3 Ways Inside Sales Teams Can Help You Succeed in the Era of Remote Selling
A few years ago, it was rare when a manager or business would trust an employee in a traditional inside sales role with the responsibility of securing a large or complex deal. That was a responsibility typically reserved for field sales, and usually required several on-site visits, relationship-building dinners, or the stereotypical two-martini lunch. But that’s not the way we build trust anymore.
In recent years, we’ve seen a societal shift in trust—trust in technology, trust in brands that buyers only know through a screen, and trust in digital transactions with other humans. We use dating apps that require us to trust that potential matches are representing themselves honestly, and that algorithms are showing us the most compatible matches. We buy Peloton bikes for thousands of dollars, sight unseen. I rented my last home from 2,500 miles away before moving to a new city, and now families are buying homes based only on virtual tours. Modern technology has not only enabled us to do and buy almost anything via digital channels, it’s made us extremely comfortable making serious purchasing decisions this way.
This new mind-set has been slowly and quietly changing the way we buy in our professional lives for a while now, too. The shift in consumer buying behavior had been demonstrating to sales pros that “wining and dining” may not be needed to win big deals anymore. This set up inside sellers to take on a bigger role within their teams and broader organization. In 2019, it was expected that 45.5 percent of approximately 5.7 million U.S. sales people worked in inside sales. Given the current state of business in 2020, this shift has accelerated more rapidly than any of us could have predicted or prepared for.
Companies that have already embraced the growing role and influence of digital or “inside” sellers—or who are willing to start now—can harness the rise of inside sales to adapt to remote selling models that are clearly here to stay. Here’s how.
1. Consider converting sales development reps (SDRs) to quota-carrying sellers to meet growing demand for remote sales interactions.
B2B buyers are simply digital consumers who conduct their own research and purchase their goods, often without any assistance. However, when they need some help, they want the efficiency and optimization that they enjoy online—but with the personalized support that can only come from interacting with an expert.
Sales or business development reps can be an untapped resource. They often possess the characteristics buyers seek when they need the convenience of a digital transaction, but also that personal attention—speed, adaptability, responsiveness, and the ability to build rapport within short, transactional conversations.
Consider adopting a dynamic sales structure where SDRs play an enhanced or hybrid role in sales coverage, account management, and renewals. These sales reps’ ability to speak the buyer’s language will boost the likelihood of a sale, make the process more enjoyable for the customer, and help scale remote-selling models quickly and with lower overhead.
2. Set inside sellers up for success in a high-velocity selling environment.
Having the right people in place to meet the buyer’s needs is only half the battle.
Remote sellers need the right tools and processes so that their sales engagement is timely, relevant, fast, and highly responsive. The average CRM often features very little customer engagement history, as it’s a hassle for anyone to enter the data. This leads reps to scatter notes, contacts, and profile information across the interface, across third-party systems, or on post-it notes across their desks.
Field sales reps may have felt this problem less acutely in the past. With fewer accounts to focus on, field sellers could still be effective enough without a powerful CRM behind them. Inside sales reps, on the other hand, serve more than 200 accounts each, on average. A CRM that reduces their administrative burden and helps them make decisions faster is critical if they are to hit their targets and give businesses a clear picture of pipeline and revenue forecasts. Today, this goes for any type of seller—whether that’s an inside sales rep taking on new responsibilities or a senior field seller transitioning to the remote sales models that are here to stay.
Remote sellers also need context and understanding of their role and how they contribute to broader organizational success. It’s been well documented that an engaged seller is a more successful seller, as they are both emotionally connected to their company’s purpose and their customers’ goals. Sales contests and digital leaderboards are a great first step—these are tools that individual sales managers can use to drive deeper discussions, build understanding, and become more invested in the company’s well-being.
3. Look to inside sales as teachers.
A missed sales opportunity is often looked upon as a disappointment, but a savvy salesperson will see it as a lesson. They dig deep, uncover valuable feedback from the customer, and make changes based on those insights for the next go-round.
Now is the time to pay attention and learn from inside sellers. With the broad cultural shift under way of companies figuring out remote work, organizations will be looking to improve their overall digital footprint, and the inside sales team will play a key role in that endeavor. Inside sellers are on the forefront of adopting digital communications tools to help close business. Back in 2017, 67 percent of buyers landing on a website wanted to speak with someone through chat or video. What do you think those numbers are today? A recent IDC survey reveals that more than 40 percent of respondents expect to increase their investment in social and video selling technology in the next 12 months in response to COVID-19. Inside sales professionals are a resource to help you understand how to implement new remote-selling strategies.
Buyers’ preference for digital interactions over more traditional ones is not declining anytime soon, and now they may simply not have a choice. Starting with these three steps to harness the rise of inside sales will reduce the burden on the customer, make your sellers’ lives easier, and, ultimately, help your bottom line.
Kayleigh Halko is senior manager of CX product strategy at Oracle. Halko works closely with product and sales leaders to ensure all internal and external stakeholders understand the value and benefits of modernizing their sales technology to meet the needs of today's digital buyers and sellers. Previously, she was at CX platform company Glympse, where she built the company’s first cross-functional marketing program and drove a complete corporate and product rebrand. Prior to that she led partner marketing at TOA Technologies (later acquired by Oracle), and was instrumental in the global rebranding, product positioning and sales enablement for Oracle Field Service Cloud post-acquisition.