Inside sales (often called remote sales) is growing in popularity. Large and small companies in the B2B world are turning to inside sales because of its numerous advantages. Read on to learn what inside sales is, the difference between inside sales vs. outside sales, examples of inside sales activities, its advantages, and helpful digital tools for inside sales success.
At one time, inside sales was associated with small or simple deals, renewal acquisition, and lead generation with handoff to outside sales for nurturing and closing. Now in the digital age, inside sales is responsible for the same types of large accounts, complex products, and sales work as their outside sales counterparts.
What is inside sales? Isn’t it the same as telemarketing?
This is a common misconception. Inside sales reps conduct research on the segments, industries, and prospects they contact, developing tailored talking points and anticipating the unique needs of different personas, and are involved in the entire sales cycle from start to finish. They do prospecting and lead generation, nurturing and ongoing outreach, and see each contact through to closing a deal and beyond into customer retention. Inside salespeople leverage the computing power of a CRM and other tools to track interactions with contacts, making informed decisions every step of the way.
In contrast, telemarketing generally involves cold calling from a list. Though the list may be vetted to include contacts in certain industries or roles, the telemarketing team is usually not involved in the research or list building. Telemarketers generate leads, then those leads are handed off to the sales team. They may use the CRM to create or add records, but they’re not doing the actual selling like sales reps.
Inside sales is distinct from telemarketing, but does it work in manufacturing and industrial sales? Yes, if you use the right tools and tactfully implement proper techniques.
The difference between inside sales vs. outside sales
Inside and outside sales share the same goal: to close deals and earn revenue. They are both under the sales team's umbrella. The biggest difference between the two is inside sales reps tend to work in an office, and outside sales reps travel to customer sites and events in a geographic territory. In day-to-day operations, inside sales professionals are able to accomplish many of the same goals as their outside sales counterparts using different activities.
Examples of inside sales activities:
Virtual or online site visits. Even without the physical opportunity for a handshake or facility tour, it’s still possible to connect with buyers remotely. Inside sales reps can use conference calling and video meetings to introduce themselves and their product, and build a trusting relationship with the buying team. Even at a distance, the ability to see each other and interact (or take a webcam-guided virtual tour), enhances the connection. Virtual lunch and learn sessions are also a great way to connect with buying teams virtually.
Product demos. Demos can be done on-the-fly over video calls, or pre-recorded and uploaded to your company’s YouTube channel. Augmented reality is an emerging technology and is also a great option for creating virtual experiences with products and services. Even more important than technology; however, is a rep’s ability to explain in words and communicate clearly how a product works and answer questions in detail, so don't forget about that step!
Trade shows. True, there is no substitute for the full trade show experience (at least not yet). But your company can reach a large live audience through well-promoted webinars. A bonus is that by completing your registration form for the webinar, they’ve provided contact information and shown interest in receiving information from you in the future. Many remote and video meeting platforms also allow for an interactive experience where participants can ask questions with a chat feature.
Advantages of inside sales
Many industrial manufacturers and other B2B organizations are placing a greater emphasis on inside sales in 2021. Why? Advantages of inside sales include:
Reduced travel costs. Inside sales reps sell virtually from wherever their office is (no travel costs to the org), while outside sales reps sell on the road (travel costs to the org include hotels, meals, flights, rental cars, etc.).
Ability to make more touches and sales calls in less time. How much time does it take to send 10 emails to prospects ready to purchase versus the time it takes to make 10 in-person visits to prospects ready to purchase? The benefits of those personal emails from an inside sales rep are ten fold (pun intended) when compared to outside sales, which is why more and more manufacturers are utilizing the former.
Meets buyer preferences for fewer meetings or phone calls. Unplanned outreach can be disruptive to your prospects, and thus can make the wrong impression. According to HubSpot, “customers don’t want a salesperson to come by unless they conclude that a face-to-face visit is absolutely critical.” Your prospects are busy with their day-to-day operations, so allow them to connect with you when they have time. They are busy, too, after all!
Helpful digital tools for inside sales success
Any inside sales or remote sales rep can benefit from the following digital tools:
CRM. A CRM is powerful software that keeps all of your client-facing employees in the loop. As a central place for account and individual prospect or customer information, everyone involved in marketing and sales can easily see where prospects are in the sales cycle, add notes about a demo outcome, or update records with the names and numbers of referrals. Inside sales reps use the CRM for research and to share the info they gather with the rest of the team.
Internet-based phone and calling software. This allows for faster dialing and is compatible with a headset and microphone for hands-free calling.
Web-based meeting tools. Options like Zoom, Uber, Microsoft Teams and more offer a flexible format for formal meetings, quick check-ins, and presentations or webinars. Show your slides or edit documents to all participants easily with built-in screen sharing features, and record your presentation to distribute later.
Appointment and scheduling software. If you’ve ever received an email with an offer to “book an appointment with me” you know how this works. Many sales and marketing platforms have features for linking your calendar to an email template, allowing recipients to schedule meetings during blocks of time you have defined.
Augmented reality. This technology allows companies to recreate a virtual product experience with 3D interactive demos and the ability to superimpose a product into the customer’s facility. It lets you show how your product could work for their application and quickly understand the value it brings. You can also create videos and apps that let users interact with products through touch screens, as described here by Leeway Hertz.
Social media. Sites like LinkedIn, industry discussion forums, and even Twitter and Facebook help inside sales reps research companies and individuals, as well as industry trends. Company and product directories like Thomasnet.com and trade association websites are another great resource.
Automated workflows. Many sales and marketing software packages allow you to streamline operations by creating if/then conditions to automate tasks. For example, if you change a customer’s status category, then the software automatically sends that customer an email template with their name and other details filled in on-the-fly, then sets a callback reminder task for two weeks in the future.
Reporting and dashboards. Your CRM can provide metrics that keep sales on track and help with forecasting, nurturing, and lead management. You can also create customized reports with your chosen time frames and other parameters to see the bigger picture of how sales progress, how close you are to a quota, and where things fall through the cracks. Consolidate and visualize data for different audiences or purposes with dashboards, too.
Comment below and share your experiences, successes, and failures in regard to inside sales. We'd love to hear from you.