Sales is an ever-changing field. Sure, it’s changing faster today than it was a century ago, but even back then it was a dynamic industry.
If you haven’t heard of “inside sales” yet, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore inside sales and discuss how to make the most of it within your business.
What Is Inside Sales?
In a nutshell, inside sales is entirely done by phone, over email or through an online portal (like using live chat on your website).
Live chat on website
It’s becoming a trend as in-person meetings become increasingly unfeasible. Face-to-face meetings are still a viable option, of course, if you’re targeting local businesses. When you want to expand your horizons, however, inside sales are the way to go.
Even locally, though, inside sales have advantages and this is covered in the next few sections.
You might also have heard the terms “virtual sales”, “sales in the cloud” or a variation thereof. These refer to the same notion: inside sales.
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
Outside sales are sales in the traditional sense – with field reps heading out and meeting clients. While it has some clear advantages over inside sales, there are also disadvantages to relying on the traditional approach.
The Advantages of Outside Sales
The most significant advantage of outside sales is the “human” factor. You can sell directly, without being cut off or ignored. Emails won’t land in the spam bin or be missed entirely.
Another advantage is being out on the road and spotting businesses that may not have any online presence or technological savvy. An otherwise oblivious company may desperately need your services, and this would easily be overlooked by an inside salesman.
The Advantages of Inside Sales
Inside sales also have advantages, like a wider market reach. Clients can be drawn in from all over the place, from the comfort of your own office in LA. For the same marketing opportunities in outside sales, you would probably need to leave your state or even the country.
UpLead easily provides a huge lead database you can use
Another advantage is the fuel savings, but there are other costs in inside sales that counteract this. If you’re getting leads via paid advertising or similar channels, there are high costs involved. It’s safe to these as “virtual fuel” – meaning the way in which you spread your message via inside sales.
A final advantage is being able to shoot off thirty emails per hour, essentially selling to all thirty clients in a single hour. A traditional sales rep, on the other hand, may spend at least half an hour per client, probably more. That’s without taking into account the driving time.
Choosing Between Inside And Outside Sales
All considered, switching to inside sales is a no-brainer. In a perfect world, we’d probably have a combination of the two methods.
As with most marketing, a cost-profit analysis should be conducted. You’ll soon discover the best balance for your own company.
The Blurring Lines
In modern sales offices, the lines between inside and outside sales are blurring. Field sales reps are spending more time behind their computers and less time on the road.
It’s safe to assume that in the near future, sales reps will need to be well-versed in both inside and outside sales techniques.
The Inside Sales Process
The inside sales processes vary greatly and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
For example, you may offer an affordable subscription service. The process will likely start and finish without ever meeting your client in person. On the other hand, you might have a more expensive or complicated product, where a demo or presentation would be necessary in closing the sale.
This muddles the distinction between inside and outside sales a little, but there’s a clear difference. Sales that start as inside usually stay inside, and vice versa for outside sales.
If your prospect was attained and nurtured via email, phone or website, they’ll stay an inside sale regardless of an in-person presentation or demo. If they were attained in the field, they’re an outside sale.
Let’s take a look at the process in its most basic form.
1. First Contact
This is where a lead enters the sales pipeline. You’ll either give them a call, drop them an email or see them sign up on your website.
If they respond to the first contact, they’re in your pipeline. From there they’ll either make a purchase (for an easy sold, affordable service) or enter your pipeline if qualified and interested.
2. Nurture / Call Back
This stage is optional, but it’s where they’ll enter your automated email flow or be called back by a qualified sales rep.
During this phase, you’ll gently lead the prospect into making a decision to buy.
3. Demo / Presentation / In-Person Meeting
Here’s where you’ll be showcasing your product. These leads are genuinely interested. It is expected that from this point there will be a fairly consistent conversion ratio.
4. Follow Up
This phase, also entirely optional, helps mop up a few leads that have gone awry.
Arguably, the best method for this step is an email. Thank them for the meeting and restate the benefits of your product or service.
