Table of Contents
What is Inside Sales?
Inside sales is a sales model that involves selling products remotely, typically through phone calls, email, or online platforms. Unlike traditional sales methods where sales reps meet face-to-face with their clients, inside sales rely on virtual communication to reach potential customers. In fact, that’s why it’s referred to as ‘inside’ sales: the seller remains indoors — i.e., at an office or their home.
The term ‘inside sales’ was first created in the 1980s as a way to distinguish high-ticket digital B2B and B2C sales from telemarketing and tele sales. The latter involves selling products directly to consumers and often employ lower-cost, less-skilled sales reps who execute a scripted, single-call close.
Compared to telemarketing, inside sales reps…
- are highly skilled professionals
- generate their own leads
- hop on multiple calls with potential customers using a consultative selling approach
- deliver virtual demos to close complex deals
- use CRM software and analytics tools to track deals through the sales pipeline
- negotiate contracts with multiple decision-makers
Thanks to technology, this form of sales execution has become the norm. It’s a lot easier to reach out to people by phone or email than it is to set up an in-person meeting. It’s also more cost-effective for companies, as they don’t have to spend resources on travel and accommodation expenses. And, perhaps most importantly, today’s B2B buyers prefer inside sales.
- Remote sales
- Virtual sales
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: What’s the Difference?
Inside and outside sales are two opposite approaches to the sales process. As mentioned, inside sales reps rely on virtual communication, while outside sales involves meeting with clients face-to-face.
Outside sales reps…
- work autonomously, outside of the traditional office setting
- travel to meet with clients and prospects in person
- build relationships and trust with clients through in-person interactions
- show buyers what a product really looks and feels like
Outside sales is typical in industries like real estate, auto, solar, and other high-ticket B2C transactions involving tangible items. These are major purchases that involve high-touch relationship management (which the buyer is happy to invest their additional time into). In these instances, the buyer needs specialized help with the buying process and usually wants to see/test the product before making a purchase decision.
Inside sales strategies are the default whenever there isn’t a particular need for this level of consultation or visualization. It’s easy for remote sales professionals to demo SaaS products via Zoom or lay out a client’s insurance policy options in an email/virtual meeting, for example.
How Inside and Outside Sales are Converging
For most businesses, a purely inside or outside approach to selling is less than ideal. Thanks to technology, there are ways to make high-ticket consultative sales more efficient. And there’s room to make remote sales more personal for the most valuable customers.
- A B2B SaaS company might predominantly use cold calling, email, and video conferencing. But they’ll still send their highest-ranking Account Executives for enterprise sales (which are often $1MM+ ARR and require more nuanced relationship building).
- A realtor might use digital tools to manage virtual tours and introductory meetings for buyers who are just starting the process. And they’ll use a CRM to manage all their interactions.
The hybrid sales model — initially more of an adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic — is now the most dominant sales model. According to 2022 research published by McKinsey, two-thirds of buyers showed a preference for remote sales interactions or digital self-service in all the following areas:
- Identifying and researching potential vendors
- Evaluating them
- Purchasing products/services
The other one-third, however, preferred in-person interactions. So, by seamlessly blending inside and outside sales techniques, the hybrid model meets today’s buyers’ unique demands.
Importance of Inside Sales in Growing Sales Revenue
Simply put, remote sales is here to stay because it works.
Here’s a closer look at 7 reasons the virtual sales model works so well for today’s companies:
In terms of the sales process itself, the number-one way to achieve sales efficiency is to eliminate unnecessary friction throughout the deal cycle. The biggest sources of friction are in-person meetings and negotiations, travel arrangements, and scheduling. By removing these non-essential elements from the process, inside sales representatives can close deals faster.
In the abovementioned 2022 study, McKinsey revealed remote sellers can reach 4x as many accounts in the same amount of time as their traditional counterparts. Thanks to the efficiency boost, companies using a virtual sales model generate up to 50% more sales revenue on average.
Since inside sales can hypothetically be done from anywhere with low-cost technology, companies can significantly reduce costs by going remote (where they can, of course).
An outside sales department spends 40% to 90% more to acquire new customers. On a per-call basis, the average inside sales call costs $50. For outside sales calls, that figure rises to $308. That’s a lot of money that could be saved and/or reinvested into other areas of the business.
Enables Cross-Team Collaboration
Today’s sales teams need to collaborate with Marketing and Customer Success to create a seamless buying experience. Inside sales enables this.
- Since their tools allow for instantaneous communication, they can quickly get the resources and support from other departments (like presenting prospects with case studies or answering technical questions).
- Sales reps can share the insights they gather with other teams to improve the company’s downstream processes. For example, the marketing team can identify pain points from sales calls and reflect them in their copy and ad creative.
- Sales managers can more easily share success stories and best practices with their teams.
