B2B sales can be complex and confusing with many different processes, practices and models it’s made up of. Inside sales is one such model. It has rapidly evolved and is among the most popular ways to sell to businesses online.
With more than 50% of new B2B sales jobs being inside sales roles, it’s no longer a niche operating model.
So what does Inside Sales mean and what’s the big deal about it? Let’s explore the definition of Inside sales, along with differences, Steps and strategies that make for the Inside sales process.
What is Inside Sales?
Inside sales is the process of prospecting, qualifying, nurturing and closing sales deals remotely. In a way, it’s the exact opposite of field sales or outside sales. Field sales deals in communicating with and closing the prospects on the field, face-to-face.
Instead of travelling physically to pitch and sell the products, inside sales teams utilize a set of software tools. These tools, along with documented processes help facilitate the same tasks over online channels. Inside sales meaning can hence cover a wide range of channels like phone sales, social sales, ‘zoom’ sales, etc.
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
Now that we’ve learned what is Inside sales — let’s look at the differences between Inside sales vs. outside sales.
Benefits of Inside sales like cost efficiency (companies observed that inside sales reduced cost-of-sales by 40-90%) are well known. Outside sales have its own set of benefits and applications too — as we’ll see in the comparison below:
Deal value and timelines
Inside sales teams work on smaller deals in terms of ticket size. They do so while maintaining short turnarounds on their communications. Outside or field sales-driven organizations have longer turnarounds due to the number of people involved.
As mentioned earlier — inside sales teams are reliant on online communication channels to conduct prospecting, research and outreach. These include the likes of emails, CRMs, sales engagement platforms, video conferencing tools, etc. Outside sales teams are also increasingly adopting online channels, but still, predominantly present and demo their products in-person.
Sales cycle times
Inside sales processes have self-serve and quick turnaround communications. As a result, sales cycle times typically range between 1-10 weeks, depending on various factors. For outside sales processes, sales cycles can generally be 20-50 weeks. This can even stretch longer, based on the number of decision-makers involved and the deal size.
Inside sales overheads have been observed to be well below outside sales. It’s due to the nature and scalability of inside sales teams — where cheap, low-maintenance tools do most of the work. On the flip side, outside sales teams need to travel to their prospect’s location, be reimbursed for dinners and accommodation, networking events and conferences, etc.
Sales Hiring & Training
If you were curious, what does an Inside sales rep do – most of it comes down to using a computer. An internet connected computer gives you access to sales engagement tools, CRMs, and prospecting tools that enable the entire process. And due to this, the amount of training and onboarding required for new sales hires is fairly minimal. If the processes are documented well, they can be learned by new reps fairly quickly. With outside sales, a successful candidate needs to possess great soft skills. Additionally, experience working in the same or related industry and a Rolodex of existing business relationships are also essential. Inside sales teams interface with prospects in a way where such requirements wouldn’t be necessary.
From the comparison — it’s pretty clear why inside sales is preferred sales model for the majority of B2B sales teams. It scales well, has shorter sales cycles, lower overheads, and doesn’t need experienced reps running day-to-day operations.
So over the next section, we’ll learn the inside sales approach and accordingly, how to set up and operate an inside sales process that’ll help you have quick, high converting sales cycles on low overheads.
Inside Sales Process: 6 Steps To Nurture And Close
Define Your Ideal Customer Profile
An Inside sales team interacts with customers virtually. So they aren’t in a position to judge their intent until there are enough data points that prove otherwise. This is where the concept of Ideal Customer Profile comes into play.
Ideal Customer Profile is a bunch of prospect characteristics that make for your Ideal Customer. They benefit the most from your product, are easy to close and generate the most value for your organization. These characteristics can include things like:
- Prospect organization size/revenue
- Product fit
- Geography, etc.
Model your Ideal Customer Profile based on your existing customers’ characteristics, and refine them to better standards. Characteristics of your ICP will help your Inside sales team qualify leads before they prospect and reach out to them. This helps save time that would have otherwise been spent on leads that are less likely to convert.
Outbound or Inbound Lead Generation
Lead generation makes for one of the initial inside sales activities. Based on your Ideal Customer Profile, set out to find and prospect leads that match your ICP’s characteristics. This is essential in generating qualified leads that are more likely to convert on nurturing. For outbound lead generation, draw out parameters and filters that can be used to narrow down on such prospects. Impose your ICP characteristics to find leads and capture them to later add to your pipeline. You can use platforms like Linkedin to prospect such leads.
