurturing, calendaring, presentation, collaboration and social media.”

Video also is becoming a major factor, as more business is being conducted remotely, Feigon said. “There is a big video revolution and people would much rather watch a video than read a 40-page white paper. We’re also seeing a lot of web cam use. Gone are the days of flying for hours for a one-hour meeting.”

Tailoring The Sales Conversation

The use of technology to personalize interactions with prospects is helping to raise the profile of inside sales, according to industry observers.

“The most successful organizations are realizing the vision of sales 2.0, by using the data, metrics and predictability that inside sales has always been known for,” explained Anneke Seley, CEO of Reality Works Group, an inside sales training organization, who also spoke at the virtual event. “The art of getting close to our customers is enhanced when we have predictive analytics and social connections at our fingertips and inside sales reps are using these tools to personalize conversations.”

Despite all technology, sales reps spend 68% of their time on administration and preparation, according to Brian Kardon, CMO of Lattice Engines. He noted that predictive analytics tools are helping to improve efficiencies because they can provide certain metrics — such as if a lead might turn into a prospect and how long it will take to close a deal — to improve the productivity of business development professionals. “You have to separate the buying signal from the noise,” he explained, “to be able to focus on the right account.”

Peter Gracey, President of AG Salesworks, said the success of inside sales is contingent on standardizing processes and metrics. “We never give our business development reps more than 1,000 accounts per quarter. It is also important to establish standards on what is a fully qualified lead. You need to understand the pain point, how serious the buyer is, how soon they are looking to alleviate that pain and how much they have to spend,” he said, addthat business development plays a vital role in making those determinations.

Going forward, Big Data is going to play an increasingly important role in interacting with buyers — and inside sales will be key to putting the data to use, observers note. Barry Trailer, Co-Founder of CSO Insights, a sales effectiveness research and benchmarking firm, said: “Big data will help inside sales and outside sales identify the most effective strategy at any moment in time.”

Sparked by the rise in prominence of the inside sales team, Seley of Reality Works Group predicts a restructuring of the sales process. “The walls of marketing, sales and service are collapsing and they will continue to collapse. In the future, there will be new roles and new metrics and teams will be organized around customers.”