Contender or Pretender? The Role of Inside Sales in Winning Business
Contender or Pretender?The Role of Inside Sales inWinning BusinessWhat is your sales reality? ment representatives, account managers, A Business Issue sales managers, and supervisors who use Quick Read• Buyers too busy to talk? “virtual selling skills” in working with• Costs for face-to-face calls adversely their customers. And their role in the impacting budgets? sales function is increasing in impor-• Salespeople pressured to shorten sales tance. About the Authors cycles AND exceed revenue goals?For many organizations, these challenges A Growing Trend Chris Blauth, Director of Product Strategy, AchieveGlobalmean re-thinking their sales strategy to While outside sales (salespeople whoinclude or expand inside sales—and re- meet face-to-face with customers) remains Chris spearheadstooling the team to do it. a solid revenue source, there is a trend AchieveGlobal’s efforts to toward deploying inside sales teams to develop and maintain productsMeet the New Contenders: complement the efforts of outside sales that will prepare leaders at allInside Sales Professionals representatives. levels of an organization. ChrisIn the past, inside sales was relegated to Consider these growth statistics: holds a B.S. in Accounting andthe same category as “telemarketing”—of- • Organizations will be increasingly turn- Finance from the University atten viewed as nuisance calls that provided ing to inside sales. As opposed to 0.5 Buffalo, and an MBA in Market-no value for the customer. Today’s inside percent growth for outside sales, inside ing from Canisius College.sales approach differs from a scripted, one- sales will be growing 7.5 percent a year.1call-close, telemarketing call. The inside • Since 2007, the average size of insidesales call is planned but not scripted, and it sales groups has almost tripled. Re- Eileen Toogood, Performanceoften requires more than one conversation search shows growth of 800,000 jobs Consultantto gain the customer’s commitment to buy. (from 2009 to 2012) in inside sales while For over 20 years, Eileen hasEven now, inside sales is often confused growth in traditional, face-to-face, sales contributed to the develop-with expanded customer service responsi- positions stagnates.2bilities. Although some inside sales repre- ment of AchieveGlobal’s sales,sentatives also take inbound calls, perhaps service, and leadership products,for price quotes or product information, 1 • “ What is Inside Sales? — Our Definition of Inside and delivered these programs at Sales,” Kenneth Krogue, co-founder of InsideSales.reacting to customer requests and provid- com, January 30th, 2010 all organizational levels. Eileening traditional customer service is not • “Inside Sales Teams Continue To Grow Because It’s a holds a B.A. in History andpart of their responsibility. Net Win”, Steven Watts, EzineArticles.com, October 2010 Education, and a Master’sToday’s inside sales professionals include 2 • “Selling to the Digital B2B Buyer”, Robert Lesser, Degree in Counseling and Acquiring Minds—A B2B Lead Generation Blog, Julysales representatives, business develop- 22, 2010 Personnel Services from the University of Maryland. Developing the 21st century workforce TM
And consider the large number of prospects and custom- While it is generally accepted that relationship buildingers they touch: is important to face-to-face selling success, our research• Many businesses count on inside sales teams to gener- indicates that personal interaction with customers is ate up to 50 percent of their sales revenues.3 equally important in inside sales. In fact, regular dialogue with clients can significantly increase sales.5• Although the numbers may vary, it’s been estimated that inside salespeople average two hundred new out- These conversations go well beyond small talk. Today’s bound calls and e-mails per week.4 customers want knowledgeable salespeople focused on them and their business success. With product andIn reaching out to so many customers, an inside sales service commoditization so rampant, ultimately, custom-professional has the opportunity to differentiate an or- ers make buying decisions based on the behavior of theganization from the very first time a customer hears the salesperson.salesperson’s voice.Yet, having gained the individual status they deserve, in- The Great Divideside sales professionals face many of the same challenges To help sort through the possibilities, AchieveGlobal de-as the traditional telemarketer: veloped a graphic representation of how a salesperson’s• Decision makers who avoid sales calls behavior impacts the perspective of the customer—and the customer’s comfort level in making buying decisions.