Similarly, for inbound lead generation, find topics that appeal to your Ideal Customer’s intent to buy. Cover these topics in a way that help materialize qualified leads’ intent. By driving leads’ to your pages, you’re converting that traffic into a pool of prospects.. Your website’s content acts as a nurturing node. It helps educate potential leads and customers about your product and how it can solve their problems. Apart from this, they’re also pre-qualified to a certain extent, based on the topics and problems your content serves.
Reach Out To decision-makers
Once you’ve built a list of potential customers, the next step is to reach out to the decision-makers within each organization or account. Decision-makers for product procurement can vary based on various factors, based on the users, org size, transaction size, etc.
Based on your ICP characteristics, find your decision-maker within each org in your pipeline. You can do this by going through leads’ profiles on LinkedIn. Capture information like title, previous experience, area of expertise, authority within the current organization, if they have reports, etc. These data points can signal towards a leads’ authority and budgets to make procurement and purchasing decisions.
Once you’ve narrowed down on the decision-maker prospects within your target accounts, spend time preparing your pitch. Given that you’ll be talking to decision-makers, focus on the value your product brings to the prospect’s team and organization. Value can be presented in the form of time saved (linked to perceived value), revenue generated, productivity increase, competitive edge, and more.
Once you’ve prepared a pitch, reach out over preferred communication channels like email. Ensure your email outreach is tracked, which will help you get notified on engagement triggers like opens and clicks.
Get On A Demo Call
Let’s say you’ve reached out to the decision-maker and made a connection (i.e. broken the ice, started a conversation). Your next goal from here should be to get them on a call. While exchanging email is a great way to get introduced and build rapport, it lacks real-time feedback and engagement. Sales or Demo calls fix this and make for an important part of the inside sales process. These calls are conducted online, over tools like Zoom and Google Meets. It helps you connect with your prospects virtually and interact with them by presenting your product, or a pitch.
Product demo calls are the most popular types of calls, where sales teams present the product to the prospects. This is done with the intent to demonstrate or showcase the product’s functioning in a way that helps solve the prospects’ problems. Ask your prospects questions around their problems, and show how your product could potentially help them with it. Note their reactions, counter-questions, objections and clarifications, and follow-up answers to them later if not on the same call.
Nurture And Follow-up
Once you’re done with the demo call — have a set of takeaways and actionables before you part. This is essential to keep up with the conversation and momentum towards closure. Throughout this time, keep reaching out at regular (non-intrusive) intervals with product content that could make it easier for them to make the purchase decision. Follow-up with regards to the next steps, whatever they might be, to ensure the deal’s still on track and doesn’t drop off. It’s likely your prospects might be evaluating multiple products and solutions, and falling off their radar only makes it easier for them to go with other options.
Set up nurturing and follow-up email cadences that will help you reach out and keep engaging with your prospects on a regular basis. You can also automate these functions using various tools and services, without having to do the tasks manually. Monitor their engagement (i.e. opens, clicks) to ensure they’re still on board with the deal. Reach out personally — over emails, or social channels when you notice sudden drops in engagement. Help them get over through consequent stages in the purchase funnel — so you can close, within the desired timeframe.
Once you’ve nurtured the prospect to get through all but the last stage of the funnel, it’s time to push for the close. Even though prospects spend a lot of time in your sales process, they’re still likely to drop-off, for various reasons. This is why it’s really important to address any and every concern your prospects might have. Clear these objections as soon as you can, so it’s easier and more likely for you to close. Prospects are bound to come up with such uncalled objections right before closing, in which case being prepared to tackle them (based on experience with previous prospects) will greatly help.
Once you’ve moved past the objections, you can then push for the close. Outline the closing process and make it as smooth and simple for the prospect (soon to be a customer) to complete. If there are contracts involved, try to pull out the key points so the contract review doesn’t stretch the closing process any further. Past contracts and payments clearing up, ease in your customer to the product, and hand them over to your customer success and support team. Keep checking in with them periodically to ensure they’ve everything they need, and collect feedback so you can improve and iterate on your sales process.
That pretty much sums up the inside sales process — but there’s more to it than just following the steps. Here’s a few tips and strategies to help you convert more prospects into customers and make your inside sales process more efficient.
Inside Sales Best Practices And Strategies
Qualify Leads For Intent And Product Fit
When you’re adding more leads to the pipeline, weeding out the ones that are least likely to convert is a great way to boost conversions. This is where you can look out for additional qualification criteria or data points that will further help you refine the quality of leads in your pipeline. Use this data to ‘grade’ your leads for their intent, and selectively spend time on nurturing the ones with the most intent.
You can do this by getting on an exploratory call (different from a demo or sales call) with your prospects where you ask qualification questions specific to their buying intent. Similarly, get to know the level of utility your product serves for them. Ask questions about the features most useful for them, what kind of outcomes they’re expecting, etc to gauge if your product is for their needs. Customers who aren’t a fit for the product (i.e. Not an ideal customer) are likely to churn out earlier, which results in lower LTVs and wasted acquisition spend.