- Remote sellers who record their calls can share their successes and failures with their colleagues, so they can collectively learn and improve.
This all contributes to closing deals at a higher rate and improving customer satisfaction.
The flexibility of the inside sales model explains why inside sales teams are growing 15x faster than outside sales teams.
Aside from natural human limitations geography significantly limits the potential of the traditional sales role. Businesses are limited to customers within a reasonable radius of their sales reps. And outside sales leaders can only hire talent that’s local or willing to relocate.
Besides from being more convenient, it’s a lot easier to standardize, implement, teach, and automate sales motions when every rep is on the same virtual platform. This critical aspect of inside sales means everything from sales onboarding to deal management is easier to manage and scale.
Adaptable to Changing Buyer Behaviors
Since it doesn’t require in-person interactions, the inside sales model is better equipped to handle variables that significantly alter buyer behavior.
When COVID-19 hit, businesses that relied on outside sales had a much tougher time figuring out what to do next. They lacked the tools and infrastructure to adapt and keep generating revenue. While they needed to adopt at least a partial virtual sales model, companies with remote sales teams barely missed a beat since they already used the software and methodologies.
Meets Modern Buying Preferences
The simple fact of the matter is in-person sales are flat-out inefficient. While some (generally older and more traditional) buyers would rather deal face-to-face, the vast majority would prefer to communicate remotely.
A 2022 Gartner sales survey found 83% of 725 B2B buyers prefer to order and pay through digital commerce platforms. According to McKinsey, 70% of buyers are prepared to spend $500,000 in one digital transaction. And the number of buyers spending up to $10 million in one online transaction rose 83%. That’s why, according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global State of Sales report, 31% of reps now say they’ve closed deals worth $500,000+ without ever meeting the buyer in person.
Buyers want to minimize their interactions with sellers as well. Other Gartner research found three-quarters of today’s buyers prefer a rep-free experience. The B2B buyer’s journey is now (largely) a digital one.
That doesn’t mean the ‘human touch’ isn’t important — it absolutely is! But inside sales offers the best of both worlds: the convenience and efficiency of remote selling, combined with personalized and consultative interactions with buyers.
Makes Logical Sense for Today’s B2B Transactions
It’s worth mentioning that inside sales activities like cold calling and setting up virtual demos translate well to B2B sales (hence why most sales orgs use it). It would be nonsensical (and intrusive) to drive to another office only to pitch a prospect they’ve never seen before. Whether the prospect works in-office or remotely, there’s simply no reason to make at least the first few touchpoints anything but a phone call, DM, or email.
Overview of the Inside Sales Representative Role
An inside sales rep is responsible for sales development, lead generation, and new customer acquisition. They typically handle the entire sales process over the phone or through virtual meetings from prospecting to closing deals. At larger organizations, they may only conduct sales outreach and qualification before passing the deal to an Account Executive.
Key responsibilities of an inside sales rep include:
- Prospecting and qualifying leads through outbound calls, emails, and social media DMs
- delivering product demos and presentations virtually (using screen-share software)
- Tracking sales activity and pipeline in CRM.
- Collaborating with marketing teams to improve lead generation strategies and identify potential target customers.
- Building relationships with prospects and guiding them through the buying process.
- Negotiating and closing deals remotely.
The role requires a strong understanding of their company’s sales methodology, objection handling, and product knowledge. Since their daily tasks primarily take place over the phone or on the computer, previous experience in telemarketing or customer support could be advantageous. But inside sales reps are a diverse crowd — many enter the role with little to no prior sales experience.
One major benefit to inside sales roles is the ability to work from home (or from anywhere). More established companies are usually more rigid with their requirements, but startups are often more flexible. As long as reps hit their sales goals, they can often set their own schedules and work independently.
Steps in the Inside Sales Process
Inside sales involves multiple steps that are similar to traditional sales methods, but with a greater focus on virtual communication and technology.
1. Capture Leads
In the first step, inside sales reps need to find potential customers. It doesn’t make sense to call just anyone — sellers look for indicators that a lead is part of the company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
They typically find new leads in a few different places:
- Sales intelligence platforms like ZoomInfo and DiscoverOrg
- Social networks like LinkedIn (using Sales Navigator)
- Their company’s CRM (marketers often place leads into the sales pipeline before reps ever pick up the phone)
- Lead lists purchased from third-party vendors
- Marketing-qualified leads (e.g. a prospect fills out a form on the company’s website to download an ebook)
While using these sources, they’ll look for telltale signs of potential ability to purchase: job title, industry, company size and revenue, tech stack used, behavior on the company website, content they’ve published, etc.
2. Distribute Leads
For leads that are already marketing-qualified, the marketing team will complete the hand-off. At this point, they might have an idea of the lead’s budget, timeline to purchase, and whether they’ve engaged with other pieces of content on the website.