• Indifference to products or services We call it “The Great Divide.”• Internal call metrics that limit the time allowed for each call The diagram on the following page draws on the image of sales as rugged terrain, two peaks separated by a great divide. This illustrates two types of relationships thatGet Off The “Dialing-For-Dollars” customers have with their salespeople: TransactionalTreadmill and Consultative. To cross The Great Divide and reachWhat’s the key to inside selling success? Organizations the higher peak, inside sales professionals must interactmay be willing to invest in technology, recruiting, and with customers in new ways, beginning with the verytraining, but many do not provide the tools and support first interaction.to use the inside sales team effectively. Selling on thephone—and online—requires specialized skills. Transactional Selling BehaviorsInside sales people can no longer spend their time mak- Transactional Selling focuses on short-term interactionsing hit or miss calls, moving from short-term transaction between a customer and an inside sales professionalto short-term transaction. Give them the talk time they based on rapport, price, or features.need to build relationships that lead to repeat businessand predictable, long-term revenue growth. • A Professional Visitor succeeds on personality with- out forming long-term alliances that promote future sales. While a customer may be willing to take the call from3 • Feigon, Josiane Chriqui, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online, AMACOM, a Professional Visitor, closing on sales opportunities may be 2009 limited. • Feigon, Josiane Chriqui, Inside Sales 2.0 Trend Talk — Mid-Year Report, TeleSmart, 2009 • A Price Seller highlights costs, deals, and quotes.4 • Inside Sales Enablement: “Let Them Drink Coffee!” Aberdeen Group, Decem- Price Sellers reinforce a perception of their products or ber 2009 services as commodities. • American Association of Inside Sales Professionals—Bob Perkins, CEO, Febru- ary 24, 2011 • A Content Seller emphasizes features, often without5 • Using Business Intelligence Tools to Help Manage Costs and Effectiveness of linking them to key issues for the customer or stating Business-to-Business Inside-Sales Programs, Guy Gessner and Richard A. explicit benefits. A Content Seller may hear the dial tone Scott, Jr., Canisius College, Modern Marketing Concepts, Inc. in place of a customer commitment. • Information Systems Management, 26:199-208; Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC
The Great DivideConsultative Selling BehaviorsExhibiting the behaviors of a consultative inside sales professional requires skills,product and industry expertise, and knowledge of customer circumstances. The insidesales professional will have greater impact on the buying process through one of fourrelationships with the customer:• A Need Satisfaction Seller creates mutually beneficial relationships, uncovering a customer’s critical needs and tailoring solutions to each customer’s situation. When customers view the salesperson as a Need Satisfaction Seller, sales possibilities emerge.• A Resourceful Expert applies in-depth product and industry expertise to configure solutions that meet customer needs. A knowledgeable guide creates value for buyers at different organizational levels.• A Loyal Champion possesses deep insight into the customer’s business and industry, and, as a result, the customer views the salesperson almost as an employee. The Loyal Champion often gains access to strategic plans and other inside information.• A Trusted Advisor discovers and meets critical needs by providing not only prod- ucts and services, but also advice and assistance. Over time, the Trusted Advisor earns the right to influence all stages of the buying cycle.The EssentialsWhat sales behaviors are most appropriate for the inside sales professional? Crossing the divideto Consultative Selling Behaviors helps protect the salesperson from commodity pricingand otherwise aggressive competition. It makes the salesperson part of the value propo-sition, a differentiator in the purchase decision.Today’s contenders—the successful inside sales professionals—distinguish themselvesas consultative sellers. Each outbound call is an opportunity to initiate a consultativerelationship from the first point of contact.More organizations are counting on an inside sales team to attract and gain commit-ments from new and existing customers. The inside sales professional is tasked withsafeguarding current and future revenue. Are they contenders or pretenders? Aconsultative approach, supported by preparation and skill, formulates the essentials ofbecoming a sales contender—and winning new business.