Measure And Optimize For Conversions At Every Stage
While running an inside sales process, you’re nurturing multiple prospects across different stages in the sales funnel. Based on how efficient your inside sales process is, conversions from one stage to other might vary, and impact your sales cycle.
Hence, it’s important to keep a check on each stages’ conversion numbers. This will not only help you accurately project sales numbers towards the end of the pipeline, but also keep a check on your processes and your team’s efficiency.
Keep a track of inter-stage conversion and churn numbers in your sales funnel. Also, record time to conversion, and communication turnaround times for each stage of the funnel. Set benchmarks for improving these numbers every Quarter, by tweaking the process and experimenting with parts of the process. Optimize every stage for improved conversions, which eventually add to the bottom of the funnel, which results in more conversions overall.
Automate Nurturing And Follow-ups
When you’re operating a large sales pipeline for inside sales, it often gets difficult to keep a track of all prospect engagement. Apart from this, reaching out to each prospect can also be time-intensive, depending on the size of your pipeline. Not following up with our prospects, or sending out timely nurturing emails can cost you the deal, which isn’t ideal, especially in inside sales. It’s the equivalent of not showing up at meetings and events in field sales. This is where automating such engagements can help, by taking the time and effort off the reps and scaling it using the software. It is one of the best inside sales techniques to adopt and make use of.
Using sales engagement and inside sales tracking software like SalesHandy, you can automate your email nurturing cadences and follow-ups. By choosing templates, contacts, intervals and times at which you want the emails to go out, you can set up your prospect communication to go out without human interference. These emails can also be personalized, to mimic humans’ writing style and sending, improve the deliverability and engagement rates. Doing so helps you spend more time on expanding your pipeline, and spend more time on nurturing prospects that need extra attention, helping you close more deals in the process.
Engage On Social Channels
Email’s often the primary mode of communication for Inside sales — which makes it susceptible to saturation and blind your prospects in the process. This is why email engagement for B2B salespeople is on a steady decline, as per DMA’s benchmarks. This can impact your inside sales process and conversion rates across sales funnel stages. Under such circumstances, you can make use of social media platforms, where your prospects are active and engaged. Social media channels aren’t the first choice for prospect communications, which makes it much less crowded than email.
Use this to your advantage and engage with your prospects over social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter. This would especially help with prospects who’ve stopped responding to your emails, and enable you to re-engage them and move the deal forward. ‘Like’ and comment on your prospects’ content to start with, and gradually, reach out over DMs. Following this approach will work better at capturing their attention and increase the odds of getting the conversation back on track.
Re-engage with inactive prospects
There will always be prospects who wouldn’t convert. They would either stop responding to your outreach, say they don’t need you, or will tell you now’s not a good time and they’ll get back to you later. It’s easy to let go of these prospects — but the truth is, there’s always room to convert a few of them if you were to re-engage them. Just because they weren’t responsive when you reached out, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re clear of the problems they intended to solve with your product. Hence by re-engaging them, you’re adding more opportunities to your pipeline without the additional overheads or costs associated with acquiring new prospects.
You can tag prospects that you want to re-engage with later based on how likely they are to convert on re-engagement, while they churn out for the current pipeline. At a later stage, fish out these prospects, find updates with respect to the prospect and their organization, and reach out again. Get a bit more creative when you reach out to your prospects this time around, so it gets them curious and gains their attention. Use personalized videos, quote a recent event related to their market/industry, new hires, etc, to spark up a conversation. You can then direct the topic towards your product and if they’re interested in moving forward with it. At this point — treat them like a new prospect, and nurture them (again) based on current circumstances, it’ll help to increase engagement and as a result, convert more.
Research, Follow-up and Re-engage
While email outreach is the obvious part of inside sales — a lot of teams don’t spend enough time on researching. This can include both finding the right prospects and getting to know them in-depth before reaching out to them. Nailing research helps set the conversation towards the right direction, and make your outreach effective. The same goes for follow-ups. At any stage in the funnel, always have the next steps and actionables laid out for your prospect. This will help move the deal forward timely and swiftly. Follow-ups enable you to stay in your prospects’ mind space and keep the deal’s activities on track. In the process, maximizing chances towards closure.
For prospects that have gotten out of the funnel in an untimely manner – reach out to them when the time’s right. Engage them with personalized content, and leverage social media platforms for outreach, where they’re likely to be active.
Combined, all these steps and strategies help you make the most out of the virtual sales channel you’re utilizing for inside sales, and convert the most prospects you can.