Inside Sales Or Outside Sales – An SME Perspective

Sales especially of the B2B kind has been undergoing a rapid transformation. Companies are investing in a model wherein high touch transitions are handled remotely. This is what we now know as inside sales and its now the sales model of choice for several b2b and even b2c companies especially when the sales is of a high ticket item. Sales of high value goods and services often requires multiple touches (due to the complicated nature of the solutions) from skilled reps. Also b2b sales are highly strategic. Due to these two reasons inside sales suits a b2b scenario well with its comparatively low cost per touch. It allows companies to effectively engage a high volume of leads and in a more efficient manner (a rep can access a CRM system while talking to prospect and pull out contextual data as an example).What is Inside Sales?Backtracking a bit, in simple terms it is sales done remotely. There are a few common functions that generally fall to an inside sales rep:
Initial prospecting or lead generation using cold calls, emails or at times using leads gathered by marketing tools like product demos and downloaded content
Inbound sales often coming in as a result of click to call buttons on web pages
Lead qualification and appointment setting which involves clearing select leads for a further touch
Maintaining CRM data feeds, since inside sales involves multiple touches it becomes imperative to clearly record the prospect response at each touch
Inside sales is a lot different telemarketing. Telemarketing is highly scripted and involves selling low ticket items with no need for multiple touches.
Inside Sales vs. outside Sales – a Business Owner’s PerspectiveFor a b2b business owner or a sales leader, especially in a small-medium enterprise scenario the decision to go with a particular sales model is a critical one. For most businesses budgets are a major constraint and so companies with limited sales budgets start with inside sales. There are a few more variables one might need to consider before making such a call though. This is highlighted by the fact that most mid to big size firms will almost always have a mixture of kind of sales reps sales with each type handling a fixed set of sales functions. Four such factors to consider before you take a decision could be:
Share of wallet of your product or service – if your product or service forms a small portion of the customer’s overall expenditure then inside sales works well. However if your product or service is a major chuck of prospect’s expenditure then outside sales might be better able to build trust and assurance
Customer perception of product value – the product value is not just dependent on the monetary value of the product. It is also dependent on the risk/cost ratio. As an example for high risk low cost products outside sales could be a better idea. Inside sales works better when the perceived value of your offerings is mid to low
Product or service complexity – complex, distributive or innovative products often require a certain reassurance during sales that’s more effectively delivered by outside sales.
Average transition sizes – inside sales works best when the average transition size isn’t too high (here outside sales can be more effective) and too low (this borders on telemarketing). However increasingly companies are trying to make inside sales work for large transaction sizes by using technology like video conferencing and online demos effectively
Target geography – if your company covers a large geography; several markets across time zones then logistically an inside sales team might be your best bet
Selecting between the two sales models is not a decision to that is to be dependent on cost only. For your sales department to succeed (and to be frank that what your company’s success depends on) an educated and calculated choice must be made about the sales model to deploy. Remember the wrong sales model with the right people and a good product/ service will still never be able to produce results in line with expectations!