Inside Sales: What you Need to Know

Are you talking with prospects through your cell phone or laptop? Then you are participating in the growing field of inside sales. 

Now more than ever, SaaS solutions, agencies, and other flourishing B2B companies are enjoying the many benefits of an inside sales structure. 

In this post, you will learn the fundamentals of inside sales, along with some actionable tips to try out tomorrow during your workday. Plus, you will leave with knowledge of the essential tools that are helping B2B sales reps increase efficiency and close more deals. 

What is Inside Sales?

Inside sales is the process of finding, selling, and closing leads from a remote location. 

Inside sales reps use technology (phones, email, video conferencing) to guide their potential customers through each stage of the sales cycle, from prospecting to the signed contract. 

If you spend most of your time on the phone talking with prospects, you are doing inside sales. If you are hosting web-demos or sending out 60 emails a day, you are engaged in inside sales, and as of 2020, inside sales is best practice, especially in B2B SaaS. 

Because of its universality, most prospects are used to this form of sales, and won’t demand an in-person meeting, even if your solution is considered complex.

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales

Inside sales is done from a remote location using emails, phone calls, or video meetings while outside sales are done face to face or in-person. 

In outside sales, you are actually shaking hands with your prospect. You might sit around a meeting table, chat on a golf course, or stand up to give a presentation to a group of people. Outside sales teams incur transportation costs for airplane tickets or hotel rooms. 

In inside sales, you stay at your desk and make cold calls, host web demos, or meet decision-makers through video conferencing. Thanks to advancements in video conferencing, you can recover some of the benefits that only come from in-person meetings. 

With software like Zoom, you can still look your prospects in the eyes and watch them glisten in astonishment at the new feature you have just revealed. If you ever notice such excitement from a prospect, dig deeper into that feature! Meanwhile, if their eyes glaze over, stop using all that technical jargon. 

Here are some other differences between inside and outside sales and how they are usually used in companies. 

Inside Sales

  • Used for selling less expensive products or services. 
  • Good for presenting less complex solutions. 
  • Sales are more transactional. 
  • Relationships are less important. 
  • Sales cycles are faster. 
  • A smaller number of decision-makers are involved. 

Outside Sales

  • Suitable for larger deal sizes. 
  • Used for enterprise sales.
  • More relationship-focused. 
  • Good when selling very complex solutions.
  • Used when the solution will require buy-in from the employees (long term usage).
  • Slower sales cycles. 

Note that an inside sales structure does not exclude the use of outside sales. Some companies use both strategies. 

They will use inside sales to close smaller accounts while sending their best reps to in-person meetings with top accounts. And with good reason—since outside sales reps usually have a higher close rate. 

Companies with mostly outside reps have a 30.2% higher close rate than those with mostly inside reps. This dual strategy gives businesses the long reach of inside sales and the magical personal touch of outside sales. 

What Do Inside Sales Reps Do? 

If you are an inside sales rep, you will spend most of your day talking with prospects on the phone or leading video meetings. You will take cold prospects and turn them into paying customers without ever leaving the office. 

The ultimate goal of an inside sales rep is to find potential customers and guide them through the entire sales process, demonstrating how your solution will solve their problems or make their businesses more profitable and efficient. 

Excelling in inside sales requires great listening and communication skills, alongside a knack for building relationships over the phone. Most importantly, you must enjoy spending your days talking with strangers. 

The main duties of inside sales reps are:

  • Researching accounts.
  • Cold calling prospects.
  • Emailing prospects. 
  • Hosting web-demos or online presentations for customers.
  • Demonstrating product knowledge and answering questions.
  • Handling objections over the phone. 
  • Negotiating contract details.
  • Plugging customer data into their CRM. 
  • Managing a pipeline and reporting this intel to superiors. 

Sometimes an inside sales rep will only have to do a section of these tasks. For example, a lot of B2B companies use the SDR + AE sales structure. 