Timing is important here, too. Contact them too soon and you’ll come across as desperate. Too late might lose you the sale entirely.
Testing the waters in your niche is best. Experiment with your unique field of customers and find the best time to standardize.
Depending on your business, the inside sales process could look wildly different. It’s similar, however, to any outside sales process you have in place.
You might only have to follow step 1 or you may experience a trial period in between, and so on.
What’s important is to grasp the basics, using them to craft the ideal inside sales process for your unique business offering.
Inside Sales Techniques and Strategies
There are a vast number of sales techniques and strategies that apply to inside sales. Let’s explore a few different aspects of inside sales and see how you can apply them.
Step 1: Lead Generation
The most well-oiled sales pipeline in the world can’t convert prospects into buyers without leads through the front end. Strong lead generation is a vital part of any sales strategy, but which strategies and techniques are best?
Cold Calling / Emails
Another way to generate leads is to scour the internet, phone books and businesses who may be looking for your solution.
It may not be the most efficient use of your time to manually search for leads, yet it is often an effective lead generation method to send out cold emails. (There’s a shortcut to building targeted B2B contact lists. Learn more about it here.)
Traffic Generation (e.g. PPC)
Facebook and Google ads remain viable ways to draw quality traffic (and as a result leads) in through the front of your pipeline, for marketers across industries ranging from real estate to SaaS. Check out how real estate marketers use social media ads to generate leads here.
In B2B, you can also make use of LinkedIn’s paid ads, but a far more effective way could be dropping “cold” messages to pre-qualified leads. This does require some know-how so be sure your lead-gen team is confident in this area.
We’ll talk more about building a qualified team in the next section.
The Lead Magnet
This role is often combined with paid advertising. Having a free course, a book or free consultation in the front of your funnel can drag more leads through the virtual door.
Lead magnet on the UpLead blog
It’s extremely important to build a truly valuable lead magnet. Any lackluster attempts at providing value could hurt more than help you. The company’s image may suffer badly under low-quality lead magnets.
Make sure you’re providing your prospects with real value.
Remember to capture those emails for the nurturing phase of your sales campaign, too.
Step 2: Nurture Those Leads
The next phase in your overarching strategy is to nurture leads. If you don’t establish contact soon after an initial call, email or sign-up, they’ll quickly forget all about you. The problem you could solve for them will be solved by your competitors.
There are many ways to nurture leads – call backs, emails, direct mail and more.
It all depends on your market. Callbacks are more aggressive, for example, and you run the risk of annoying your lead. You do bring in that human factor, though – an actual conversation.
This gives your leads the chance to hear your message in their own time. There’s less pressure, which isn’t great for pressing the sale, but if your email is opened, urgency can be added.
Perhaps, consider a special offer or a trial with an expiry date. Good direct response copy in your emails will get these leads converting quickly to sales.
The most important thing to remember is to get the tone and pitch right in your emails. Tons of testing has found that no matter the industry, people like to feel like they’re part of a human conversation. A light, personal tone is often best.
Direct Response Mail
Old-school communication seldom fails, especially when it was first used. Back then, you got sales letters in the mail all the time, so the novelty wore off quickly. In the digital age, however, sales letters are making a come back.
It’s almost a novelty to get a sales letter in the post these days. At the very least, they will glance over it.
The problem is, sales letters are not so easy to track. You’re never sure how many responses are from the letters. An easy way to combat this is to add a coupon or reference to the letter.
Step 3: Demo / Presentation
Your demo or presentation should be well-versed at this point. This topic could fill an article on its own, but since this is a large part of traditional outside sales, we’ll leave it there.
Step 4: Follow Up
Follow up could be especially useful for tracking the delivery of direct mail efforts.
It’s also necessary after the demo phase since some leads will have simply forgotten to call. We all lead busy lives.
Make sure you have some sort of follow up in place.
