How to build a quota-crushing remote inbound sales team
The numbers are in, and it’s certainly not a surprise: Remote work in general, and remote sales specifically, is on the rise. And it’s not just because of the pandemic.
In fact, studies show that the remote workforce has grown 140% since 2005.
Of course, world conditions in 2020 led to a sudden increase in remote workers, but the trend is here to stay. According to a survey by Gartner, 82% of company leaders plan to allow their employees to work from home at least part of the time, and almost half of respondents plan on continuing full-time virtual work even after the pandemic.
The question is: what does this mean for sales teams?
While some sales managers were already developing remote teams before the pandemic, many were forced to move their teams to virtual work in 2020. No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, you’re probably wondering how to truly make a success of your remote inside sales team. How can they continue to productively handle inbound sales tasks and convert customers?
In this article, we’re going to discuss:
- What is virtual or remote inbound sales?
- How to build a remote inbound sales team
- Tips for optimizing efficiency for a virtual inbound sales team
What is virtual or remote inbound sales?
The key is to build a product that brings real value, and a website that expresses that value clearly.
Inbound sales is directly related to marketing efforts—the harder both teams work, the more deals they’ll close.
In remote B2B sales, effective inbound is done when clients and customers know how to find you and can easily get in contact with your sales team. The key: Develop an inside sales team and help them scale their efforts with the right remote sales tools and processes.
Of course, these processes will be slightly different for remote SaaS sales teams.
In SaaS, it’s possible for leads to come to your website, be convinced they need your product, and sign up directly, without ever talking to a sales rep. In this case, the job of a remote inbound sales team is to develop those relationships further, as they go down the path of converting into paying customers.
Also, the inbound team handles those new leads who aren’t quite convinced, using consultative sales techniques to help guide them towards a purchase.
So, how can you build your own remote inbound sales team, and what steps can you take to scale their efforts and close more deals?
How to build a remote inbound sales team
You need an inbound sales team that you can rely on, that can scale their efforts over time, and that know how to manage themselves in a remote setting.
1. Map out the buyer journey
Before deciding what your sales team should be doing, you need to know what your customers are doing.
So, map out the buyer journey and sales funnel. Dig deep into the data on your current customers and answer questions such as:
- How did they first hear about us?
- What problems were they looking to solve?
- How did they interact with the company before purchasing?
- How were they convinced this was the right solution for them?
- How did they decide which pricing plan they needed? Did they have to change plans later?
- Who had the most impact on their purchase decision?
When you know how your customers prefer to buy, you’ll have a clearer view of how your remote inbound sales team should be set up. Then, they can be better aligned to the journey your customers take to purchase.
It’s also a good idea to take a look at lost deals, such as customers that canceled after a short period of time, or free trial signups that never became paying customers. Find out what went wrong, and you can build an inbound team that covers those gaps and pushes more leads to close.
2. Identify the roles your inbound sales team needs
Inbound teams are made up of many different roles. But the best roles for your team will depend on the customer journey you’ve mapped out and your current sales process.
Here are some typical roles for an inbound sales team:
|Sales development representative (SDR)||Inbound sales development reps take the time to do deeper research into these new inbound leads. They’ll make the first contact with inbound leads as they come in, and go through the work of qualifying them before they’re passed to an AE.|
|Account executive (AE)||Account executives take charge of sales-qualified leads and move them forward in the sales process. They’ll handle product demos, negotiations with stakeholders, and the final proposal and contract stages.|
|Sales operations||Sales ops is responsible for tracking the data and optimizing pretty much everything. A sales ops specialist spends their time understanding key inbound metrics such as trial churn, pipeline stage conversion rates, rep productivity, and more. They work alongside managers and reps to improve the sales process and make better use of the sales tech stack.|
|Sales manager||The inbound sales manager keeps the team in order, coaches and trains reps, helps out on difficult deals, and keeps track of the numbers to make sure everyone is performing at peak level.|
You’ll need to take a look at the buyer journey and sales process to see which roles are essential for your remote inbound sales team. For example, do the majority of your inbound leads come in highly qualified by marketing? Then maybe your team needs more AEs than SDRs.
3. Work with sales reps to define key requirements
Only a pro football player can accurately tell you what it takes to reach the top.
Likewise, high-performing remote sales reps who have experience in the roles you’re hiring for are the best people to help you define what’s really required.
So, before you post your open position on a job board, talk to remote inbound sales reps who are currently reaching quota and closing deals regularly. Ask them about the skills, qualifications, training, and experience that they feel is essential to their success.
