1A. What is the definition of inside sales?
Inside sales is a sales model made up of two key elements: salespeople who sell products or services remotely and technology that helps them prospect, nurture, and turn leads into customers. This is the definition of inside sales. Unlike before, when salespeople and prospects had to travel to learn about products and services, technology handles everything from the comfort of an office space and your own home. Inside sales reps use tools from phones, chat boxes, email, social media apps, and video conferencing to find leads, qualify them, give presentations, manage customer requests and get more sales with existing customers. Not only is it more convenient, but inside sales is also cheaper than outside sales calls. The average outside sales call costs $308, while the average inside sales call costs $50.
Twenty years ago, telemarketers would call you up as you were doing the laundry and try to sell you something over the phone. Most people found this far too invasive, but it did bring results. More recently, however, inside sales has evolved into something much more powerful for the salesperson—not to mention less interruptive of the prospect’s precious time.
Both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies use the inside sales model to sell cheap and pricier items. Let’s say you’ve had enough nights on your stiff mattress. You suffer from lower back pain and decide to order a new one from Mattress Firm. You call the company and get connected with a sales rep. They ask about what you’re looking for in a new mattress, so you explain your back issues. A great sales rep will articulate the softness, bounciness, or benefits of each of their mattresses over the phone and when this is done correctly, you’re able to make a decision and place an order on the spot. Ten minutes after you picked up the phone, your soft new mattress is getting ready to be shipped and you’re on your way to finally get a good night’s sleep!
If you want to learn more about the smartest way to sell today, how to build an inside sales team, or crush your next inside sales job, keep on reading.
1B. What is the definition of B2B inside sales?
The definition of B2B inside sales is when a product or service is sold by one business to another business remotely. B2B products and services aim to help businesses organize, manage, grow, and save time or money.
- A heavy-duty paper shredder to prevent workplace clutter
- A business coach who trains your underperforming executives
- TurboTax software for small business owners
- A photography studio that takes headshots for your corporate website
- Office lighting equipment that reduces energy and electrical expenses
In order to reach the right people inside an organization, B2B inside sales teams use one of two sales strategies:
- Top-down: The sales team finds the big kahuna (aka decision-maker) at the top. They then work to build a relationship with them, outline their problems, and start deciding how to present a solution. If the decision-maker feels your offer is valuable and timely they’ll send you to someone from middle management to close the deal.
- Bottom-up: The sales team instead targets low-level management, this could be one person or a few employees. Hopefully, they’ll promote the product to their teams and it will work its way up to the decision-makers and be implemented company-wide.
What makes B2B inside sales different?
The differences faced by B2B inside sales teams is that it takes longer to move prospects through the funnel, with an average of 5.4 people that need to voice their opinions before they make a purchase. When selling to decision-makers, you have to remember a few things: they’re constantly being bombarded with sales pitches and they’re already extremely busy. You need all hands on deck. And to sell to each, a quick zoom chat, phone call, or email is the suitable way busy professionals want to communicate with salespeople today.
B2B inside sales truly is the best model to get multiple decision-makers’ attention, educate them, present your offer, and close the deal.
1C. How to Build an Unstoppable Inside Sales Process
You build an inside sales process by following the proven, step-by-step practices of other successful sales teams. A sales process usually has 4-6 steps that begin as soon as prospects agree to hear more about your offer. However, sometimes not every step will apply to your business. And occasionally, you may get lucky and have a prospect jump straight to the close. The goal is to consistently turn them into paying customers without them abandoning halfway through.
It’s important that this process is well outlined so the team knows exactly what to do at each stage and is never left wasting time on a prospect they should’ve ditched from the start.
The 6 steps of the inside sales process:
Let’s break down a 6-step inside sales process and talk about how each one brings your prospects closer to buying.
- Prospecting During this first step, sales reps are qualifying inbound and outbound leads and making the first contact. Then, prospects are organized into a customer relationship management (CRM) database where sales will use email, phone calls, social media, or content marketing to engage them. Prospecting is tough; on average, sales teams complete 94 daily activities, including 36 emails, 36 phone calls, and 15 voicemail messages. But without this crucial first step, the sales funnel would be empty.
- Lead qualification: Once prospects have been contacted, sales reps must now qualify them further. Here, they’ll confirm if the prospect has the budget and need for their product or service. Usually, over a scheduled call, sales reps will ask questions to get these answers directly.
