inside-sales

What Is Inside Sales? The When, How, And What Of Inside Sales?

Inside sales is the practice of turning leads into customers remotely. Communication between the client and the customer occurs via phone, email, or the internet. Inside sales become a critical sales acquisition strategy when a company or startup needs to convert leads into potential small and medium business paying accounts. Thus, the inside sales representative will help prospect, qualify, assess and close those opportunities.

AspectExplanation
DefinitionInside Sales is a sales strategy where sales professionals and representatives engage with potential customers remotely, typically through phone calls, emails, video conferencing, or online chat, rather than in-person meetings. It is a cost-effective and efficient approach for selling products or services, often used in industries such as technology, software, and telecommunications.
Key ConceptsRemote Sales: Inside sales representatives work from a central location and reach customers through virtual communication channels. Cost-Efficiency: Inside sales can be more cost-effective than field sales due to reduced travel expenses. Technology: The use of technology tools is crucial for communication and tracking leads. Lead Generation: Inside sales teams often focus on lead generation and nurturing. Customer Engagement: Effective communication and rapport-building are vital in remote interactions.
Roles and FunctionsInside sales roles vary but commonly include: 1. Sales Development Representatives (SDRs): Focused on prospecting and lead generation. 2. Account Executives: Responsible for closing deals and managing customer accounts. 3. Sales Engineers: Provide technical expertise to potential clients. 4. Customer Success Managers: Ensuring customer satisfaction and retention.
AdvantagesInside sales offers several advantages: 1. Cost Savings: Reduced travel and infrastructure costs. 2. Scalability: Easier to scale sales teams. 3. Wider Reach: Access to a broader customer base. 4. Efficiency: Streamlined processes and quicker response times. 5. Analytics: Data-driven insights for sales strategy improvement.
ChallengesChallenges associated with inside sales include: 1. Remote Communication: Building trust and rapport remotely can be challenging. 2. Technology Dependency: Reliance on technology tools, which can sometimes fail. 3. Isolation: Sales representatives may experience isolation working remotely. 4. Lead Quality: Ensuring leads generated are of high quality and likely to convert.
Technology ToolsEssential technology tools for inside sales include: 1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software: For lead tracking and management. 2. Communication Tools: Email, phone systems, video conferencing. 3. Sales Engagement Platforms: Automate and streamline sales processes. 4. Analytics and Reporting Tools: Provide insights into sales performance. 5. Social Selling Platforms: For leveraging social media in sales efforts.
Best PracticesSuccessful inside sales teams follow these best practices: 1. Effective Communication: Training on clear and persuasive communication. 2. Lead Nurturing: Continuously engage and nurture leads. 3. Sales Training: Regular training and development programs. 4. Data Analysis: Regularly review and analyze sales data for strategy adjustment. 5. Collaboration: Foster collaboration between sales, marketing, and customer success teams.
IndustriesInside sales is prominent in industries like technology, software, telecommunications, healthcare, financial services, and more. It is particularly effective for products and services that can be sold remotely.
Future TrendsThe future of inside sales includes the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for lead scoring, chatbots for initial customer interactions, and advanced analytics for sales forecasting and strategy refinement. The hybrid model, combining inside and field sales, is also gaining traction.
ConclusionInside Sales is a dynamic approach to sales that leverages remote communication technologies to efficiently reach and engage potential customers. It offers cost savings, scalability, and the ability to tap into a broader customer base. As technology continues to evolve, inside sales is poised to play an increasingly critical role in various industries’ sales strategies.

Understanding inside sales

Inside sales has become the predominant sales model in the past decade or so for representatives in B2B, SaaS, tech, and B2C industries where high-value products are the norm.

The inside sales model normally entails high-touch transactions over email and phone. Unlike telemarketers, inside sales require representatives to be knowledgeable and experienced. They must also be able to use technology to conduct demos, present information, and perform any other function that a traditional sales rep would.

Inside sales is the opposite approach to outside sales, where the sales representative goes out into the field to meet with prospects. However, the line between inside sales and outside sales is less clear than it once was. Many outside sales reps who work on-premise handle some aspects of their business remotely and utilize the same tools inside sales reps have used for years. 

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the goalposts once more, with the vast majority of outside sales representatives now working remotely. To some extent, this has destigmatized inside sales and its ability to close high-value sales without direct, face-to-face client interaction.