With these intimate details in the daily life of a remote rep, you’ll have a clearer picture of the person (or people) you need to hire.
4. Set a higher priority for communication skills
One key difference between in-office and remote: All communication is done digitally. Writing skills matter much more compared to in-person sales. For your remote inbound sales team, that means communication must be done more intentionally and skillfully than ever before.
To make sure you’re hiring a rep that can succeed in this setting, you’ll need to test them on their digital communication skills.
Set a standard to judge candidates on their communication skills. For example, your remote hiring process may start with an online form where candidates must describe their experience and skills, not just upload a resume. Check their responses and see how well each candidate was able to express himself in written form.
During the hiring process, pay special attention to how well the candidate responds to emails, how the conversation flows on a virtual interview, and their understanding of any written and verbal instructions you give.
If reps can’t communicate well during the hiring process, they won’t communicate well with your prospects.
5. Look for the right remote fit
Remote culture fit is a combination of skills, personality, and experience that make a person right for remote inbound sales (and remote work in general).
Flexjobs conducted a survey of remote workers in 2020, asking them specifically about their productivity while working remotely. Surprisingly, 95% said that they were either just as productive or even more productive than when they were working in the office!
That said, remote work isn’t for everyone. Here are five key identifiers to help you hire for remote fit:
- Remote experience: When building a remote sales team, you want to be absolutely sure this rep will be successful working from home. Someone who has experience working remotely knows what it takes to be productive at home, has their own workspace, and can balance family responsibilities with their workload.
- Culture fit: Each company has its own personality and vibe, even when your office is online and the watercooler has been replaced with Slack. Clearly define your company’s remote culture, express it in your job posting, and hire based on people that fit your company’s culture.
- Ownership and accountability: Good remote workers take ownership of their tasks and get stuff done. While accountability is a quality that sales managers can help promote in their team, it’s important to see some demonstration of a rep’s ability to take ownership of their work.
- The right motive: Knowing why someone wants to work remotely can help you decide if they’re a good fit. Don’t put yourself in the position of being the company that someone uses to ‘try out’ remote work. Solid motivations, such as the desire to live closer to family in a rural area, the need for a better work-life balance, or a flexible schedule to care for loved ones will ensure your remote workers stick with it and don’t burn out as easily.
- Sales experience: Training and onboarding can be more difficult in a remote setting. To make sure you can trust your new sales hires, choose a candidate with proven sales experience. When sales managers hire reps they can trust, they’ll avoid micromanaging their team.
Tips for optimizing efficiency for a virtual inbound sales team
Once you’ve built a solid remote inbound sales team, it’s time to scale their efforts.
But remember: to scale your sales efforts, you don’t always need to hire more reps. In fact, optimizing efficiency in your current inbound team can help you reach your goals without needing to hire more reps.
Here are 6 ways to optimize your remote inbound sales team to scale their efforts and close more deals in less time:
1. Set up automations in your CRM based on the buyer journey
Ideally, your CRM allows you to customize different fields, stages, and statuses to match your unique sales process.
So, automate as much as possible within your CRM software.
Start by setting up your own custom lead statuses to match the inbound sales process. These might include:
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
- Sales qualified lead (SQL)
- Trial expired
- Bad fit
- Canceled customer
Next, set up a custom sales pipeline for your remote inbound team. The stages in your inbound pipeline should align to the buyer journey you discovered above, showing what sales reps need to do at each stage to push deals forward.
Now, you can set up some really cool automations with Zapier, and link your favorite tools to your CRM to handle the more repetitive aspects of your inbound sales team. Base this on the buyer journey you’ve discovered, and your inbound pipeline will stay up-to-date with the current status of each inbound lead.
- Automate lead status updates when a new trial is started, or when one expires
- Send a message on Slack when a new lead comes in or a deal is closed
- Create a new lead in your CRM when someone schedules a meeting with your favorite scheduling tool, such as SavvyCal
- Automatically send new trial signups through an email sequence
- Automatically assign a task to a sales rep or AE in your CRM when a new inbound lead comes in
2. Build your minimum viable documentation
Too many sales orgs decide that they need to develop the ‘perfect’ documentation before they can begin using it.
Here’s a secret they haven’t realized yet: The perfect sales documentation doesn’t exist.
That’s why we recommend developing minimum viable documentation. start with the basics of your sales process, scripts, and email templates, and work to improve them over time.
The best way to do this is to gather your whole sales team for the ultimate brainstorming session and develop your v1. Take an hour with your reps, talk about what works and what doesn’t, and build the baseline for your sales documentation.
