What is Inside Sales? The Definition & Best Practices in 2020?

Inside sales is one of the most popular sales models till now.

Establishing a workable and repeatable inside sales process can be tough, especially because every sales team, salesman, business is unique.

However, there’s still a process based on stages that a customer might go through in a buying journey.

After this post, you will understand the core of inside sales with its clear definition and how to do inside sales with a comprehensive guideline. Also, you might find extremely useful tips to improve the sales performance or unleash your sales potential.

Table of Contents

What is inside sales?

Inside sales is a sales model where salespeople identify, nurture and turn leads into customers remotely. Mediums that are used in this sales model mostly are phone calls, emails, and web conferencing. Other terms for insides sales are “virtual sales” or “remote sales”.

You may hear telemarketing come up in relation to inside sales. These, however, are not the same.

Telemarketing is mostly scripted and fits into business-to-consumer (B2C) or selling small-ticket products. Each call of telemarketing is expected to be do-or-die. The salespeople will get the answer “Yes” or “No” right in the telephone conversation with prospects. If the answer is “Yes”, they close the deal. On the flip side, if they receive a “No”, they can move to the next prospect quickly.

Inside sales, on the other hand, mostly involves multiple touches, focus on high-ticket products and popular in the B2B landscape. Inside sales reps (representatives) tasks range from evaluating customer needs, forming solutions to closing sales.

insides sales
Insides salespeople are popular in B2B sector

In the old days, inside sales was relegated to getting leads for their senior outside sales in order to close sales. This is no longer the case.

In today’s world, technology transformation has influenced this sales model in multiple steps, which ranges from prospecting, qualification, nurturing, demo presenting, etc.

Technology enables inside sales reps to gather high-quality leads, have smarter conversations with prospects’ real-time contextual data, manage potential and current customer relationships effectively.

So before you attempt to use inside sales, you have to know which steps to go through. Check out the next part.

Learn more: What is B2B sales - 3 steps to a more successful B2B sales

Inside sales step-by-step guidelines

Actually, you might never know where a sales call can go, however, you still can build a framework in order to manage and forecast sales easier. More importantly, when having a framework, you will find it a lot more rational when taking action to move the deal forward.

To build a rational inside sale process, you can start by analyzing stages that a customer goes through during the buying journey.

Step 1: Sales prospecting

You might have heard this term several times before. They are often used by companies when talking about the sales team’s responsibility. However, you might get confused when comparing this term with “lead generation”. These two terms are indeed categorized differently. Here are why.

First, as mentioned above, inside sales is equivalent in the B2B world and of course vastly used in this sector instead of B2C. Thus, in this following explanation, we will focus on inside sales in the B2B context.

So, getting or generating leads is mostly the task of the marketing team. The marketing efforts that can be listed for lead generation are advertising, direct mail, publishing white papers, pay per click, etc.

To get leads, marketers focus on attracting and engaging the target audience in order to motivate them to reach out to your company.

What do leads do? They submit a contact form, subscribe to a newsletter, talk to you via box chat, etc. When someone takes these action kinds, we call him/her a lead.

To be elevated to a prospect, one lead has to be contacted by the sales reps.

On the other hand, prospecting mostly is conducted by networking, cold calling, emailing or referral generation.

inside sales
Prospecting is to find the right potential customers

As an inside salesperson, you won’t focus on marketing tactics such as advertising, inbound marketing or pay-per-click, you just FIND the right prospects in this step.

How to find the right prospects?

First, identify potential customer personas in order to understand their pain points and find the reason behind the would-be choice of your solution

Second, search for those that match your customer personas criteria, you can find them on the internet such as Linkedin, social media, networking, referral, etc.

Third, reach out to these potential customers via emails or by a cold call. This reaching out process will not be a one-time thing but a process. For example:

Step 2: Connecting and Qualifying

When you already can contact certain prospects and express the willingness to cooperate (sell to them to be exact), you need to understand further about their problem and how they can use your solution to enhance their condition.

So, bear in mind that the keyword here is “condition”. What you need to understand deeply is the condition of the potential customers.