- Assessment: Now that sales have qualified prospects, the closing team will ask another series of questions to tailor their sales pitch and build a presentation or demo. If they don’t gather the right information and learn if they’re ready to buy, the sales pitch won’t resonate with prospects. To do this, salespeople will have a list of open-ended questions like “What’s stopped you from solving this problem?”. If the prospect is ready, they’ll unload some built-up frustrations and name several issues that the salesperson can later address.
- Give a sales presentation: In step four, it’s time to communicate the value of the product or service by hosting a sales presentation. This is usually done over videoconference or a phone call using a sales script to keep the presentation organized and conversational. Prospects should walk away with a crystal clear idea of your offer and feel at ease buying from you.
- Close: Finally, it’s time for the prospect to sign a contract, purchase a product or set up a payment plan for the product or service. Closing techniques vary between B2B and B2C reps. Salespeople can create urgency and close a deal quickly with your average joe buyer, while businesses may take weeks or even months to get the approval and close.
- Customer service: Lastly, in step six, a customer service representative will begin the onboarding process, give a follow-up call or email to make sure you’re happy with their service, answer any questions or give a discount to an upcoming product.
1D. What Does a Winning Inside Sales Team Look Like?
An inside sales team is broken into a hierarchy of lead qualifiers, closers, customer service reps, managers, and sales leaders. These different roles work together to sell a product or service to customers. Some jobs overlap if a company is small and the team may vary in roles depending on how the company is organized and its business model.
Everyone on the team, no matter their position, takes on daily tasks with the same goal in mind: to close as many customers as possible and keep them coming back for more.
What is the structure of an inside sales team?
The lead qualification team
Lead qualifiers focus on qualifying inbound leads that come from your online marketing campaigns. This could be leads who have filled out a lead capture form, downloaded an ebook, or attended a webinar. They research the prospect beforehand, then call or email to set up an appointment, and eventually hand them off to the senior sales team to close. Business development reps also do outbound prospecting in new markets and contact prospects who have never engaged with them through cold emails and calls. A sales rep can specialize in either inbound or outbound lead qualification or do a hybrid of both.
- Sales development reps (SDRs)
- Business development reps (BDRs)
- Lead development reps
- Inbound sales reps
- Account development reps
The closing team
The closers work closely with the lead qualifiers; once the sales development reps have qualified prospects, account executives focus on closing the deal—all while balancing and planning their weekly schedules and sometimes coaching junior sales reps. They also spend their days prepping for calls and following up with clients in an effort to develop new accounts and grow their current client base. Account executives frequently meet with sales development reps and the marketing team to understand the types of prospects coming in to see if their strategy will help them meet quota.
- Account executives (AEs)
- Sales executives
The customer service team
The customer service team responds to client messages regarding products and services. When an upset, angry, or confused customer needs answers, customer service comes to the rescue to pacify them as quickly as possible. As we know, the customer is always right, so the customer service team validates their emotions and bends over backwards to find solutions and connect on any medium (i.e. email, chatbox, phone, social media, text messages) the customer prefers. They frequently discuss strategy with the customer service manager to make sure customers get a consistent experience from every customer service interaction across the company.
- Customer support executive
- Customer success manager
- Customer service representative
The retention and growth team
The retention and growth team focuses on forming a close-knit bond with customers and finding opportunities to upgrade, up-sell, and cross-sell their accounts and generate repeat business. Inside sales account managers may follow-up and offer free ongoing training or consultation to increase customer loyalty and meet their quotas.
- Inside sales account manager
- Account rep
The leadership and management team
What’s the difference between a sales leader and managers? A sales leader creates the overall sales strategy. Sales leaders will develop a special incentive program to drive motivation and encourage the team to book more appointments, presentations, and grow accounts. They also decide what to spend the budget on, for example, choosing which lead prospecting software the team will use.
A sales manager applies the strategy day-to-day when overseeing a team and carries the important job of interviewing, hiring, training, and coaching the new hires to bring them up to speed with the sales team. They play a hand in cultivating sales, finding opportunities, and tracking their team’s daily sales process. Basically, this position is responsible for anything involved in creating a healthy sales pipeline and running a successful team.
- Director of sales
- Sales leader
- Inside sales manager
Whew! We’ve covered a lot today. How many questions did you answer correctly? Do you feel confident enough to apply for a job or even lead an inside sales team on your own? If you’re just beginning your sales career and dream of becoming an expert at inside sales, you have to dedicate your time to learning about the topic and take action. In the upcoming chapters, we’ll dive even deeper into individual roles, sales techniques, lead generation, and more.
If you walk away with anything from this chapter, we’d like you to consider which inside sales team role you picture yourself in. Are you a sales leader? A closer? Why or why not?