Again, it’s more or less the same as step 2. You can call, email or send a direct mail to your prospect to make sure you haven’t just slipped their mind.
How to Build an Inside Sales Team
When possible, it’s best to have specialists in each field. Multi-skilled reps, however, are worth their weight in gold. Depending on the skill level and trainability of your staff, you could build a core team that specializes in one or more of the following departments:
Lead Generation Unit
Having a specialized team to rake in the leads is an excellent idea, but not always possible in smaller companies.
Within this team, you’ll want one or two employees mastering each of the following skills.
These guys need to know how to speak to prospects. They need to pique interest and get the first meeting and can easily be trained to handle both calls and emails.
This specialist needs to know how to spark interest when cold emailing prospects. They use the language of the prospect and how to use words to form a real connection with leads.
Effective cold emails mean leads can be turned into sales much easier down the line.
The PPC Guru
This expert knows all about paid advertising and cold outreach using tools like Google Ads, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like.
You can have a specialist in each sphere of social media, but that’s often not economical. Having a general social media expert is good enough for most of us. Read this guide on how to choose a PPC agency (or freelancer).
These specialists will know how to dig out leads from places most others wouldn’t even think about. They know how to study up on leads so they know how to present the information clearly to the outreach team and the reps.
They’ll be proficient at using search engines and could probably teach you to use Google in ways you never imagined.
The Sales Team
After you’ve generated a ton of leads, you’ll want a team who knows how to close them.
A general-purpose copywriter would be best in this department for smaller companies. Again, using a few multi-skilled specialists is the ideal.
The Nurture Expert
These guys have the gift of the gab, without boring the lead. They understand that adding value to customers on a consistent basis is how you set up for the close.
The closer is an expert in sealing the deal. They close the sale on the back end of the funnel. They’ve seen the rest of the copy and possess the exact words to finally turn a lead into a sale.
They’ll know about adding urgency, too, stressing pain points and re-emphasizing benefits.
These guys know how to wrap just about anybody around their little finger. They are there for the in-person meetings.
They’ll be there during the sales process, conducting demos, and meetings where the copywriters need a skilled salesman at hand.
In the spirit of being thorough, the support staff cannot be forgotten.
No inside salesperson can work with a broken computer and few salesmen can survive an entire day without coffee.
The staff behind the scenes deserve recognition, too, since they’re as much a part of the team as anybody else.
11 Inside Sales Solutions That’ll Make Your Team More Productive
A good craftsman never blames his tools, but in a world of inside sales, there are tools to make your life easier – much easier.
Naturally, there are thousands of different software choices, some better than others. Here are a few tools to complement different spheres of inside sales:
Lead Generation Tools
It is worth repeating, if you’re not generating leads, you’ve got no one to sell to. Lead generation is a tricky field. If you’re not finding the right leads, you might as well drop it altogether.
Here are the tools that’ll help kick up your lead gen a few notches, by finding leads relevant to your business.
It finds qualified leads with contact details – and stops you wasting time on dead or impossible leads.
Boasting 5-star reviews all around the web (specifically G2Crowd), UpLead is tried and tested in this department. For lead generation, especially from such a close viewpoint, it’s hard to imagine a better service. But then, we may be slightly biased.
We’ve got a 7-day free trial which you can try here. (It’s always good to try new software before you whip out your wallet.)
Our pricing runs between $49 and $299 per month – so you can find the package that suits both your budget and your business.
Voila Norbert is an excellent tool to find practically any email address. Once you’ve identified a company, it helps zero in on their key contacts and makes an initial cold contact so much easier.
As with any lead generation platform, use caution. A first impression is everything. Once you’ve found the right leads and their email addresses, make sure your outreach team is sharp enough to capture their interest.
The first 50 leads are free with Voila Norbert so, depending on how quickly you want to move, their trial period can last quite some time.
If you’re serious about using their lead generation service, prices run from $39 to $499 a month. There’s a prepaid option which we think is pretty cool, too.