In this structure, a sales development rep cold calls and qualifies leads. He/she then passes the leads to the account executive, who will take them through the rest of the sales cycle. 

In the end, inside sales reps are measured by their ability to hit their quotas consistently. To do this, make sure you are following these 12 B2B sales best practices. 

Benefits of Inside Sales

Until recently, outside sales was the standard sales model. Now, inside sales are growing 15x faster than outside sales, thanks to new technology. 

But, it is also gaining steam because of its cost-saving attributes and scalability. Inside sales teams only need phones, computers, and software packages. Here are some benefits that inside sales bring.

Greater scalability 

The pool of potential customers is large for inside sales reps. You can sell to any business in the world that would use your product or service. 

Plus, you can talk to more of those prospects each day, since you don’t have to spend any time traveling. Through the use of a phone, your charming and helpful voice can reach the other side of the country in seconds, rather than 6 hours. 

This increased scalability raises the number of deals you can close. Also, if you are a manager, your cost per sales rep is lower, since you don’t pay for transportation or hotels. 

More time for complementary tasks

A sales job isn’t just selling. To succeed, you have to spend some time doing administrative work like researching new accounts or plugging data into your CRM. 

Fortunately, inside reps have adequate time to handle these tasks since they aren’t mired down in travel. 

So, as an inside sales rep, you can spend more time strategizing about how to win over accounts, either by yourself or with the help of your team. 

Cherish those strategy sessions with your colleagues. They are not only fountains of sales tips and wisdom, but also a lot of fun. 

Predictable revenue

The stability of inside sales allows you to create a standard daily routine and stick with it. A standardized structure leads to more predictable revenue. 

Say you need to close $3000 a quarter. You can now do the math and work backward from that number. Maybe five closed deals will bring you to $3000, and maybe 1/5 of your sales meetings end in sales. That means you have to book 25 meetings in the quarter. 

As a benchmark, a lot of sales reps in the B2B space need to make 60 cold calls to get a meeting with a prospect. 

The final number you land on depends on how much air cover you are getting from marketing and inbound leads. But, as you can see, you can form a repeatable process from your office. And if things aren’t working out, you have the data to make adjustments. 

Meanwhile, if you are an outside sales rep, some days, you might have five meetings and others you might have 0, making it difficult to predict your revenue and what it will take to get there. 

Better opportunities for skill development

Inside sales reps usually work in the office and are close to their managers or more experienced salespeople, so it’s easier for them to take part in training sessions. 

Reps can also sit in on calls of their fellow salespeople to learn from them. This proximity also makes the onboarding process of new reps a lot more efficient. 

The Challenges of Inside Sales

Now that we covered the good let’s move onto the bad and ugly of inside sales. When you are aware of potential setbacks, you can proactively work on minimizing them.

Challenge #1: It’s harder to form relationships

It is more difficult to form relationships with customers over the phone than in person. That is especially true when you are selling a big-ticket item. Either way, prospects still want a personal connection with the sales rep from whom they are buying. 

Solution 

Try using Zoom or another video conferencing software to hold virtual face-to-face meetings. The ability to look one another in the eye can go a long way. Even if the prospect doesn’t turn on their video during a demo, your face on the screen will encourage them to open up and trust you. 

You can also make sure to extensively research the prospects before the sales call. That way, you will have some relevant topics to discuss to build rapport.

Challenge #2: It’s tricky to hold prospect’s attention

During a web-demo or online presentation, it can be hard to command the same amount of attention you would if you were in a meeting room. 

If prospects get bored, they can swiftly scroll over to their favorite website during the call without feeling rude. 

And, if their video is off, it is hard to pick up on these cues of boredom. You also can’t gauge their interest in parts of your solution from their body language or facial expressions, meaning you are relying on their words to tell you they are interested. 

And sometimes they never will. 

Solution

To hold your prospect’s attention and gauge interest, you can make sure you are asking questions, like the following, throughout the call. 

“Can you see your team using this?” OR “A lot of our clients love this feature because they were struggling with {Insert Pain Point}, are you?” 

