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Hunter vs. gatherer: the rise of inside sales
‘Inside sales’ is a new phrase in the sales arena, but what exactly is it and how can you make the leap?
What is ‘inside sales’?
Initially sounding like a return to the call centre sales models of the 90s, the inside sales model is anything but. Out of necessity, organisations are becoming more efficient with their workforce. The traditional salesman role, with individuals on the road being paid a base salary + company vehicle + commission while tending to only a few high value and low volume clients, is being dramatically reviewed.
An inside sales model means that companies can contact low value, high volume customers cheaply and more regularly, while still engaging them in a customer experience that will ensure their return trade. Unlike the traditional call centre model, inside sales demands true ownership of client accounts and the skills to solution sell at every step of the way. Individuals are responsible for their pipelines and held accountable for revenue generation.
Unlike call centres, digital skills are paramount, with inside sales professionals needing to identify and analyse customer requirements and tailor their sales pitch to meet those needs. Of course the pre-requisite hunger for new business development is still imperative as with any sales role, traditional or otherwise.
Why are companies moving towards inside sales?
Organisations are likely to get a better return from their low value, high volume customers with a desk based sales professional who can contact them more regularly and develop a more specific relationship. This is compared to the traditional sales professional whose typical contact cycle is once every six weeks. Regular contact means a better client experience albeit with less ‘real’ face time. The increased capability of technology, with webinars and video conferencing ensures face time is not lost but is more relevant.
It won’t take long for more organisations to realise the value that a more profitable and efficient sales division coupled with a traditional offering will bring. It allows organisations to protect their revenue and profit line without compromising customer engagement and experience. The reality is that while having a face to face presence is important, particularly at an enterprise level, the current market /economic climate favours the push toward inside sales as a viable way of increasing market penetration domestically as well as regionally. As awareness increases and sales teams change in structure, there will be continued growth in the inside sales market.
Who is embracing the trend?
Most industries that are service or intangible product led are embracing inside sales as the next evolution of their sales teams. This includes IT, business, professional and financial services, tourism, telecoms, sports and leisure to name a few. Already some consumer product led environments are starting to use their sales teams to proactively call clients to place orders.
Consumer and industrial products organisations will continue to migrate towards this model. Margins in these markets continue to be tight, especially with the high cost to manufacture and transport goods. This model enables organisations to protect some margin and also get greater traction with a larger number of clients. Manufacturing will continue to streamline costs in a fiercely competitive and under-supplied market as the Australian economy consistently favours offshoring of headset production.
How to be successful in inside sales
Traditional hunter and gatherer sales roles will still exist, but the amalgamation of the two into the fresh inside sales role means that there is a great opportunity to make a sideways move into the new model.
Individuals hoping to become inside sales gurus will need to be comfortable making a transition to selling over the phone from in person. The cues you get from a face to face environment can make a transition to a phone based role challenging – albeit not impossible.
In addition, the ability to present information via email or online tools requires a high level of attention to detail. Traditional techniques are very relationship orientated as opposed to fact based and the points of contact required may test the patience of traditional sales professionals. Skills are easily transferable, particularly in markets that don’t require face to face product demonstrations.
To ensure continued success it will of course be important to meet business expectations of both the customer and the organisation, with commitment to go above and beyond to deliver results. Showing natural leadership behaviours will be expected for progression.
Similar to most sales positions, resilience, drive for results, initiative and an ability to influence stakeholders and build meaningful relationships in a positive, commercial manner will be essential.
The challenge of identifying the right talented inside sales professionals
The key challenge when recruiting inside sales roles is tantalising candidates to move from a field-based role to phone. As the market evolves this will change with candidates understanding the various benefits associated with working from an office. This will also be driven by economic climate, which is forcing businesses to streamline cost in every avenue possible.
To further this, there is a clear skill gap between B2C and B2B sales and it is often very difficult for candidates to transition from a transactional cycle to multi-staged selling processes involving a range of key stakeholders/decision makers. Organisations are becoming more aware of this, but efficient larger businesses are heavily investing in the training and development of their B2C heads to ensure they’re able to integrate when the time is right.
Simply taking the same approach when identifying traditional sales professionals versus those capable of being successful within inside sales could be problematic. It is essential that the ability to test sales process competency and appropriate behavioural traits is sound. Understanding the ‘how’ while being able to understand ‘when’ an individual has delivered in an inside sales model will go a long way to ensuring long-term, profitable success – not only for the individual but also the organisation.
If your organisation is making the move to inside sales, get in touch to start your hiring process.