So far, BANT is the most popular framework for qualifying prospects based on four factors. Let’s see what it has:

inside sales
BANT prospect qualification framework in inside sales
  • B: Is the prospect’s budget in line with your solution and service? You should ask the right question to get to the bottom of a prospect’s budget to make sure you two is a match
  • A: Do the prospects have the decision-making authority? You need to know who you need to persuade and talk with to close sales
  • N: What does the prospect really need? In a lot of cases, the prospect’s real pain point is a far cry from the supposed one.
  • T: What is the time frame? Even when the prospect is a great fit for your solution, you still have to care about one more thing - time. If the time is too short, it may not be possible to accommodate the request or not within the budget to do so.

Because this step puts the foundation for next steps, it’s necessary for you to discover deeper to each facet of your prospect’s business. Understanding your prospect helps you to create better personalized demo at the next step.

Step 3: Presenting demos

This step is a make or break step. After having put lots of effort into researching, following up, and building trust, to win a demo schedule, if you fail, that would be a drain on time and energy.

Thus, prepare for this chance carefully.

First, make sure that the demo is prospect-centric, which mean it can answer these two questions:

  • How does the prospect can use your solution?
  • What are the benefits of using your solution?
inside sales
Remember to customize the product demo for inside sales

To answer these two questions, you should follow these practices:

  • Gather reliable insights from prospects (do at the previous step)
  • Customize the demo
  • Prove that your solution can help your prospect’ business
  • Leave time for feedbacks

Step 4: Handling rejection

No one wants this step to happen, however, it still happens as regular as clockwork.

You cannot avoid rejections but you can handle them. By handling the rejections, you can find the solution to change the prospect’s decision or at least keep the relationship alive for the next companionship.

Because of that, you should:

  • Listen to the rejection
  • Get reviews about the demo
  • Understand why prospect decline the sales
  • Ask for a demo-adjustment

Every rejection has two sides. On the one hand, when the prospect refuses your offer at the first time, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, when you are refused, you can identify the issues in your previous steps and find ways to improve them for the next time.

Step 5: Negotiating

If the prospect is convinced that your solution is a great fit for the business, the inside sales process will come to the negotiation step. The negotiation will be around the price, features, support, etc.

Public Relations
Inside sales process requires negotiation

These are objective of this step:

  • Price agreement
  • Features and support agreement
  • Prepare important legal and corporate documents
  • Schedule product purchasing and implementing

Step 6: Closing the deal

Congratulations! This is a moment you have been waiting for so long.

Now you and your prospects can exchange contracts for signatures online or offline.

Step 7: Nurturing

After the deal is agreed on, you should keep following up your customers. With your solution in place, your prospects can evaluate its value and performance right within their organizations.

In this stage, you should follow these practices:

  • Get feedbacks and reports on issues

  • Keep in loop of new products send update about new features and pricing change

  • Ask for testimonials and referrals

These follow-up actions help you to build strong business relationships, increase customer loyalty, and head to upgrade or premium versions.

Even if you end up with a closed lost deal, nurturing still can help to revive it. By sending updates about new features and pricing change, you can maintain the relationship and leave a chance for a successful deal.

Tips/Secrets to improve inside sales performances

Find new prospects quickly

Prospecting has never been an enjoyable process. Due to Hubspot, over 40% of salespeople think that the most challenging part of the sales process is prospecting.

However, with each new product, you have to find new prospects. Here are some ways to make the process less suffering:

Join networking/business groups

There are many local and online networking/business groups for you to join in order to find prospects. Many potential customers are gathering there to share ideas, discuss product reviews, and search for solutions.

inside sales
Join groups to find prospects

These groups can be social media groups, in forums, such as Facebook groups, Linkedin groups, etc.

Develop referral sources

Current customers are those who understand your solution and how it benefits their business the most. They will also be willing to refer your solution to others having the same problem. Thus, a trong customer referral program will motivate your customers to do so.

However, old or current customers are not your only referral source. Instead of depending only on this source, you can think about other sources such as agents, joint ventures.

For example, agents can send your solution information to their clients who are potential to be your prospects, in return, they get the commission per successful deal.

Use Linkedin Sales Solutions

Linkedin, with more than 450 million registered users worldwide, by far, is full of sales opportunities.

inside sales
Linkedin Sales Navigator helps you to find prospects

Linkedin Sales Navigator is an efficient tool which provides you with the right prospects, their needs and ways to communicate with them. Many CRM tools integrate with Linkedin as it’s the most professional platform for business opportunities.

Learn more: 5 Successful LinkedIn marketing strategies

Use CRM tools wisely

When doing inside sales, you need an effective customer relationship management (CRM) tool. A CRM helps you to manage accounts, contacts, opportunities, tasks, notes, attachments, etc.

