With the growth of digital channels, the amount of communication channels for sales is also growing. The boundaries between inside and outside sales are becoming increasingly blurred.
What is Inside Sales?
Basically, there are three different types of sales:
Everything that takes place on the road or on the customer’s premises. Those who do outside sales go to trade fairs, make personal contacts, visit customers and hold direct talks. These „Field Reps“ are therefore representatives for the company and carry its message and portfolio to the customer.
This form of sales, which is rather unpopular with customers, is still frequently used and describes the mostly standardized calling of sales contacts based on a list of contacts. Tele sales often bases conversations on communication checklists that are optimized in order to contact as many contacts as possible in a short time.
In order to differentiate itself from tele sales, the term was developed in the 1980s. It describes more complex interactions with leads and customers over the telephone, e-mail or even social media. Inside sales covers everything that takes place „remotely“ or at the desk, i.e. not directly at the customer’s location. This also includes video meetings.
In contrast to general tele sales, inside sales is less based on mass and the processing of lists and questionnaires but on the organic development of relationships just as much as outbound sales. Conversations are more complex, relate more individually to the customer and are not necessarily concluded after an interaction, but aim to develop a long-term relationship.
By the way, you can read more about the history of Inside Sales on Forbes by Ken Krogue in a somewhat older but still very interesting article.
Remote Sales grows with digital customer channels
In the past, inside sales mainly worked for the outside sales team and was responsible for lead generation. With digitalization, however, the field of activity has expanded considerably.
More and more leads and customers research online and independent from company’s influence. Direct communication often takes place digitally far into later decision phases. E-mails, telephone calls and especially social media contacts often form the basis of a B2B customer relationship and in B2C business, too, digital channels are often the first point of contact, be it for research, questions or to gain a first impression.
According to Ken Krogue, Inside Sales has grown particularly in the B2B sector with the development of new virtual meeting options. With the possibility to present digital demos, hold webinars and business meetings more flexible, time-saving and cheaper, the influence of inside sales has also increased beyond lead generation. Suddenly, deals can be concluded directly in online meetings.
Inside meets Outside: Flexible adaptation of sales skills
This results in an exciting development for the sales department: Outside sales are still important, especially in the B2B sector, but also in high-priced B2C segments. Personal meetings still leave an impression, whether at a trade fair, at a demonstration or directly with the customer.
But times are changing. With Corona and the associated contact restrictions, many companies have inevitably had to redirect their sales activities to inside sales. Even before that, a large part of the work of outside sales consisted of inside sales activities, for example through social selling, telephone calls or e-mail contacts. According to a study from 2017, many field reps spent around 45% of their time on these activities.
Are sales disciplines merging?
Customers are different and prefer different channels, communication methods and relationships. Some customers want to do everything purely digitally, while the next customer will only invest if they can maintain a trusting relationship with a specific contact person. But overall, digital and analogue sales channels flow into each other and require correspondingly flexible and customizable measures, information materials and campaigns to serve customers.
For outside sales, this meant acquiring digital skills. This includes the use of digital channels for communication, but also of more technologies to optimize customer visits. Apps can now help to document conversations more transparently and automate operational processes to shorten follow-up loops. Outside sales needs to be more digital in order to perform in both traditional environments and new communication structures.
On the other hand, the scope of tasks of inside sales is also changing, ironically, towards outside sales (although this is less frequently discussed). Digital communication is developing to such an extent that it is becoming more and more similar to physical on-site communication and is increasingly taking place synchronously, i.e. live. Whereas inside sales used to mainly do research, write e-mails and make phone calls, online meetings with camera play an increasing part on successful relationships. The traditional sales characteristics of presentation therefore continue to play a major role in this area.
Symbiosis instead of replacement
It is precisely the diversification of sales channels that ensures that many „classic“ sales features are no longer the only ones that help sales to succeed. Where charisma and eloquence and sometimes a little aggressiveness used to lead to success, today it often requires flexibility in dealing with different types of communication, empathy and research skills as well as one’s own branding in the digital space in order to build customer relationships.
Digital sales must be able to quickly identify exciting leads, choose the right way to make direct contact and also be able to take the time to make contacts, create trust, demonstrate expertise and then make an offer at the right time. The focus is no longer merely on the performance skills of the salesperson, but on the needs of the customer.
However, before sales needs to excel in too many areas, companies should take advantage of these developments to build their sales teams more diversely and enable collaborative working.
Inside sales and outside sales are therefore developing from fixed roles to disciplines that can be carried out by people distributed differently depending on their skills. Focal points continue to be important in order to strengthen the self-image of one’s own work on the one hand and to be able to distribute tasks in a targeted manner on the other. Focal points instead of dividing lines between inside and outside can provide orientation and also promote cooperation.
Mutual benefit from each other
When field reps look at inside sales strategies, acquire the skills they need to achieve their own goals, and when remote sales can benefit from field reps‘ best practices to prepare for online demos, strong synergies are created that can also drive innovation.
For this to succeed, good sales management is needed that accompanies change (as in ‚change management‘) and does not compare or separate inside and outside sales but lets them work together. Further training measures and the right tools are also needed to make use of digital opportunities. Clearly defined processes and the user-friendliness of the applications play an immense role in convincing salespeople, who are still somewhat unfamiliar with the digital world, of the added value.
Combine your Outside and Inside sales teams and make them work together with the right tools. Enable them to create amazing opportunities and automate the most important processes so your sales teams can concentrate on leads and customers.