What is B2B inside sales

Nowadays B2B is undergoing a fundamental transformation. Big-ticket sales (selling of high-valued items such as houses, cars, hardware and software etc.) sold via outside sales (field sales or face-to-face sales) are moving to inside sales which are becoming the dominant sales model.

The term inside sales refers to the sales handled remotely and involves high-touch transactions over the phone and by email. Recent research has proved that they have grown highly over the past decade showing no signs of slowing down. Thus, let’s find out what makes B2B inside sales so popular.

Factors for making inside sales a priority in B2B

Feeling a competitive pressure, B2B sellers try to cut costs and seek more efficient ways to sell. Many of them find inside sales highly powerful and productive. Here are the reasons why:

  • Firstly, inside sales can be located virtually anywhere allowing to reduce the cost of real-estate. Besides, being performed remotely, it lowers total travel expenses.
  • Secondly, inside sales reduce sales force cost-per-contact and increase the number of contacts per day as sales representatives have greater access and faster response time for customers.
  • Thirdly, it increases effectiveness thanks to advances in communicational tools, therefore, inside sales representative can conduct demos, give presentations and perform other functions for following up with a potential prospect more productively.
  • Fourthly, it gives better coaching and more effective training process since salespeople share a working location with their managers resulting in a shorter period of apprenticeship.
  • Lastly, it has become more convenient for B2B clients to communicate and collaborate via emails, social media and conference calls. These changes are caused by customer’s buying behavior, as, nowadays customers are getting more informed and trying to find better solutions for their business through online information before engaging with a salesperson.

Main tips to ensure inside sales success

Even though companies consider inside sales to be undeniably effective, they very often don’t know how to organize it. While inside sales offer many advantages, they also require good discipline and a strong focus on the entire organization of a company. Building a successful inside sales teams should contain 3 main assets: setting goals and expectations, training sales representatives and implementing efficient tools. For better understanding, let’s have a look at each of them in more detail.

Setting goals and expectations. Together with establishing long-term goals and expectations as well as the future vision of a business, it is equally important to focus on daily activities and monitor day-to-day operations to make sure that the team performs to the best of its capability. Very little can be achieved without the clear definition of goals.

Training sales representatives. In B2B inside sales, salespeople often sale to officials and executives, that is why they should be trained in specific sales techniques and should be experts on the features, functions and benefits of product/service they are selling. Moreover, they need to gain the knowledge of:

  • industry (to know the situation on the market, who their competitors are, what product they offer, and what their promotion and system are);
  • sales and marketing (to be familiar with the methods and principles for promoting product/service. This includes marketing tactics and strategies, demonstration of a product, etc.);
  • customer and personal service (to evaluate customer satisfaction and their needs, and meet quality standards for services).

In addition, sales representatives have to constantly improve their skills:

  • research skills. Before picking up the phone or making a call, they ought to make some pre-call research about potential clients and their needs for increasing chances of success;
  • communication skills. Salespeople need to work on their tonality, speak slowly and clearly, and give customers time space to follow the idea. It’s important, especially in inside sales, not so much what representatives ask, but how they say it because customers don’t just listen to the content of the pitch, but also to the tone, pace and volume. Besides, they need to be trained to work with objections and deal with gatekeepers or executives;
  • interviewing skills. Inside sales agents should learn how to ask right questions. Good questions can keep prospects not only engaged in the conversation, but also provide additional information that can be used later to advance the sale. Apart from this, successful sales representatives need to know what information about their product/service benefits and capabilities they should share right away and when to focus on customer’s business pain before offering a potential solution;
  • time-managing skills. In B2B inside sales, it is essential to make as many sales as possible in the available amount of time. Thus, sales representatives need to know how to manage their time effectively, so as to distinguish between prospects who are worth following up and the ones who are not;
  • rapport building skills. In the process of constructing the relationship between representative and customer, one of the most useful skills that successful professionals apply is the ability to establish rapport with a prospect. Here two main points can be identified:
    1. matching language patterns. It is one of the ways to join a model of another person's world. The definition and inclusion of keywords, micro metaphor and examples most frequently used by prospects allow inside sales agents to achieve rapport and establish a special connection with them.
    2. causing positive feelings from other people. For successful building a connection with clients, it is also necessary for salespeople to have the ability to make people experience positive emotions.
    *(for more detail about rapport in sales, read our next article”How to build rapport in sales”)

In addition, while training a team, one should create an environment that motivates it: give regular and constructive feedback, set realistic quotas, organize communication at all levels and encourage high-performing agents with bonuses. Only the process that emphasizes the need for continued growth will bring undeniable success. 

Implementing efficient tools

Another important B2B sales best practice for building successful inside sales is the implementation of efficient tools. An effective customer relationship management (CRM) tool should be installed, from the beginning, in order to provide salespeople with a program that captures information about each and every interaction with leads and customers. CRM allows a team to be more efficient. Moreover, management has the possibility to see which stage each lead is in at any point of time, who is working on each lead and how long each individual has been in the pipeline. Simultaneously, each member of a sales team can quickly share information and provide updates. This greatly simplifies collaboration resulting in more deals closed. Thus, CRM lead management system:

  • develops consistent sales processes;
  • ensures accuracy and reduces data entry;
  • increases the speed of lead qualification (the reports from CRM show where your best leads come from, who the best performing salespeople are and how long it takes a lead to become an actual customer);
  • identifies which marketing tools really work, which don’t and which need to be improved.

It is predicted that the most successful companies will be those that can capture the most data about prospects as well as deliver it to the sales representative in the right context so that they can get better at knowing who to sell to, what to sell and when to sell it.

How to structure inside sales process

In order to generate better sales results, it is essential to create a stable and productive inside sales process consisting of 3 main stages:

  1. initial contact. This is the first time when inside sales person and prospects interact. In most cases, it can be a cold call, but also it could be an email exchange. This first interaction has to be very brief: getting acquainted with the customer’s pain and giving a short overview of product/service benefits and how it can solve customer’s problem. The key thing here is that the aim of this stage is not to sell a product,  but to close prospect on moving to the next stage of the selling process, i.e. to arrange appointment or demo.
  2. appointment and presentation.  At this stage a sales representative and prospect have more time allowing them to talk in more detail, to focus on the exact benefits of the product/service and ensure that the core problem is understood and the solution offer is presented. If clients are not converted at this stage, they are sent to a marketing team for lead nurturing.
  3. lead nurturing. A lead nurturing process is not a selling process. It is about creating a communication channel between business and prospects and sharing educational content with them that can add value to their business. Agents should wait for the right time for the lead to feel the need of the product/service.

The rapid progression of new technologies and changing customer needs are forcing B2B to catch up with the digital transformations encompassing different industries. Traditional outside sales are retreating into past. It seems clear that thanks to advances in technologies, which give a possibility to connect with prospect anytime and anywhere, B2B inside sales is going to become a successful model of sales.