The necessity for outside salespeople in the age of inside sales
The digital age brought with it an industry shift to rely more heavily on inside salespeople – with great success. We recognized that outside salespeople remain crucial to business success and asked how digitization can best serve their role.
This is a question we take seriously. We provide a product and services to businesses with outside sales teams while our team of outside salespeople play a critical role, alongside an active inside sales team, to help users adopt our product and grow their sales.
If you were in business a mere two decades ago, you’d know that there were hardly any inside sales professionals around. How many salespeople were exclusively office-based, doing all their research and prospecting from their desk? It was much more effective to visit people in person, introducing yourself, establishing trust, and growing relationships over time as you continued to serve those people as your customers.
But the introduction of new technologies changed how markets can be understood and offered new ways to engage people personally. Internet search engines and data analytics tools made it possible for salespeople to ‘know’ prospects and understand their business needs before contacting them.
This meant that salespeople gained the ability to reach out to those prospects whose business needs best matched the product or service they offered. It provided businesses with a great balance between productivity (less time lost on the road and writing sales reports) and personalization (addressing people individually and speaking to unique business needs, even via video conferencing at times).
Outside sales teams remain necessary for sales success
The role of inside salespeople has become very important and is very effective to those businesses who make use of these sales teams, but certain industries and markets require outside sales teams to remain competitive and achieve sales success. It’s worth investing and enjoy the benefits of an outside sales team in situations where:
1. Your focus is on bigger businesses
Simply put, it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Outside field reps do better at securing and working with bigger businesses looking for more fitting, long-term solutions. Steve W. Martin, in unpacking the findings of a Harvard Business Review study states that “field sales are more strategic” and best for “meeting with C-level executives and developing strategic business innovation to help them grow their business.”
Inside sales teams focus primarily on the accounts that are more transactional, usually those of small to medium-sized businesses.
2. Your budget allows you to invest in bigger leads over a longer sales cycle
Outside sales teams’ lead conversion rate (40%) is more than double that of inside sales teams (18%) and this is largely because they focus on fewer, more fitting leads. Working on bigger businesses seeking to commit for the long term means a more drawn-out decision-making process. More money is required to invest in nurturing these leads, not only because it’s spent over a longer period of time but because it involves a lot of travel and attending and hosting events.
3. Your customers require in-person visits
Online engagements are effective in many ways, but certain customers can only be served and maintained through regular in-person visits. Christoff Sonnekus, sales manager at Triangle Lubricants, shares that upselling and growing their market share relies heavily on keeping their finger on the industry pulse, and visiting customers on their premises. They’ve seen an annual sales increase of 15% or more in recent years, simply due to being more present and having conversations with their customers.
4. Your digital sales platform is designed specifically for field sales activities
A key difference often noted between inside and outside sales teams are the inside sales professionals’ use of technology and their reliance on various communication tools. What often happens is that outside sales professionals make use of these and other CRM tools to help them with their efforts to stay effective in a fast-paced industry.
Do you see how this could be unhelpful and counterproductive?
Outside sales professionals require sales technology developed for the world they operate in. They need software developed for mobile devices, one-touch access to stock, pricing and other ERP information to share with customers and make decisions from, a sales tool with the ability to work offline, and something that automates reporting processes to free them from doing admin.
Most businesses opt for a hybrid solution: inside and outside sales teams support each other
We’ve adopted what has become a very popular model among those selling to both small and large companies: an outside sales team at the forefront of our business, supported by an active inside sales team, with the correct combination of technology to aid our sales activities.
The advantage of this approach is that we can engage with different types of companies based on their unique needs and business preferences. Our two sales teams are also able to assist one another and play different roles at different stages of the sales process or can refer prospects with different needs to one another when necessary.
Our inside sales team, along with our marketing, finance and other departments make use of CRM and ERP systems that best suit their needs, while our outside sales team – who rely on all these other departments – use our field sales software, which is best suited to their needs.
Inside and outside sales teams both continue to have crucial roles to play in business. The important questions to consider are whether you’re targeting the right customers with the right sales team, and whether each sales team is equipped with the sales technology most suited to their role.
About the Author, Servaas Hofmeyr
Inbound Marketer and Analyst at Skynamo