Can Inside Sales slog less and get results?
Having worked with 1000+ inside sales people, sales hunters and outbound reps we have discovered one thing. They spend 70% of the time researching accounts, sorting data and only 30% ‘meaningfully’ engaging buyers.
Here are some comments from inside sales team members, marketing heads and senior sales leaders from companies of various shapes or sizes:
- “I spend way too much time in researching my target account, buyers, spot signals and craft messages that evoke a response. How I wish I had tool that can help me automate this so that I focus on engaging clients” – Inside Sales team member of a $100M Tech System Integration firm.
- “I pay inside sales teams and sales hunters to secure meetings and bring qualified leads. I have provided them with so many resources. Yet they fail.” – Enterprise Sales Leader of a fortune 2000 company.
- “I can only afford 3 people in inside sales. I know how to engage clients but how can I transfer my wisdom to sellers so that they can prospect like me?” – CEO of a Outsourced Product Development firm.
- “I have 25 people in my inside sales team. I spend close to $600K in marketing and in running outbound campaigns. I know I am in a red ocean business yet how can I elevate my sellers to pitch and engage clients differently?” – Marketing Head of a $100M System Integrator.
- “I bought a database from Zoominfo, invested in Gartner Sales Accelerator and have Hubspot Sales Professional. After investing $35,000, have come to realise that spending money does not equal generating qualified opportunities”. – CEO of a $3M Cloud Services firm.
What’s the common narrative in all these 5 cases?
Despite having tons of technology and tools at our disposal, selling remotely and engaging prospects meaningfully has a long way to go.
This is more pronounced in smaller firms who don’t have bigger budget to buy curated databases, build customer data platforms to spot signals, have sales enablement tools to coach sellers and equip sales productivity tools to engage prospects meaningfully.
Now with majority of sellers engaging buyers remotely, thanks to Covid, selling teams have to work doubly harder to evoke a response from prospects. People have been jaded by gazillion emails, webinar invites, ads, pokes, calls of all shapes and sizes leading to attention fatigue thereby inducing more cynicism in their actions.
At the same time, recent research from Gartner shows that 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers are expected to occur in digital channels by 2025 – signalling the need for digital solutions like automation, live chat, and conversational marketing in the long term.
In this context, let’s shine the spot light on Inside Sales and Outbound reps. Let’s explore the real reasons as to why they are not able to get meetings.
1) Not getting to speak to the right leads
Most inside sales teams struggle with this. A 2016 study of inside sales managers found nearly 44.3% of respondents cited “lead quantity & quality” as a major challenge.
To reliably bring in more and better leads, marketing and sales teams must work together to segment their market, chose target prospects, personas and nurture high-quality leads.
Narrowing down on high quality prospects in CRM database consumes a lot time. If you cannot afford a curated database such as ZoomInfo or Uplead, you have to build your prospect database ground up.
In most of the smaller firms, both marketing inside sales teams take the initiative to research accounts (in Linkedin and Google Search) and curate database.
Have you really spent enough time and attention in curating target set of leads? Have you researched your prospects well?
Questions to reflect upon:
- Would automating company and buyer research help?
- Would automating prospect curation help in building highly targeted prospect list faster?
2) Standing out in a crowded field of competitors
“Out of 100 emails I receive from Sales reps, I can easily discount 95 of them as they do not relate to me.” – Regional CEO of a $5B Tech Giant.
This comment is from a friend of mine who happens to run a $1B SAP system integration business based out of Singapore.
Many salespeople do recognise the importance of adding value to their prospects’ lives but struggle to consistently do it. There’s not always an obvious way to help buyers. And Even when reps can identify a clear opportunity to provide value, doing so takes time and energy.
First step in that process is to understand buyer context, listen carefully (using all possible channels), spot intent signals and engage prospects ‘meaningfully’.
Most inside sales teamsters and reps would rather skip helping altogether and hope their prospects buy regardless. That’s good news for intelligent and hardworking sellers who take an “Always Be Helping” approach, since it means they’ll stand out from their more selfish peers.
Good sellers use account research material to spot underlying business context intent signals about the target buyer. Unless you marry the intent signal and understand the context, it is difficult to engage buyers in meaningful conversations and make a connection.
Questions to reflect upon:
- Do you take time to understand business context of your customer?
- Do you have tools and technology to help you discover both context and intent signals?
- Are you able to interpret these signals for your industry, customer segment and solution?
3) Getting the most out of Sales tools
Almost every organization now has access to some kind of CRM, Linkedin and some email automation tools like Mailchimp. Some have additionally invested into list building tools, marketing and sales automation platforms including analytics.
Let me ask you one question.
Are your sales tools truly helping to accelerate customers through the entire customer journey, or are they just springing up all over the place, with no proper order or control, and stealing resources from customer engagement?
The reality is that some tools are flowers and some are weeds. If you’ve invested resources in sales tools that aren’t supporting your selling effort during at least one stage of the full, end-to-end customer journey, it may be time to weed out those ineffective sales tools. And if there are stages of that journey your tools aren’t properly supporting, you’ve got more seeds to plant.
To ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing efforts, you need to ensure that you’re investing in the sales tools you need to accelerate the customer journey, without wasting effort on weak sales tools that only sap your resources. To do that, you’ll first need to map those tools to the various stages of the complete customer journey.
Questions to reflect upon:
- Are your sales tools aligned to customer buying journey?
- Do they operate as one logical unit to monitor buying journey and allow you to take recourse?
- If not, you need to audit your current sales tools and map them against the total customer journey. This one decision can save tons of angst.
4) Staying motivated and focussed in a structured environment
Unlike field sales — which typically involves frequent changes of scenery, meetings outside of professional settings, and so on — the average day in an inside sales office is usually quite structured. You come into the office and answer emails, make sales calls, log data into your CRM, perform customer research, and get ready to do it again the next day.
Many sellers thrive in this type of environment, but plenty of others can find it difficult to stay motivated if things become too predictable.
Rather than viewing their schedule as a series of repetitive tasks, reps must learn to see each prospect interaction as a unique experience, and an opportunity to find out what they can do to make each individual client’s life better. When every action is performed in service of this goal, the inside sales process is far from monotonous; it’s a new, value-added experience every day.
Moreover, if companies are able to help sellers automate ‘grind’ and ‘grudge’ work, such as researching accounts, thereby releasing their time to engage prospects – it will greatly help them stay focussed to achieve results.
Questions to reflect upon:
- What’s the ratio of ‘grind or grudge’ work to high value work?
- Have you explored ways to automate ‘grind and grudge’ work? If not, why?
P.S. There are interesting times. For some TechCEOs it’s a fight for survival, for some (like zoom) it’s period of unprecedented growth and many others it’s to reset, re-think, re-imagine and push hard. We would love to talk to you, feel the pressure and work together to get over this phase.
1. Grab a free copy of useful stuff that can help you get through this phase and get ready grow again. More in our blog.
- 10 Steps TechCEOs Can Take Now to Bounce Back Click here.
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- 3 Mistakes to Avoid In Your Tech Business To Grow Revenue Click here.
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Life is short. Take action now and grow. Best Wishes.
Image courtesy (quartz online magazine)