Will it be perfect? No. Will it be useful to your team? Absolutely.
When you get into this meeting, set clear goals for each piece of documentation you’re going to create.
For example, your inbound sales scripts should have the goal of building rapport with potential customers. One of the best ways to do this is by starting your conversations with genuine curiosity.
Our senior AE here at Close does this by opening new inbound conversations with a simple question: “Where are you all located?”
With genuine curiosity, he chats about the lead’s location and learns more about where they’re from. This leads to a more relaxed conversation to follow, with rapport already established.
3. Help your team create time blocks for more productive work
To help their remote inbound sales team succeed while working from home, sales managers can give their reps practical advice to schedule their time more productively.
Allowing flexibility with your remote team is a must, and guiding each rep to do their high-focus work at a time when they’re most productive will help the whole team work more efficiently.
For example, show reps how to block time in their calendar for priority action items, such as responding to emails or calling new inbound prospects. Give them clear tips on creating blocks of focus time during the day, at the moments when they feel most productive.
4. Create email sequences for common inbound situations
Another excellent way to optimize the time your remote team spends selling is to automate as much of your outreach as possible.
Using Zapier and your favorite CRM (like Close), you can set a trigger event that will automatically add a lead to a new email sequence. Here are some easy places to create email sequences and scale the outreach efforts of your team:
- New trial signup: Whenever someone signs up for a trial, you can automatically add them to a sequence that helps them get to know your product and invites them to reply, ask questions, or get in direct contact with the sales team. Check out a cool example of this from Groove:
Photo credit: Groove
- Pre-demo: When a new demo is scheduled, create a sequence that sends brief reminder emails before the appointment and includes some ideas on what will be presented in the demo (or even the full agenda).
- Demo or meeting no-show: Sales no-shows are frustrating, and dealing with follow-ups after can be a pain. To make the most of your reps’ time (and make sure their no-show follow-ups aren’t sent in a moment of anger), set up a sequence that encourages prospects to reschedule their appointment.
- Demo or meeting follow-up: Once a meeting is completed, it’s important to follow up to summarize main points and push next steps. In some cases, it’s possible to set up an automated email that gets sent out post-demo.
5. Build clear processes for the different inbound stages
Your sales process as a whole will help your team take the right actions to guide new leads to a sale.
But by building processes for the stages inside your inbound sales pipeline, you can help your team work more efficiently in each of their interactions with leads and prospects.
For example, do your SDRs have a clear structure for the first call with a new inbound lead? What’s the standard agenda for a product demo? What questions should reps ask to discover pain points during negotiations?
With Close, it’s easy to create standardized processes for these different stages using Custom Activities.
At CoPilot AI, the sales team has been using Custom Activities in Close to add structure and gather more specific notes on discovery calls.
Having this template in a Custom Activity has reduced our need to open other apps on a call, copy and paste, or even remember what questions need to be asked. This saves an incredible amount of time when gathering information.
—Mojan Butler, CoPilot AI
6. Enable your team to keep learning
Your sales team is either becoming more skillful sellers, or they’re falling behind the times—there’s no in-between.
To help optimize efficiency on your team, you need to help them continuously improve their skills and up their motivation.
Here are some ways to do it:
- Offer to pay for training and courses that will help them improve their sales skills or build their knowledge of the tools they’re using every day to close deals.
- Invest time in regular 1:1 coaching sessions with your whole team, and use sales activity data to help give direction to those sessions.
- Listen to your team’s recorded sales calls (Or, better yet, try live Call Coaching in Close).
- Regularly curate top sales resources for your reps to read and learn from (or just follow our recommendations in the weekly Close Sales Brief).
- Encourage your reps to set aside time in their workweek to devote to learning.
- Set up regular peer learning sessions where reps can listen to each other on calls, help each other through difficult deals, and share ideas on how to improve certain techniques or methods they’re using.
When you give your team the time and ability to keep improving their skills, you are empowering them to be better sellers now and in the future.
Help your remote inbound sales team succeed
Building a killer sales team in a remote setting isn’t the easiest job—but by basing your hires on the needs of your sales process and buyers, you’ll develop a team that’s built to collaborate and succeed together.
But to build a remote sales team that’s truly successful, you’ll need the right tools, processes, and mindset that adapt to dispersed teams and help you sell together collaboratively, without skipping a beat.
Download your free copy of the remote sales team playbook (includes free checklists, fast-action guides and best practices).