Due to its wide market reach, versatility, and capacity for high-volume lead generation, inside sales has been touted by business growth strategists as a valuable component of B2B revenue strategy for some time.
The current emphasis on transitioning traditionally in-person meetings and interactions to the online space combined with the need for many small businesses to reevaluate their offerings and targeted markets, makes the role of an inside sales team even more crucial to success.
In this ongoing series, we’ll guide you through how to build your inside sales playbook, starting here with understanding the inside sales process, and continuing in subsequent articles to delve into techniques, who you should have on your inside sales team, and what technology can support you in a successful inside sales operation.
Are you in or are you out?
So, what exactly is inside sales, and what differentiates it from outside sales? The main differentiator is that outside sales relies on in-person meetings. Outside sales agents travel to make sales calls, meeting with prospective clients face-to-face, often at their place of business.
Inside sales, on the other hand, encompasses an array of techniques and processes to generate and follow up on leads via contactless methods like email, phone, live chat, or an online portal.
It’s important to note that in focusing on the advantages of inside sales, we are not dismissing the value of outside sales. There is something to be said for that in-person human element and the feel for a prospective client’s business when you are in their space. In fact, many of the most successful businesses employ both in the proportion that best suits their business model, target market, and goals.
However, our current B2B climate as well as the business landscape we will inherit post-pandemic, necessitates the prioritization of contactless lead generation and new business acquisition — a process that will only strengthen the position of businesses willing to embrace inside sales now and in the new normal that is being shaped domestically and abroad.
The inside sales process
The inside sales process that works best for you will be unique to your business, and a wide range of possibilities exist for you to hone your process into one that is highly customized to your target audience, brand, and product or service offerings. That being said, it’s possible to outline four main steps to serve as a basic framework from which most B2B small businesses can operate when developing their inside sales process. These steps include:
The first step to any inside sales process is to make contact with prospects who fit your buyer persona. The goal here is to do your homework before making calls or sending out emails—not to waste your resources blanketing an entire demographic with potentially unwanted contact that can make your sales team come across more like telemarketers than highly trained consultative sales experts.
Instead, research and qualify your prospects. Taking a strategic approach where you carefully choose who you contact and where you know something about your prospects and their needs before you call or email sets the stage for a far more successful interaction.
This stage is where you nurture prospects who have responded positively to your initial contact. Your nurture sequence can employ any number and type of follow-up communications, but the key here is to increasingly sharpen the focus on what your prospects need and how you are uniquely able to supply the perfect solution for them.
During the follow-up stage you may leverage methods like virtual product demonstrations, and sending your potential clients case studies highlighting the impact your products or services have had for previous clients. (Side note: Now is a great time to build up your testimonial/case study library, and to make it even more robust with video as well as written feedback from clients.)
This is where prospects become paying clients. In this stage of the inside sales process, your team will focus on negotiating and closing deals, building on the trust that has been built during the contact and follow-up stages.
While this is often a point in the process that business owners find themselves answering objections, a more strategic approach is to research the most common objections prospects might have to purchasing your products or services and incorporating those answers into the previous two stages. While your potential clients may still have a few objections or questions that are very specific to their individual business’ circumstances or needs, you will have already anticipated and dealt with some of the more basic issues, clearing the way for easier conversion.
4. Relationship Growth
Closing a sale isn’t the end of the sales cycle—it’s the beginning of what can be an ever-deepening relationship where superior service leads to customer loyalty and, very often, referrals for new business.
This stage prioritizes ongoing customer support. A business purchased the software you developed to streamline workflow and scheduling? Great! Follow up with them to see how it’s working, if there are any issues, how it can be better, etc. Ask for their input and use it as part of your R&D as you develop new versions of your software solutions. Let them know you value their contribution and show them where their feedback turned into a new product feature. Continue to learn about their needs to see if there are other areas where you can support them with additional products.
A business growth consultant who understands the nuances of inside sales and the interplay between different sales models can help you develop and implement a dynamic inside sales strategy that fits your brand and goals.
Leveraging the power of inside sales, you can increase your chance to reach prospects you may never have had access to otherwise, continue to do business even in the midst of shifting social capabilities, and show your clients that you’re not about a quick, one and done transaction, but about becoming partners with a common goal of helping their business grow.
Image credit: go digital @ Flickr (Creative Commons).