Essential inside sales tools

Inside sales representatives use some or all of the following tools:

Telephone 

Even though the telephone was invented in the 19th century, voice conversation is still an integral part of remote sales. Calls are made to first schedule an appointment and then follow up with a pitch. 

Inside sales representatives are also turning to text messages to communicate with prospects, leads, and customers.

CRM software 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software provides an overview of sales activities and ensures the rep can effectively manage their pipeline. 

The most capable CRM software also allows the rep to manage their client relationships more effectively by building stronger relationships and fostering mutual growth.

Email tracking

Email tracking is a critical component of any inside sales strategy. McKinsey Global Institute found that inside sales professionals spend 28% of their day reading and writing emails.

In most cases, sales professionals reach out to prospects via email once the marketing team has acquired them. Email tracking software then allows the rep to see whether an email to a prospect has been opened or whether the attached files have been downloaded. Based on these insights, a specific course of follow-up action is taken.

Reporting tools and dashboards

Successful inside sales also rely on data monitoring and the ability to extract useful and actionable data insights. 

Reporting tools should clarify, among other things:

  • The best performing representatives. 
  • The email templates with the highest response rates.
  • Whether monthly sales target will be hit. 
  • The optimum follow-up sequence.

Social intelligence software

Social intelligence software utilizes social media data to improve, inform, or enhance business strategy. The most adept inside sales professionals use social media to their advantage – whether that be to nurture a lead or identify a new opportunity in an existing account.

Social selling tools

In the context of inside sales, social telling involves the utilization of tools that integrate with social media to create and maintain relationships. 

Social selling may include endorsing a prospect on LinkedIn or scouring the platform’s search function for outbound targets. It may also include something as simple as following important accounts on Twitter or sharing the target company’s content across multiple sites.

Productivity apps

Like any work that occurs remotely, distraction is a constant menace for inside sales personnel. To work more efficiently, some use tools such as Focus which blocks access to social media sites or any others considered to be a time sink.

Others use Slack to increase productivity in a different way. Here, the platform enables automated sales notifications to be fed into a chat room. This allows the rep to keep abreast of day-to-day operations and recent developments.

Case Studies

  • Virtual Reality Demos: Inside sales representatives in the real estate industry might use virtual reality to provide immersive property tours to potential buyers.
  • Chatbots for Initial Interactions: Some inside sales processes incorporate chatbots on websites to engage with leads, answer initial questions, and qualify prospects before human intervention.
  • Predictive Analytics: Inside sales teams can leverage predictive analytics to identify leads with the highest likelihood of conversion, allowing them to prioritize their efforts effectively.
  • Video Conferencing: Sales reps often use video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams for face-to-face interactions with prospects when physical meetings are not possible.
  • AI-Powered Lead Scoring: Artificial intelligence can analyze lead data to assign scores indicating the potential for conversion, enabling sales reps to focus on the most promising leads.
  • E-signature Solutions: Inside sales can streamline the closing process by using e-signature solutions like DocuSign or Adobe Sign to finalize deals electronically.
  • Sales Playbooks: Sales teams may develop playbooks that outline specific strategies and tactics for different types of leads, ensuring consistent and effective communication.
  • Mobile Sales Apps: Sales representatives can access CRM systems and sales tools on mobile apps, allowing them to work efficiently while on the go.
  • Multi-Channel Outreach: Inside sales teams often use multiple communication channels, including social media messaging, to reach prospects where they are most responsive.
  • Sales Gamification: To motivate and engage sales teams, companies may implement gamification techniques, rewarding reps for achieving specific sales goals or milestones.
  • Customer Journey Mapping: Inside sales teams create customer journey maps to better understand and address the needs and pain points of potential customers at different stages of the buying process.
  • Voice Analytics: Analyzing call recordings with voice analytics tools can provide insights into customer sentiments, helping reps tailor their approaches.
  • AI-Powered Chat Support: Inside sales representatives may use AI chat support on websites to engage visitors, answer questions, and guide them through the sales funnel.
  • Dynamic Content Personalization: Email and content marketing tools enable inside sales teams to personalize messages and content based on prospect preferences and behaviors.
  • Sales Enablement Platforms: Sales enablement software offers a centralized hub for sales collateral, training materials, and resources to empower inside sales reps.

