Ask ten salespeople to define the term ‘inside sales’, and you’ll most likely get ten different answers. It is one of those terms whose definition tends to change slightly depending on who is using it. Although it’s next to impossible to pin down an exact definition which everyone can agree with, there are several broad characteristics which everyone can accept.
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What’s the Best Way to Define the Term ‘Inside Sales’
If there is not one all-encompassing, industry-wide definition of inside sales then, at the very least, what are a few of its broad characteristics?
Perhaps the easiest way to think about inside sales is that people use the term to describe an approach to sales which is the opposite of outside sales. However, that definition doesn’t offer much clarity unless you know a little something about outside sales. Outside sales, require sales reps to go into the field to meet with prospects face-to-face. The people who engage in outside sales are the archetypal road warriors, crisscrossing the country, perhaps visiting the home office occasionally, but working mainly on the road.
Is Outside Sales Better?
Inside sales are nothing like that. Unlike outside sales, inside sales don’t require meeting with leads in person or spending hours away from the office. In fact, all client contact is conducted remotely. The lack of face-to-face communication is the reason many sales professionals prefer to use the term ‘remote sales’ instead of the more ambiguous ‘inside sales’ to describe the concept.
In addition to dealing with customers remotely from the office, almost all definitions of inside sales recognise the need for a high level of personal contact throughout the selling process. Unlike outside sales where a potential customer may only have the opportunity to talk with a salesperson a few times a month, inside sales is a high-touch sales approach where leads expect immediate responses to their questions and demand much more hand-holding along the way.
The need for constant and immediate customer care necessitates that salespeople can make difficult decisions on-the-fly. This flexibility requires a deep level of sales knowledge and experience for success. To ensure that the salespeople can handle this demanding environment, most people who fill inside sales positions have established backgrounds in selling.
This is a critical argument against those who lump together inside sales with telemarketing. While it is true that both selling methods take place remotely, that is where the similarities end. Unlike experienced inside sales reps, telemarketers usually lack a strong sales background and depend on the use of a script to sell low-priced products or services. Most telemarketing calls are ‘do-or-die’ situations, meaning that if they don’t make the sale immediately, the telemarketers will move on to the next contact on their list. Contrarily, inside sales reps do their best to establish an ongoing relationship with prospects. Another critical separation between the two sales method is that while telemarketing conduct business solely by phone, inside sales reps use a variety of communication methods including telephone, email, and video conferencing.
In short, most people are willing to agree that the main defining factors of inside sales are highly skilled sales reps who spend time nurturing qualified leads to make remote sales of high-ticket products or services. E-learning platforms like SOCO Academy are a useful tool to learn and qualify leads in the meantime.
What are the Benefits of Switching to Inside Sales?
- Customers prefer dealing with salespeople remotely to meeting with them in person. Remote meetings allow businesses to reduce the amount of time they need to commit to sales meetings and helps to keep necessary meetings more productive.
- Lower costs than outside sales. There is a lot of additional costs when reps visit customers directly. It used to be an acceptable cost of doing business, but as the preferences of the prospects have changed to wanting to conduct business remotely, it is difficult to justify the additional expenses of field visits.
- Employees enjoy a better quality of life. Travelling to meet leads at their location can take a real toll on a sales rep personal life. Millennials now make up a significant percentage of the workforce are just not willing to sacrifice their quality of life for a paycheck. Companies which want to retain and attract the best people will need to accommodate their desires.
Perhaps now is the time for your company to consider adding inside sales to your sales department.
- Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.
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