Depending on your scale and specific requirements, you can choose different CRMs. And more importantly, CRM is like other tools, the results depend on how you use it.

If you want a lightweight and cost-effective tool for a small team, then there are many choices, such as:

  • Hubspot CRM: Hubspot CRM records and logs clients details, conversations and engagement history. On its dashboard, you can manage multiple sales pipelines and monitor activities going on.
  • Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM offers a well-designed interface and helps you to manage leads, contacts, accounts, and activities.
  • Pipedrive: Pipidrive enables you to plan your sales activities and monitor deals. It displays the progress stages for each deal with the details to help you determine the next actionable items.

Learn more: What is CRM? How to choose the best CRM software?

If you need a CRM that grows and scales with your organization then you can start to think about Salesforce.

inside sales
Salesforce facilitates sales mana, marketing, customer services

Salesforce integrates with almost any other platforms in terms of sales management, marketing automation, partnership management, and customer services. It’s an all-in-one tool that allows you to manage customer accounts, track sales leads, conduct and monitor marketing campaigns, and also provide service after sales.

Consider your lead qualification frameworks

In the section above, we have mentioned the wide-used qualification framework - BANT. However, there are still different frameworks that serve specific organizations and inside sales processes. Let’s see.

MEDDIC - works best for companies with long sales cycles. It’s a good choice for companies selling high-ticket items (like machinery) or products that will require the buyer to change their current methodology(like new software).

M: Metrics. Quantified benefits that your solution works out for the prospect’s company. For example, return on investment (ROI), conversion rate, open-email rate, working hours, etc.

inside sales
MEDDIC framework helps collecting a huge information amount

E: Economic buyers. This is the same as A in BANT. Economic buyer is who has the purchasing power and whom you pitch your demo directly to.

D: Decision criteria, which include technical and business decision criteria which is B in BANT. Whether your solution fits into the prospective organization’s existing infrastructure. Whether your solution aligns with the prospect’s predetermined budget.

D: Decision process. Know exactly who is on the decision-making process to prepare the demo efficiently and predict the time frame until closing the deal.

I: Identify pain. This is the same as N in BANT. Identify the pain points that will be solved by your solution.

C: Champion. Find individuals within the prospect’s organization that you’re sured to convince them that your solution can solve their pain point.

Another full-scale and effective framework is GPCTBA/C&I. With T, B, A are the same as those in BANT, the other letters stand for:

inside sales
GPCTBA C&I framework gives you a big picture of the prospect’s organization

G: Goals. You need to understand the overall goals of the prospect’s business. It’s like you should know the whole story before going to the details. Ask your prospects questions like “ what is your ultimate goal this year?” or “what is your specific goal for this part?”

P: Plans. After knowing the goals, you can start to discover the business plan of the prospects. While studying the plan, you will know what they have done and what they haven’t, what have worked and what haven’t. Based on that, show your solution - a way more specialized solution.

C: Challenges. Identify challenges that your prospects are facing. You should be acknowledged of internal and external challenges around the implementation of the would-be solution. Once understanding what will have an impact on your implementation, you will prepare better for the demo

C: Negative consequences. Prepare backup solutions for the scenery that your solution implementation fails or the lower-than-expected results

I: Positive implications. If the results meet the expectation, will you have a chance to upgrade the product version?

GPCTBA/C&I provides you a huge amount of information with incredible insights, making it perfect for companies that sell complex and highly-differentiated products.

Deliver the perfect demo

If you haven’t collected the right and dependable information about your prospects and their organization, the high chance that you will craft a good demo.

However, having a good demo doesn’t guarantee a good demo meeting result. These steps will help you to deliver a demo smoothly and get better results in a demo presentation:

  • Organize the demo speech into important sections such as goals, implementation, benefits, challenges
inside sales
Remember to rehearsal
  • Set an agenda with specific timeframe for each section
  • Rehearsal, rehearsal, …rehearsal
  • Read you audience
  • Leave time for questions
  • Share slides and follow-up

Wrapping up

Just as there are many ways and also shortcuts to win a sales. However, those ways will not fit into all product and sector categories.

We have outlined foundational steps for you to follow to win any sales case. If you want to achieve further in your inside sales path, then practice each step diligently and use tips as well as tools that are available to you.

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