A strategically developed inside sales playbook has long been a critical component of success for B2B companies, and our evolving business landscape has made it even more so. Capitalizing on the agility and innovation needed to navigate the world of contactless sales, a purposefully structured inside sales team can leverage the process and techniques in your playbook for lead generation and business acquisition in changing circumstances and shifting geographies.
But who exactly should make up this team? In this third installment in our series, we’ll be focusing on how to structure your inside sales team for optimal reach and results, what roles are crucial to success, and what characteristics to look for in hiring for each position.
Know your inside sales team model
Before exploring the different roles that make up an effective inside sales team, there is one other major point to consider, and that is your inside sales team model.
On the one end of the spectrum, some B2B businesses employ a model where the sales process works like an assembly line, and the members of the team are highly specialized in performing just the part of the process that they are responsible for. In this type of model, you will want to hire individuals who are experts in the particular step in the process they will be working on, whether that is lead generation, lead qualification, closing, nurturing, etc.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are businesses that prefer to have all members of their inside sales teams able to handle all points of the sales process, from prospecting and qualifying to closing and servicing. If this is the model that you follow, you will want to look for individuals with a more well-rounded skill-set.
Many businesses will fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, with clearly defined roles that required specialization, but also an expectation of collaboration and being able to work seamlessly as a team to achieve common sales goals.
The anatomy of an inside sales team
Once you know what kind of inside sales team model you wish to leverage, you can begin to build out the team with appropriate members. Listed below are some of the most common roles found within inside sales teams. It is important to note that not every business will need every role—what your company needs will depend on a variety of factors including the size of your organization and the sales team model you are using.
- Sales Development Representative (SDR)—Lead Generation: These SDRs are the frontline of your inside sales team. It’s their job to prospect and generate leads, gathering data about potential customers including what needs they have that your company can solve. An SDR focusing on lead generation should be adept at research and well versed in whatever methods you are employing to prospect, including social media and PPC advertising.
- Sales Development Representative (SDR)—Lead Qualification: These SDRs take the research and data from the Lead Generation team and make initial contact with potential clients through inside sales techniques like cold calling and cold emailing. An SDR focusing on lead qualification should first and foremost be thoroughly trained to have a deep knowledge of your products or services, as well as your brand’s vision and voice. These will be the first people your new clients will speak with, so it’s vital that they represent you in an accurate, engaging, and compelling way that aligns with your goals and mission.
- Account Executives: Your account executives are the team members who convert qualified leads to paying clients. They are the closers of your inside sales team, and should be highly skilled at communicating the value of your product or service, answering questions and addressing any objection that stand in the way of a potential sale, and efficiently concluding the paperwork. An account executive needs to have a balance of organizational skills and interpersonal skills to instill confidence and seal the deal for your business.
- Account Managers: Account managers specialize in nurturing and maintaining the relationship with existing clients. There is a heavy customer service component to this role, so diplomacy, tact, empathy, and the ability to de-escalate issues are all important qualities for account managers to possess. Beyond reducing churn, however, an account manager is also responsible for maximizing the profitability of the relationship, so consultative sales skills that pave the way for upselling and cross-selling is also a desirable trait.
While these are generally considered the mainstay of an inside sales team, B2B companies can configure their teams in many different ways. Some companies combine the SDR role to have one person or one team both generating and qualifying leads. Some combine account executives with account managers so that one rep is closing the deal and continuing to service a book of clients. Some add further roles, like a customer success manager, who specializes exclusively in upselling or getting clients to renew subscriptions or repurchase products and services.
Which inside sales team model and configuration of roles will work best for you depends on a host of factors. Working with a business growth consultant who understands how to assess your needs, resources, and goals and translate them into a productive inside sales team can help you accelerate your growth and profitability both now and as your business continues to scale.
Image credit: go digital @Flickr (Creative Commons).