If the lead appears “sales-ready”, they can send it to an Account Executive or closer. Sales reps should have a discussion or two with marketing about their target personas and buyer journey before this point, so everyone is clear on what type of leads they should target with their marketing collateral.
3. Reach Out to Leads
Whether the lead is marketing-qualified or completely cold changes the trajectory of the initial outreach completely.
- Warm leads can generally expect a phone call or personalized email (or both). The introduction is rooted in the fact that they’ve previously expressed interest in the product (or at least showed up on the company’s radar).
- Cold leads require more finesse. The initial touchpoint might include finding a shared connection and asking for an introduction, or getting to know them over LinkedIn before making a pitch or setting up a meeting.
Warm leads will generally want to set up a brief call or meeting right away (otherwise, why would they reach out to you?). Cold leads have no idea what you’re selling and have possibly never heard of your company. Cold emails convert at a rate of around 7%, and cold calls roughly 2%. So, outbound sellers typically reach out to hundreds of prospects to land a few meetings.
4. Qualify Leads
Once the seller has their foot in the door with a prospect, they can begin sales qualification. This step helps inside sales reps determine whether the lead fits their ICP, has budget, and is ready to purchase.
There are several qualification frameworks, including BANT, MEDDIC, SPIN, and SPICED. For the most part, they aim to uncover the prospect’s potential ability and likelihood of closing by looking at the following areas:
- Pain points/needs — Does the prospect have a problem your product can solve?
- Budget — Can the prospect actually buy your product, and are they willing to invest in a solution to their problem?
- Decision-making capacity — Is the person you’re talking to the decision-maker, or do they have influence in the decision-making process?
- Timeline — Are they looking for a solution now, or is it a future need? When are they looking to purchase?
Throughout the process, they’ll evaluate each prospect’s engagement level and interest in moving forward. Most companies use a lead scoring system to help determine which leads are the most likely to convert into paying customers.
Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are able to buy and ready to learn more about your product. At this point, the seller books a sales demo, either with themselves, an AE, or both. They’ll also include anyone else needed for additional context (e.g., a member of the product team with technical knowledge).
Based on the prospect’s challenges, budget, and requirements, the sales rep will prepare a tailored presentation. Usually, this lasts 30 minutes to an hour and includes a product walkthrough (focusing on the essential features to the customer), discussing pricing options, and answering the prospect’s questions/objections.
After the demo, the seller will prepare either a quote or proposal, depending on the nature of the product or service they’re selling.
- Sales quotes are often used for standardized products, services, and bundles. For example, a CRM vendor with three different pricing tiers and set features would use a sales quote.
- Sales proposals are reserved for more complex offerings (e.g., contract manufacturing, marketing services, or enterprise software), where each one is unique to the prospect in question. In this case, they’re essentially formal documents outlining the solution you’ve collectively agreed upon.
The quote/proposal will include pricing, payment terms, and all the other relevant information the buyer needs to know before signing off. Depending on the company’s process, a deal desk team might have to review and approve the document before sending it to the prospect for consideration.
7. Close the Deal
To close a deal, the seller needs to convince the buyer that their product or service is worth the investment. They’ll need to address any remaining concerns, negotiate terms, and drive home the benefits of their product.
By this point, the seller should have a good understanding of the prospect’s needs and pain points, allowing them to tailor their approach accordingly. Presumably, they’ll also have a solid relationship with them.
Once all parties have agreed to the terms and signed off, the inside sales rep’s work is done.
Inside Sales Best Practices
In addition to following the inside sales process, there are several best practices that can help inside sales reps be more successful.
Use Technology to Standardize, Streamline, and Automate
Overreliance on sales technology could make the whole process disingenuous. Companies that don’t personalize their outreach and build human relationships with their prospects and customers will have a hard time even getting an email response.
That said, sellers can use technology to:
- streamline quote/proposal generation
- automate approval workflows for quotes and proposals
- remind reps of important tasks
- visually move deals through the sales pipeline
- keep notes on every prospect
- share personalized content before, during, or after a sales call
- create templates for common email responses
- provide context before the call/email/meeting
- optimize prospecting efforts by identifying low-hanging fruit and automating follow-ups and social media engagement
There is also such a thing as personalization at scale. While it doesn’t make sense to send lame, thoughtless emails to 1,000 potential buyers, you can automate things like follow-up emails and social media touchpoints to reply, book meetings, and share materials on autopilot.
Identify the Right Prospects
40% of sellers say prospecting is the most difficult part of the process, and companies have more than one ICP. The best way to guide sales reps on who to speak with is to create multiple buyer personas that represent different segments of the company’s target market. At a minimum, include job title, firmographics (industry, MRR), product or service use case, budget, and pain points.
