What is inside sales and how it can help your sales goals

Inside sales can be a bit of a misnomer. It implies it has to be done in-house. But one of our most popular European sales outsourcing services is actually inside sales — most often paired with the lead generation strategy you read about last month. That means that, while we are external to your company, we are fully representing your brand and integrating our processes with yours.

In this issue, we try to clarify what inside sales is — and isn’t. And why it’s a key ingredient in the recipe for your tech company’s global expansion. Especially now.

What is inside sales? What isn’t it?

Good question. The lines between field sales and inside sales seem to have blurred during this pandemic, but besides direct presence and contact with the prospect or client, there are other significant differences between them that make the inside sales an interesting option on its own, regardless of the actual context.

Traditionally inside sales is pretty much synonymous with remote sales or virtual sales. What it isn’t is telemarketing. Nor cold calling.

Typically this remote sales is a lighter touch, more quickly persuasive sales process, usually following multi-channel lead generation activities or simply following up with someone who’s shown interest on your website. This whole sales process happens in the convenience of respective offices or home offices. Successful inside sales reps, supported by great content and strong metrics, can quickly qualify and close opportunities in fewer points of contact.

If properly done, this relationship begins with a certain brand awareness of your tool or service. Some social outreach or maybe a personalized newsletter. And certainly profiling and prospecting needs to occur before. Your lead generation team will have created a strong brand persona and developed a lead list of the right roles and companies that would be highly targeted.

Then, an inside sales representative — often called a sales development representative or SDR — takes that pre-qualified lead from your lead gen team or an inbound lead from your website and has a discovery call to understand the prospect’s needs and budget. Depending on the product, the objectives may vary. It may be just logging the essential details to set up a demo next time. It may be a solid cold pitch to Socratically sell back in the moment. For other tools, it’ll be getting them to sign up for a free trial, followed by communication routes varying with how much they interact during their trial.

Any of these routes may end with a sale, not interested or not interested right now.

The purpose of strategic inside sales is to drive as many of them to the credit card form in your SaaS signup page or negotiations over a sales proposal and agreement.

An inside sales rep has the right technical and sales skillset to take a qualified lead to closure.  

While each process can be a little different, a qualified SDR is able to take that all the way from the first prospecting call through to negotiation and proposals and onto a signed deal.

And fast. One of the benefits of inside sales is being able to talk to a lot more prospects in a lot less time.

“Inside sales is the ability to close mid-value deals faster without the cost and time associated with going to customers.” — Gavin Page

Where does an SDR fit on your business development team?

Inside sales goes a significant step further than lead generation, much nearer to the field sales representatives. At least with Sales Force Europe, our inside sales reps have, on average, five to ten years’ sales experience and a strong technical background. That means they are well-equipped to give a demo and negotiate deals and the skills required to drive and close sales.

Sure, some SDRs perform some of the same functions as lead gen. They aren’t usually generating content or lists, but, once a lead is scored as a marketing qualified lead (MQL), the SDR may be the first point of contact for a lead. An inside sales representative will then qualify and close, qualify-out, or continue to nurture the lead.

Our CRO Gavin Page wanted to clarify that, while you can have SDRs doing some qualification work when it’s a highly targeted role in a certain vertical, you usually don’t want to waste a more experienced sales-focused SDR team on prospecting.

Although at least in our inside sales outsourcing team, the client benefits from an Inside sales person with the same backup and support infrastructure that our lead generation teams get — including mentoring, coaching, research and quality control.

They also share the same floor — or virtual team space right now — that allows them to collaborate and compete.

This can positively impact on performance, especially for new team creation, by providing camaraderie, competitiveness and peer to peer mentoring that can't be achieved in small one or two member teams.

It is true that nowadays field sales reps aren’t so much in the field. In 2020 and probably most of 2021, most sales will be de facto remote sales. Field rep work distinguishes itself because it is usually account-based sales. These are often seasoned account executives with over a decade experience. This typically involves more stakeholders, across a department or even a company. Field sales is often seen when you are dealing with enterprises, channels and governments that are present across multiple geographies. These decision makers typically expect a higher number of touch points, which don’t necessarily have to be in person.

Gavin clarifies that the decision between inside or field sales teams usually comes down to the kind of business software being sold and the deal size. Something in an established software category — like sales trackers, marketing automation, accounts payable or receivable, CMS or ecommerce tooling — can be closed faster and more efficiently by SDRs. And, in terms of deal size, these can even reach the lower end of six-figure deals.

However, in a nascent category like AI, chatbots or autonomous vehicles, smaller deals can still be closed over the phone, but larger deals need the personal touch and relationship cultivation of a so-called field sales representative. A tool like an enterprise resource planning tool or ERP usually isn’t closed via inside sales either, this time because it involves different, often siloed departments like finance and IT.  

“If your end user’s comfort level with a product area, like CRM, or brand is high, that raises the price of the deals — into the six figures — that can be closed by inside sales.” — Gavin Page

When you’re dealing with a known entity like CRMs, often it’s not about deciding whether to use one, but more about deciding which one to use. This can often be closed by a competent SDR giving a demo and maybe some price negotiation.

But as soon as you pair an emerging product category with a higher price tag, you may need that account-based relationship in place.

Inside sales isn’t usually account-based, at least to start. Inside sales are usually smaller to mid-market deals. Often SaaS models that cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 a year. The target customer persona and job profile is clear. There’s usually only one decision-maker. More often than not that’s a CMO or CTO, unless it’s for infrastructure and then it could be whichever specific tech profile on the team.

Then, once the sale is done, inside sales may continue as a light touch, or passed to customer success. There’s not usually an extensive onboarding process. It’s typically self-service, backed by clear documentation or even an interactive wizard. And then you only hear from them at annual renewal periods or for technical support.

By contrast, a field rep is often immersed in cross-company politics, handling deals that take many stakeholders. That’s why with our flavor of outsourcing sales, we usually rely on existing relationships with top customers within a new geographic region to open those doors and answer those questions earlier on.

And then there is of course the third popular type of SaaS sales — channel sales. This is leveraging a local partner who can sell your product on your behalf. It can be through a distributor, reseller, integrator, MSP, or ecommerce platform.

Our inside sales teams can develop these partner channels, supporting the sales process, while leaving the technical implementation work to the partner.

Inside, outside, channel or a mix, everything is tracked through the same system. A CRM that most communication is run through or, in the case of private social media outreach, at least logged. The whole business development team should be privy to all that tracking, iteratively improving based on shared insights. When working with any outsourced sales team, make sure they either integrate with your tools or provide you with frequent and comprehensive updates.

Where are the benefits of inside sales?

There are many clear advantages to pursuing an inside sales strategy with mid-market SaaS sales or in conjunction with a greater business development strategy.

The key benefits of inside sales are:

  • Speed to market and close deals faster
  • Clear ROI
  • Socially distant, no travel costs
  • Much wider funnel converting contacts to customers
  • Virtual meetings and demos
  • Benefits from a team-backed approach, rather than one field rep on-site
  • Local language support increases conversion
  • Very metrics backed
  • Easy to pivot techniques and overcome objectives rapidly

While our insides sales representatives have the technical background and experience closing deals, they aren’t alone. This team is backed by an extensive lead gen cycle with 9 to 12 touchpoints. And ongoing coaching and sales training on top of that.

Inside sales outsourcing is often supplemental to field sales, allowing them to focus on the larger deals while our reps support quick, sustainable revenue, by focusing on medium and smaller deals.

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