Waiting for a ringing phone to be answered isn’t viable anymore. It wastes hour upon hour every year. That’s why we value autodialers.
Besides the convenience, the time-saving potential is huge. Here’s our favorite autodialing software:
Callhub offers a voice and text service to connect with your followers. It’s a great way to quickly and easily follow up leads.
It also integrates with your CRM, so you can schedule calls and texts right there. There are a ton of different features useful in a lead gen environment, like call patching and insightful analytics.
It’s also secure since it has a large client base from the political sphere.
Their pricing options are customizable, so take a look to determine if they’re the right fit for you.
PhoneBurner is another great tool for lead gen. In fact, it’s specifically designed to maximize it.
Besides autodialing, PhoneBurner has other useful features, like workflow automation and automatic lead distribution. You can also have a local number display to the lead you’re calling, so they’ll be more likely to answer.
Pricing starts at $149 for one user and runs up to $3725 for 50 users. You get to choose your own budget based on the size of your company.
Voicent is an all-in-one kind of platform. They handle your calls, texts, emails, and more.
It’s a fantastic platform and has been in business for over ten years. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive solution, they’re an option to consider.
They have online reviews from 3 to 5 stars, so try them out to see if they’re a fit. They do offer a 30-day trial, so the risk is minimal.
You can’t have an efficient sales process without the right CRM. At least, that’s what any digital marketer or inside salesperson will tell you.
In a perfect world, your CRM will handle all your prospect communication and data. Here are a few CRM’s to do exactly that:
Pipedrive is a popular CRM. Built on the idea of simplicity, their aim is to give you a CRM that requires little input but gives maximum output (it’s right on their header).
The best thing about Pipedrive is the sales process view. At a glance, this gives your entire sales process on one page.
They get great reviews and present a solid choice if you’re looking for a CRM or a switch up.
Pipedrive bills per user and will cost you between $12.50 and $49.17 per user per month.
They also offer an immediate-access, credit card-free trial.
Freshsales is another all-in-one solution. Apart from the usual CRM features, there are built-in calling and email, lead generation tools, and fantastic analytics.
Instead of having a specialized software in each field, you can have one software that does it all.
They also charge per user per month from $12 to $79 per user.
They also offer a 30-day trial so you can determine whether they’re right for your business.
Inside Sales Box
Another all-in-one solution, Inside Sales Box builds sales solutions for sales teams.
They offer built-in dialing, email tracking, lead management, and more.
LinkedIn is a great tool for lead gen, but it can take entire days to navigate the myriad of leads available and find the right leads for you.
Thankfully, there are tools to make your job simpler:
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Sales Navigator is a premium tool for LinkedIn, by LinkedIn. It helps you search for pre-qualified leads. There are filters like company size and industry, allowing you to narrow down your search for only the best leads for your business.
It’s free for 30 days. Use it to push lead gen and see whether the tool works for you before paying a cent.
Thereafter, it’s $79.99 per month.
If your process doesn’t make room for manually chasing leads on LinkedIn, Dux-Soup might be for you.
Use it to automatically strike up conversations with your prospects, engaging only with active prospects.
It eliminates time-wasters and allows your lead gen team to perform at their optimum efficiency.
They have a starter plan which is free – forever. The premium packages are $11.25 or $41.25 per user per month.
Driving thousands of leads to your door automatically, LinkedIn Helper automates your LInkedIn lead gen for you. Auto-mailing and responding software generates leads for your business without you lifting a finger.
Again, it’s perfect for cutting out time wasted on inactive leads. You can then focus on the active leads and drive those conversions.
They have a weird pricing system. You “buy” an installation for a set period of time, much like a subscription, but slightly different.
You’ll pay $15 for a month, and up to $99 for 12 months. You can try it for free before you buy at any time.
3 Unusual Insides Sales Tips to Get Started
If you lack an inside sales process right now but want to explore one, here are a few quick tips to get you started.
The tips you follow will depend largely on your budget and available time.