Key takeaways:

  • Inside sales is the practice of turning leads into customers remotely. Communication between the client and the customer occurs via phone, email, or the internet.
  • Inside sales is now the default sales method thanks to advances in technology and a shift to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Inside sales representatives utilize some or all of the following tools: telephone, CRM software, email tracking software, reporting tools, social intelligence software, social selling tools, and productivity apps.

Key Highlights of Inside Sales:

  • Definition: Inside sales is the process of converting leads into customers through remote communication methods, such as phone, email, or internet interactions.
  • Critical in B2B and High-Value Industries: Inside sales has become the dominant sales model in B2B, SaaS, tech, and other industries where high-value products are common.
  • High-Touch Transactions: Inside sales involves high-touch interactions with prospects over email and phone, requiring knowledgeable and experienced representatives who can use technology for demos and presentations.
  • Contrast with Outside Sales: Inside sales differs from outside sales, where representatives meet prospects in person. However, the line between the two is blurring, and many outside sales reps now work remotely.
  • Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards remote inside sales, emphasizing its effectiveness in closing high-value deals without face-to-face meetings.
  • Essential Tools for Inside Sales:
    • Telephone: Still a vital tool for scheduling appointments and delivering pitches.
    • CRM Software: Manages sales activities and client relationships, enhancing sales efficiency.
    • Email Tracking: Monitors email interactions, helping reps gauge prospect interest and plan follow-up actions.
    • Reporting Tools: Provides valuable insights on sales performance, response rates, and follow-up strategies.
    • Social Intelligence Software: Utilizes social media data to inform and improve sales strategies.
    • Social Selling Tools: Integrates with social media platforms to nurture leads and identify new opportunities.
    • Productivity Apps: Helps sales personnel stay focused and efficient, blocking distractions and providing automated notifications.
  • Remote Work Challenges: Inside sales teams often rely on productivity apps like Focus or communication tools like Slack to combat distractions and stay informed about day-to-day operations.
  • Shift in Sales Dynamics: Advances in technology and remote work practices have made inside sales the default sales approach for many businesses.

Related Business Concepts

Business Development

business-development
Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, and sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

Sales vs. Marketing

marketing-vs-sales
The more you move from consumers to enterprise clients, the more you’ll need a sales force able to manage complex sales. As a rule of thumb, a more expensive product, in B2B or Enterprise, will require an organizational structure around sales. An inexpensive product to be offered to consumers will leverage on marketing.

Sales Cycle

sales-cycle
A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products. In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.

RevOps

revops
RevOps – short for Revenue Operations – is a framework that aims to maximize the revenue potential of an organization. RevOps seeks to align these departments by giving them access to the same data and tools. With shared information, each then understands their role in the sales funnel and can work collaboratively to increase revenue.

BATNA

batna
In negotiation theory, BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement,” and it’s one of the key tenets of negotiation theory. Indeed, it describes the best course of action a party can take if negotiations fail to reach an agreement. This simple strategy can help improve the negotiation as each party is (in theory) willing to take the best course of action, as otherwise, an agreement won’t be reached.

WATNA

watna
In negotiation, WATNA stands for “worst alternative to a negotiated agreement,” representing one of several alternative options if a resolution cannot be reached. This is a useful technique to help understand what might be a negotiation outcome, that even if negative is still better than a WATNA, making the deal still feasible.

ZOPA

zopa
The ZOPA (zone of possible agreement) describes an area in which two negotiation parties may find common ground. Indeed, ZOPA is critical to explore the deals where the parties get a mutually beneficial outcome to prevent the risk of a win-lose, or lose-win scenario. And therefore get to the point of a win-win negotiation outcome.

Revenue Modeling

revenue-modeling
Revenue modeling is a process of incorporating a sustainable financial model for revenue generation within a business model design. Revenue modeling can help to understand what options make more sense in creating a digital business from scratch; alternatively, it can help in analyzing existing digital businesses and reverse engineer them.

Customer Experience Map

customer-experience-map
Customer experience maps are visual representations of every encounter a customer has with a brand. On a customer experience map, interactions called touchpoints visually denote each interaction that a business has with its consumers. Typically, these include every interaction from the first contact to marketing, branding, sales, and customer support.

