Can inside salespeople replace your outside salespeople? Sales is changing, undoubtedly. Thought leaders like Justin Roff-Marsh assert that field sales is dead.
Here’s a fascinating webinar where Justin argues that the “sales” function can be moved inside with a smaller contingent of sales engineers for on-site visits, coordinated by the inside team. There’s no doubt that this type of shift carries with it tremendous efficiencies.
Inside vs. Outside Sales
So much of what outside salespeople do is limited by travel time and costs. Inside salespeople can clearly make more calls at less cost.
No question that the changes in buyer behavior and information availability have opened the door to this sort of restructure of the sales function. It’s a shift that’s happening with growing momentum.
Inside salespeople have the ability to leverage sales and marketing automation technology much more readily. Most managers of outside salespeople are happy if they just get a few notes entered into their CRM software at the end of the week about the meetings that were held.
Instead, an inside salesperson can be alerted in real time that a large brand is visiting the website, leverage LinkedIn and other data sources to identify the key decision makers and within minutes have them all on automated campaigns to engage them further.
But, are there elements of selling face to face that cannot be replaced? Probably, however we probably over estimate their importance due to the long history of outside sales being the whale hunters. No question that all things being equal, a face to face meeting offers the ability to empathize and connect with the customer in ways that are nearly impossible to duplicate on the phone or even with a webcam. But, at what cost?
Inside Sales Growth
The trend is already unfolding. Witness the people contacting your business to sell you something. The only brands still growing their outside sales efforts are huge consumer brands like Comcast and ADT, residential and commercial real estate related services or businesses selling extremely expensive (>$100k) products and services.
Whether you believe outside salespeople are a thing of the past or not, their not as crucial as they used to be. Sales teams will beef up their inside sales teams even if they are also maintaining or growing the outside team.
Managing Inside Salespeople
Managing inside sales people is unique and demands focus on skill sets that are not as crucial to an outside sales team. Managers must adopt new metrics and tactics to be successful.
Of course, inside salespeople have to work harder to engage and truly connect with prospects due to the lack of physical proximity. But, beyond that, inside sales managers must develop strategies to teach, measure and reinforce other skills such as:
- Understanding the customer organization takes a more concerted, structured approach when you can’t look around the office and chat up the receptionist.
- Digging deeply into what’s really motivating customers takes more focus and better questions when you can’t rely on body language to tell you if you’re getting the “real story”.
- Face to face, your eyes can convey empathy. On the phone, it takes practice to say “I care” with words with out sounding creepy.
- And gathering, documenting, managing and leveraging information in your CRM and Marketing Automation solution is key to success.
Salespeople can overcome many of the challenges of connecting with customers without a face to face meeting by focusing on a few “soft skills”. Opening up communication, expressing empathy can be enhanced with focus on simple things like verbal compliments. The efficiencies of inside sales can be maximized by doubling down on organization and automation.
To learn more about how to enhance and manage inside salespeople’s soft skills and maximize their productivity, read Inside-Out Selling.