Part of the inside sales role is to find new potential customers as well. To accomplish this, they’ll probably test out new markets and pitches. To facilitate this, encourage them to share what they learn with other team members during weekly meetings.
Know Your Product Inside and Out
Aside from maybe the technical teams, nobody in the company should know the product or service as well as the inside sales reps. Not only do they need to understand how it works and what benefits it offers customers, but they also need to be able to effectively communicate this information to prospects. This knowledge can also help them tailor their presentations and demos to each prospect’s specific needs.
Qualify Sales Leads
If a bad lead moves from one pipeline stage to the next, that’s time and resources wasted. Particularly in the case of MQLs, which can come from many different sources, inside sales teams need a solid qualification process. Use a sales qualification framework like BANT or SPICED so reps never miss a critical question or action item.
Track Sales Metrics
Start by identifying sales metrics that align with your team’s goals and objectives. This should include close rate, lead response time, call-to-demo ratio, MQL:SQL conversions, average deal size, and sales cycle length.
Consistently and transparently tracking these metrics is crucial. Using CRM and sales engagement tools, you can track and report performance in real time.
Continuously Train the Team
You should use your sales performance data to hold your sales team accountable and identify areas that need help. Keep your team informed of their progress and foster a culture of collaborative improvement. During sales meetings, can address challenges, share tactics, and brainstorm strategies for better results.
You can also use these metrics to coach your team members individually. By finding areas of underperformance you can provide targeted coaching, which ultimately leads to higher quota attainment and team member engagement.
Improve the Process
Although you’ll likely use a sales methodology to guide your inside sales team, the process is never set in stone. Sales reps have a unique vantage point that allows them to see where things are going wrong and where they can improve. By continuously gathering feedback from your team, you can make adjustments and tweaks to the process that ultimately lead to better results.
Inside Sales Tools for Effective Selling
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM software is the central hub that manages and analyzes customer interactions. It enables the entire process by tracking leads, automating sales tasks, and providing real-time visibility into the sales funnel.
Sellers also use CRM to store insights about each customer’s behavior and preferences, which helps them personalize their approach and pick up where they left off with each customer.
Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
CPQ software revolutionizes the inside sales process by automating complex pricing and quoting tasks. It eliminates manual errors, speeds up quote delivery, and enhances the overall accuracy of sales quotes/proposals, which improves sales efficiency and helps reps build trust with their customers.
CPQ software also offers a centralized platform to update pricing and product configuration details. As long as you update it with accurate information, your sales team will always relay product packages and configurations that the company can actually deliver.
DealRoom is a digital sales room that keeps sellers and decision-makers in the loop, using one communication platform. It works in tandem with CPQ software to streamline the quoting, negotiation, and closing processes.
- CRM integration
- DocuSign integration
- Custom branding for your company
- Automated notifications across all platforms
- Deal analytics reports
- Digital sales quotes and proposals
- Real-time negotiation chat and messaging system
- Document sharing and collaboration tools
- Buyer engagement insights
Sales engagement software automates and coordinates sales activities like email campaigns, cadences, and social selling. It also provides insights into prospect behavior and interactions with sales reps.
It accomplishes this through features like:
- Email tracking
- Lead scoring
- Sales activity tracking
- The ability to create personalized email templates
- Automated follow-up reminders for leads and prospects
- A centralized platform for all communication channels (email, phone, social)
Sales coaching software helps managers and sellers assess skills and find where they need additional development. Call listening and recording are two core features agents use to improve their ability to close deals.
Other sales coaching software features include sales KPI tracking and scorecards, gamification elements (leaderboards, contests), interactive skills training modules, and actionable feedback and progress reports.
Video conferencing is the one tool every inside sales team needs, no matter what. Virtual meetings allow for face-to-face interaction while still providing the convenience of remote sales.
Most businesses use Zoom or Microsoft Teams to connect with prospects and customers. These platforms offer screen sharing, recording, and chat options. Sellers use them to connect with buyers and demo their products.
Businesses use sales intelligence tools to gather data on leads and accounts for better targeting. Sales reps use it to identify potential leads and pinpoint triggers and buying signals from prospects (e.g., a new funding round).
Sales intelligence software features include:
- Lead enrichment
- Account insights
- Social media monitoring
- Real-time company news alerts
- Buyer intent data
People Also Ask
What is the inside sales life cycle?
The inside sales life cycle is the process of selling products or services remotely, without in-person interactions. It typically involves prospecting, qualifying leads, nurturing relationships, and closing deals all through digital channels like phone calls, emails, and video conferencing.
What are the keys to success in inside sales?
The keys to inside sales success are personalization at scale, embracing technology, and continuously improving sales efficiency. By personalizing your approach to each customer, leveraging technology to streamline processes, and constantly analyzing and improving your sales process, you can achieve higher close rates and overall success in inside sales.