Four Steps to Maximize the Impact of Your Inside Sales Team
Ninety-six percent (96%) of B2B sales teams have fully or partially shifted to remote selling since April of 2021. But only 65% of B2B decision makers say the remote model is equally or more effective than what they were doing before the pandemic.
Many organizations have expanded their inside sales teams, either through hiring or transitioning field sellers, to accommodate this shift. In fact, recent ANNUITAS research found that inside sales teams are expanding by as much as 166%. It makes sense. By definition, inside sales teams should be skilled at remote selling, easier to scale, and cost less than field sales, but that’s not always reality. To really be effective, these teams require specialized training and support. We’ve worked with dozens of organizations to implement results-driven inside sales programs and throughout the years we’ve seen that there are four steps to take to maximize the impact of inside sales.
1. Align Teams to Common Definitions and Responsibilities
Inside sales teams serve as the bridge between marketing and sales, which makes alignment between all teams critical for success. If inside sales doesn’t know how to work marketing leads, is frequently asked to do things that aren’t part of their normal responsibilities, or is incentivized to simply pass leads along, you’ll never achieve efficiencies of scale and the teams can’t be maximized. There are two must-have components to building alignment between marketing, inside sales, and sales.
- Mutual agreement on terminology is a building block. Most people assume that their teams are operating from the same playbook. And most people are shocked to find out that is absolutely not true. Make sure that definitions have been jointly agreed upon and documented between all teams that everyone is educated on those definitions. What is a marketing qualified lead called and what does it signify? How is a sales-ready lead defined? What counts as a disqualified lead? If none of these questions have been answered, then your teams are very misaligned and you’re probably experiencing poor conversion rates.
- Roles and responsibilities go hand-in-hand with definitions. Clear guidelines around ownership at each stage and what actions are to be taken within each of those stages, in what timeframe, ensure accountability and transparency for the whole team. You need to know things like: at what point in the lead qualification process does inside sales reach out? Who creates an opportunity, sales or inside sales? Who is responsible for determining if a lead has gone cold?
We recommend that a marketing qualified lead be owned by inside sales. Every company will have different actions that indicate a lead is both inside-sales ready and sales-ready, but misalignment between teams is insidious. It will destroy conversion rates, skew reporting, and breed resentment. For more helpful information about this topic, read “How to Align Sales and Marketing Teams.”
2. Train Your Team to Have Meaningful Conversations with Prospects
When inside sales relies on a call script and ignores a prospect’s previous behavior, they are very unlikely to convert that prospect into an opportunity. Why? Because that prospect has been receiving personalized information from marketing throughout their journey. They’ve already volunteered information about themselves and it has been completely disregarded by the person on the other end of the phone. Instead, they’re having a cold, generic conversation.
This setup does nothing to maximize the impact of inside sales. It does the opposite.
Inside salespeople are the first point of human contact for almost every prospect in your funnel. They must be able to take a prospect’s behavioral patterns and turn them into real, actionable conversations. They need to understand what the important insights are so that they can quickly sort and choose which interactions to leverage in their conversations. Doing so will lead to more productive conversations which will, in turn, provide higher quality leads to sales.
This will require training, and we recommend reading “Translating Online Behavior into Personalized Conversations” to learn how to do this.
3. Set Appropriate KPIs and Compensate Accordingly
Maximizing the impact of inside sales means that you have to align their success measures to financial outcomes.
KPIs and compensation should be aligned and commensurate with the level of direct control inside sales has on the outcomes being measured. For example, if you’re measuring conversion to opportunity rate as a KPI (and you should be) then inside sales should be compensated on conversion to opportunity rate. Similarly, if you’re measuring SLA response times, inside sales should be compensated accordingly.
The goal is for KPIs and compensation models to consider the desired output in a trackable manner. This makes it possible not only for teams to achieve their goals, but for leadership to track progress against outcomes. While every company will be different, we generally recommend measuring these six KPIs.
4. Build Buy-In
Your inside sales teams are equal stakeholders in the success of your sales and marketing teams, and they should be regarded as such. Instead of treating these teams as salespeople-in-training, understand and respect the role inside sales plays in your overall strategy, and then work to create buy-in. A team that cares about the success of the company is much more likely to perform well. There are three steps to help these teams get on board.
When you explain the ‘why’ and not just the ‘how’ and ‘what’ you need teams to do, you find that learners are much more agreeable as they see themselves as a part of the change instead of someone that change is being enacted upon. If they understand that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are there not to ‘ding’ them for non-compliance but to provide a better customer experience, it makes a difference. Similarly, if they know why there might be a few extra steps to take in the CRM when logging an activity, then the team understands how those steps connect the data to make reporting on ROI possible, and thus support further investments.
Leverage ‘what’s in it for me’ to connect new processes to their benefit. For example, with the additional information available from marketing insights about topics of interest or challenges shared via marketing interactions, inside sales can have tailored, natural conversations with prospects that will lead to better outcomes for them as well as the company.
Listening is critical. Rather than preparing for an answer, spend more time hearing what might be behind some of the objections. Inside sales can be the best source of information about issues on the ground. When they share the pains they’re having with processes or recurring prospect questions that marketing might not be answering, listen. In addition to informing your efforts, you build allies and make the inside sales team a more strategic partner.
We cover change management more in depth in the article, “How to Successfully Manage Change in Your Organization.”
Expanding your inside sales team is a great move right now. But it will only be effective if you’re able to align, train, and track teams that have buy-in. Once you maximize the impact of inside sales teams you’ll realize an improvement in lead quality, opportunity conversion rates, and pipeline lift. To learn more we recommend reading: