This may feel redundant or obvious to those already using or managing inside sales teams, but the shift from field sales to inside sales – especially in companies and industries that have traditionally relied heavily or exclusively on outside sales teams – has accelerated in the past year.
Inside sales is cheaper typically to execute, but many companies have assumed that field sales – and the face-time it allows in front of prospects, based on their size or the complexity of their problems – drives greater success, differentiation and deal conversion. That’s no longer true, and sales teams nationwide are proving it every day.
I believe this shift is happening for a variety of reasons, but these five seem to be the greatest accelerants.
1. Improvements in Web and video conferencing
Webinars have been around for awhile now. Presenting someone a PowerPoint deck online while describing it over the phone is old technology, and not entirely effective. But the proliferation of more interactive, multi-media conferencing tools that combine images, presentations, demos and video of participants is getting closer to recreating the “we’re here together live” experience of outside sales. It’s allowing participants to see each other, use non-verbal communication signals, and keep prospects engaged during presentations.
2. Social media and profiles
A primary value of social media and social profiles for the sales process is to better understand who the prospect is – what he or she cares about, does during and after work, etc. It’s about relationship-building, a key asset in the sales process and previously difficult to execute without being there in person. Now, you can learn far more about the prospect and use that information before, during and after interactions from afar to build rapport.
3. Work/life balance
Inside sales used to be for the junior sales reps. It was a training ground, the minor leagues if you will, for graduating to higher-paying field sales roles. But those outside sales reps are increasingly tired of being on the road and away from their families. These reps want to stay in sales, continue earning high commissions, but do so without nearly the same level of travel. They’re being employed by companies that are leveraging their sales skills, experience and expertise while still allowing them to be home for dinner.
4. The cost of long-distance telephone calls
This feels tactical, but it’s a major issue for organizations that, in the past, have been able to compare long-distance bills with T&E budgets for their field teams. Long distance via traditional phone carriers is still pricey, but the cost of doing business all day via phone and Web (especially with VOIP phones, Skype and other Web-based means of prospecting and meeting) has decreased dramatically, which if nothing else has organizations re-evaluating their sales deployments.
5. Buyer behavior & preferences
As seller, we may prefer to have the face-to-face meetings. And historically, our buyers wanted that too. But more often, buyers don’t want that level of commitment. They’re busier than ever, and are just as good having a quick call or video conference vs. an in-person meeting. It feels faster and more flexible, and the same business and outcomes result at the end.