Challenge #3: It can be tough to ensure quality leads

Inside sales reps cannot rely solely on marketing to qualify their leads, because sometimes leads will slip through who will never buy your solution. That means if you pursue these lousy prospects, you will waste your time and energy. 

Solution

First, ensure that marketing and sales are aligned. That way, marketing will know which leads hit the threshold of qualification. 

Second, you should always have a qualification stage in your sales process. Think of it as a consultation, where you ask them a couple of questions until you are confident they might benefit from your solution. 

For more help with qualification, you can compare these prospects to your ideal customer profile. If you don’t know what that is or how to create one, read how to create an ICP

Essential Skills for Inside Sales

If you want to develop or grow your inside sales team, keep in mind the following characteristics of good inside sales reps—they will help you understand how to better hire or educate your salespeople.

Listening 

One of the main goals of an inside sales rep is to find the pains and needs of the prospect. To spot clues that might lead to the prospect’s problems, reps have to listen actively

Keep in mind that the best listeners never interrupt. When people can finish their points without feeling rushed, they feel heard and respected. That is how you want your prospects to feel. 

Pro Tip: Try waiting until 2 seconds after your prospect finishes speaking to take your turn. This method ensures they have said all that they needed to say. 

Try this technique with your friends and see how they react. It’s funny how often they will continue talking. This happens because, a lot of the time, people stop talking since they fear that the listener is getting bored, not because they were done expressing themselves. 

Relationship building

Do you make friends easily? Do you have an innate curiosity for people? If yes, then inside sales might be a perfect place to build your fortune. 

In inside sales, you have to be able to form relationships easily over the phone. To do so, come prepared with questions to ask, take an interest in your prospects, and always default to honesty. 

Don’t feel like you need to talk about sports or news with your prospect to build a relationship. Talking about their business problems and how you aim to solve them is enough. 

Acceptance of rejection

Failure in sales is a part of the process—a big part of it. On average, only 2% of cold calls lead to a meeting, and only 1% lead to a sale.

So, to do well, you have to be able to put up with this kind of rejection. Keep in mind that every call you make you are a step closer to closing a sale, and with each call, you learn something new. 

When prospects don’t buy from you, it’s usually not your fault. A lot of the time it has to do with budget or timing. 

Problem-solving

Your job, distilled down to its core, is to solve your customers’ problems with your product or service. And if you have the product knowledge, you can take your prospects’ diverse issues and find ways your product or service can help. 

Remember, a prospect wants to talk to a problem solver

Pro Tip: Try opening your cold calls with common pain points that you solve for similar businesses. Your prospect will see you as a problem solver and also become interested if you have mentioned one of their pains. 

When you combine these skills with adequate sales tools, you set a foundation for sales excellence. 

Tools You need for Inside Sales

The proliferation of inside sales teams would not be possible without advancements in technology. Inside sales teams are equipped with both hardware and software that enables them to easily find, communicate with, and close prospects. 

Here are the most important tools for your inside sales stack. 

Lead Generation Tool

Salespeople need to maximize the amount of time they spend selling. That is where the fortunes are built, for the company and the reps. 

Selling or prospecting for long uninterrupted blocks allows you to enter the flow state—“the zone,” meaning you can navigate sales conversations with ease and fluidity. 

Since the “time spent selling” is the best indicator of how you will perform, time should not be wasted on administrative work like finding leads using manual techniques like web search or linkedIn. 

Instead, reps should use a tool that gives them a list of high-quality leads. 

If you use a tool like Soleadify, you will always have quality leads to call that fit your ideal customer profile, so you know you have a good chance of making a sale. 

For example, if you are selling software to small and medium-sized Law Firms, you can plug that into Soleadify and receive thousands of leads like this one.

With quality leads, you will spend less time on qualification and move the process further. 

Calling System / Power Dialers

A good calling system and power dialer will save you the trouble of having to dial a number into a handheld phone every time. 