AIDA Model

aida-model
AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.

Social Selling

social-selling
Social selling is a process of developing trust, rapport, and a relationship with a prospect to enhance the sales cycle. It usually happens through tech platforms (like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more), which enable salespeople to engage with potential prospects before closing the sale, thus becoming more effective.

CHAMP Methodology

champ-methodology
The CHAMP methodology is an iteration of the BANT sales process for modern B2B applications. While budget, authority, need, and timing are important aspects of qualifying sales leads, the CHAMP methodology was developed after sales reps questioned the order in which the BANT process is followed.

BANT Sales Process

bant-sales-process
The BANT process was conceived at IBM in the 1950s as a way to quickly identify prospects most likely to make a purchase. Despite its introduction around 70 years ago, the BANT process remains relevant today and was formally adopted into IBM’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide.

MEDDIC Sales Process

meddic-sales-process
The MEDDIC sales process was developed in 1996 by Dick Dunkel at software company Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The MEDDIC sales process is a framework used by B2B sales teams to foster predictable and efficient growth.

STP Marketing

stp-marketing
STP marketing simplifies the market segmentation process and is one of the most commonly used approaches in modern marketing. The core focus of STP marketing is commercial effectiveness. Marketers use the approach to select the most valuable segments from a target audience and develop a product positioning strategy and marketing mix for each.

Sales Funnels vs. Flywheels

sales-funnel
The sales funnel is a model used in marketing to represent an ideal, potential journey that potential customers go through before becoming actual customers. As a representation, it is also often an approximation, that helps marketing and sales teams structure their processes at scale, thus building repeatable sales and marketing tactics to convert customers.

Pirate Metrics

pirate-metrics
Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Bootstrapping

bootstrapping-business
The general concept of Bootstrapping connects to “a self-starting process that is supposed to proceed without external input.” In business, Bootstrapping means financing the growth of the company from the available cash flows produced by a viable business model. Bootstrapping requires the mastery of the key customers driving growth.

Virtuous Cycles

virtuous-cycle
The virtuous cycle is a positive loop or a set of positive loops that trigger a non-linear growth. Indeed, in the context of digital platforms, virtuous cycles – also defined as flywheel models – help companies capture more market shares by accelerating growth. The classic example is Amazon’s lower prices driving more consumers, driving more sellers, thus improving variety and convenience, thus accelerating growth.

Sales Storytelling

business-storytelling
Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Enterprise Sales

enterprise-sales
Enterprise sales describes the procurement of large contracts that tend to be characterized by multiple decision-makers, complicated implementation, higher risk levels, or longer sales cycles.

Outside Sales

outside-sales
Outside sales occur when a salesperson meets with prospects or customers in the field. This sort of sales function is critical to acquire larger accounts, like enterprise customers, for which the acquisition process is usually longer, more complex and it requires the understanding of the target organization. Thus the outside sales will cut through the noise to acquire a large enterprise account for the organization.

Freeterprise

freeterprise-business-model
A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Sales Distribution Framework

sales-distribution-peter-thiel
Zero to One is a book by Peter Thiel. But it also represents a business mindset, more typical of tech, where building something wholly new is the default mode, rather than building something incrementally better. The core premise of Zero to One then is that it’s much more valuable to create a whole new market/product rather than starting from existing markets.

Palantir Acquire, Expand, Scale Framework

palantir-business-model
Palantir is a software company offering intelligence services from governments and institutions to large commercial organizations. The company’s two main platforms Gotham and Foundry, are integrated at enterprise-level. Its business model follows three phases: Acquire, Expand, and Scale. The company bears the pilot costs in the acquire and expand phases, and it runs at a loss. Where in the scale phase, the customers’ contribution margins become positive.

Consultative Selling

consultative-selling
Consultative selling is a sales approach favoring relationship building and open dialogue to adequately meet the needs of a prospective customer. By building trust quickly a consultative selling approach can help the customer better meet her/his expectations and the salesperson hit her/his targets more effectively.

Unique Selling Proposition

unique-selling-proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) enables a business to differentiate itself from its competitors. Importantly, a USP enables a business to stand for something that they, in turn, become known among consumers. A strong and recognizable USP is crucial to operating successfully in competitive markets.

Read: product development frameworks here.

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