1. Hire A Copywriter
There are thousands of copywriters out there who specialize in various fields.
If you’re lucky, you can find one or two multi-skilled copywriters to build you a solid funnel or outreach system. Alternatively, get a copywriter to build templates for all your communications and then have clerk-level employees handle the outreach.
The best copywriters charge thousands per hour. You can find a proficient copywriter on a job board, like Upwork or Freelancer.com.
There are groups on Facebook too – like the Cult of Copy job board, where you can find a wide variety of copywriters ready to help you out.
2. Do A Viability Study First
Maybe it would be best to do a market study before spending a ton of money on building your inside sales process.
Hire a researcher or set up surveys on websites like SurveyLegend.
3. Calculate How Much Of Your Current Turnover Is Inside
You might have field sales reps already using inside sales. In that case, you may not need external help to put the process into print.
Talk to your reps and find out exactly how much of your sales is already coming from inside sales. Perhaps, one of your reps can lead your new inside sales process development.
Best Insides Sales Training Courses
There’s nothing like training when you need to acquire a new skill. Either you get a personal sales coach or consultant like Marc Wayshak or you sign up for one of the online training courses we recommend:
21st Century Sales Training
This course covers the bulk of the inside sales process. Backed by years of testing, it’s highly recommended for anyone in the sales industry.
At $997 it’s quite pricey, but as an investment in your future, it’s reasonable.
Inside Sales Consulting And Training
Sales Hacker gives you a longer-term training solution, with consistent consulting and training.
An excellent option if your budget allows.
The Art Of Sales: Mastering The Selling Process
This is another accessible course for understanding the processes you will need to implement for a kick-ass inside sales strategy.
It’s a beginner-level course. But old hands at marketing will know that no matter the course level, there’s always something new to learn. It’s a great choice for everybody.
Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Certification Sales
Hubspot’s inbound sales course is also a good option if a bit light on material.
It’s free, so if you’re on a tight budget this one is definitely for you!
Bespoke is the place to attain top-level marketing training. Online courses and in-house training are both available and they can cater to almost any budget.
Best Inside Sales Blogs You Should Follow
Follow these sales blogs for more about how inside sales can benefit you:
Sales hacker’s courses are good, and so is their blog. There’s a wide variety of posts on all things B2B. It is a chance to gain new insights into the world of B2B marketing.
In the context of inside sales, a great post by Sales Hacker is this one, which explains how smart email signatures can land you more business.
HubSpot Sales Blog
Hubspot has been a powerhouse in digital marketing for years. Their blog covers a far wider audience. If you’d like to read up about things that future CEOs need to know or see elevator pitch examples – it’s all there.
It is an amazing blog for all things marketing.
Speaking of elevator pitches, here are 6 examples from Hubspot’s blog that could make your next pitch even better.
RingDNA’s blog is primarily focused on inside sales. If you’re new to the game, it might be a good idea to explore their blog in-depth.
Earlier in this post, we spoke about the role of human touch in sales. If you’d like to dive into RingDNA’s blog, here’s a great article on when to apply that human touch and when to automate.
Another great place to start learning about inside sales is insidesales.com’s blog. They’re focused on inside sales and have a lot of superb posts.
A good place to start would be this post. It gives you 8 things you need to know when responding to your inbound leads.
Inside Sales Experts Blog
The Bridge Group hosts an inside sales experts’ blog. It features an impressive variety of content, including case studies on techniques that are working for other companies.
If you’re about to build your own inside sales team, this blog post – focused on recruitment – could be the best place to start.
What Will Your Inside Sales Process Make You?
Now you know how to build your own inside sales process and team.
Inside sales are clearly the future as we move further away from human contact and more towards technology. In fact, LinkedIn’s 2016 sales report states that traditional reps already spend almost 25% of their time on inside sales techniques.
We can realistically expect that number to double in the next decade.
So… what has your experience been with inside sales? Did this blog help you out?
Let us know in the comments below.+