With a power dialer, you can click on the number on your browser, and the phone will ring. Plus, it will log your activity and usually provide you with a space to take notes during the call. 

Most of this software, like Aircall, integrates with Salesforce or other CRMs. 

Sales Engagement Software

Sales engagement software, an upgrade from traditional “email tracking” software, tells you how your prospects are reacting to your emails, providing you with data to analyze and adjust your messaging. 

Tools like Salesloft or Outreach tell you when a prospect opens, clicks, or reads an email you sent. They can also track replies, so you get some feedback into which emails are working

The most effective way to take advantage of these analytics is to run AB tests, either with subject lines or the actual copy of the email. If you send two different intro emails out to 200 prospects, you should get enough data to determine which copy is more effective. 

Another wonderful feature of sales engagement software is the ability to create cadences for different types of customers. 

Cadences are sequences of email templates, phone calls, or social touches.

With cadences, you can standardize your approach to prospecting and send out more personalized emails. 

Also, most of these sales engagement tools integrate with your CRM software, so you have all of the email exchanges saved in your CRM under the contact’s account. 

Productivity apps

With so much to do within a day, inside sales reps need all the help they can get. 

That’s where productivity apps come to the rescue. These tools can help you streamline communications with your teams, send out more emails, or store and access documents. 

These tools include Dropbox, Asana, and Slack. 

Word of caution, though. Use communication tools like Slack responsibly. Sometimes streamlined communication tools just lead to over banter, like sharing GIFs and funny memes with your colleagues. 

If you use Slack, make sure it isn’t open in your browser at all times. Keep it on silent and check it every couple of hours. Or else, those pings that are meant to save you time will leave you feeling distracted and off-course. 

CRM Software

In a 2019 survey of more than 900 sales professionals, 37.3% said a CRM was their most valuable sales tool.

When you have a lot of prospects and clients to keep track of, it’s nice to have all of their information in one easily accessible place.

CRM software like Salesforce allows you to store valuable information about your prospects, from their phone numbers and email addresses to their positions and company info. 

Plus, you can track interactions with the prospects so that you know how they came into your pipeline, and what happened during your last conversation. 

This data is particularly helpful when you are doing meeting prep work. You can glance over you or your company’s history with the prospect so you can go in there and start where you left off. 

Pro Tip For Mining Your CRM for Easy Opportunities

One of the most effective ways to book meetings is by calling on someone your team has met with before. A good CRM shows you when the meeting took place, and if you have responsible team members, why the prospect didn’t buy. 

Try filtering your accounts to ones that have met with your company in the past couple of years up to 6 months ago. Then call or email them and ask why they decided not to buy. Maybe they just weren’t ready. Or maybe they had an objection that you can now solve!

Appointment Scheduling System

It can be frustrating going back and forth on email trying to pin down a good time for a meeting with your prospect. 

Instead of sending them three times that work for you, try adopting an appointment scheduling system like this free one from Hubspot. It syncs up with Outlook or Gmail and allows customers to see your updated calendar, and then choose the time slot that works for them. 

Screen Sharing Tools

Inside sales reps spend a lot of their time giving presentations or web-demos over the internet. So, you need a quality screen-sharing tool that makes it easy to switch back and forth between a slideshow, a software platform, a mobile app, or whatever else you are showing your prospect. 

Try out tools like Zoom or Vast Conferences for screen-sharing. 

This list is not exhaustive, and could also include tools like a quality headset or a stand-up desk. If you are interested in sales technology, but the field seems complicated, here are 10 types of sales tools you should learn.

Final Thoughts

Inside sales reps have a tough job. They need to form relationships with busy prospects and sell them something, often something expensive, without ever meeting them face to face. 

Luckily, you can leverage technology to optimize your performance, while staying aware of the comforting fact that the world is open to you for business, and just a phone call or email away. 

Join the discussion on connect.samcx.com
Daniel

Daniel

Contributor @samcx.com. Passionate about everything Sales, Marketing and Account Management.

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