Inside Sales: What it is, Why it Matters + How to Get it Right
With inside sales, you'll spend less time with your prospects on the golf course and more time using technology for strategies like online demos, cold calling, and sales automation.
Less fun? Possibly. Effective? Definitely.
We've been doing inside sales since 2013 and saw a rapid shift to inside sales across nearly every industry due to the pandemic in 2020.
Before we dive into how to do inside sales, let’s start with an insight you might already be familiar with:
People buy from people they know and trust. And this is even more true with the rise of remote sales.
Inside sales helps achieve both by using technology to establish and strengthen relationships with prospects, leads, and customers. It’s true that sales has changed a lot with the introduction of new sales technology, but the core principles are still the same.
Wondering if this sales model is right for you? Here is what you need to know to build an effective inside sales force.
What Is Inside Sales?
Inside sales means salespeople sell products or services from their office, rather than visiting customers on-site. Common inside sales tactics include cold emailing, cold calling, performing demos, and delivering virtual sales pitches to potential clients. .
In recent years, inside sales has become one of the most popular sales models, both for selling high-ticket products and for small businesses, as buyers become more comfortable purchasing and collaborating remotely.
In many ways, the evolution of technology made this possible by arming companies with the ability to embrace inside sales and transition field sales reps to working in-house.
Simply put: Technology is everything for inside sales.
Empowering your inside sales reps with a work environment and a toolset they need to convert potential customers is crucial to building a successful inside sales team.
So before you attempt to use inside sales, ensure you understand what you’ll need to succeed. Just like you wouldn’t try to build a house without a toolkit, you shouldn’t launch a remote sales team without the tools for success.
What Does an Inside Sales Rep Do?
More and more companies are embracing the benefits of inside sales to build real connections with their customers and convert inbound prospects on a global scale.
While the exact sales process varies by the company (and industry), in general, inside sales reps will:
- Use the tools in their sales stack to gather leads
- Qualify leads using B2B databases, social media, and their connections
- Find decision-makers at that company and connect
- Use tools like templates and automation to nurture those leads
- Collaborate virtually with leads, via video conferencing, email, and other digital channels
- Close deals, often without ever meeting their prospect in person.
As remote work increases, more companies are moving to inside sales teams, rather than relying on in-person visits.
What Skills do Inside Sales Professionals Need?
An inside sales rep uses technology, including email, video conferencing, VoIP phone service, phone calls, and social media, to qualify, nurture, and convert leads into customers. This means sales reps need a good understanding of technology, learn new platforms quickly, and understand how to build relationships virtually.
Other skills crucial to inside sales success include:
- Communication skills: Inside sales reps need to be able to communicate effectively and build relationships via virtual channels such as email, video, and social media
- Organization: Inside sales account managers may be working dozens of leads simultaneously. Staying organized and using a CRM is crucial to sending the right cold email and staying on top of the follow-up.
- Product Knowledge: While both inside and outside sales reps need product knowledge, its especially important for inside salespeople to understand their product so they can succinctly address objections.
- Time-management: Most inside sales tasks happen from a computer, where it is easy to get distracted. Having good time-management skills helps reps stay focused and man
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: What’s the Difference?
Inside sales reps rely on technology and virtual meetings to build relationships. Outside sales reps, a field sales, rely on travel and in-person meetings to share demos, explore objections, and build face-to-face relationships.
Here’s a breakdown of the main differences in job descriptions for inside and outside sales reps:
The main difference between inside and outside sales is where they work. Inside sales tend to work in an office or even at home. Outside sales teams often travel to in-person meetings and work on-site at the prospect's offices.
However, there is one other main difference between the two sales models.
In inside sales, the team structure often includes multiple people taking ownership of different stages of the sales process. For example, a sales or business development rep gathers leads and qualifies leads, while an account executive converts them, then a customer success team manages the onboarding/upselling process.
To be clear, not all inside sales teams use this structure, but it differs from outbound teams, where generally, one (or possibly two) sales professionals manage the process from start to finish.
What Does an Inside Sales Model Structure Look Like?
Inside sales structure can vary by industry and target audience. For example, B2B inside sales has a longer sales cycle and spend longer on lead qualification than B2C.
In general, the sales structure for inside sales representatives follows these steps:
- Find Prospects: Sales rep uses digital sales technology to find qualified leads. This may include offering downloadable resources or using databases or social media to find prospects.
- Qualification: Leads are further qualified to ensure they match the company’s ideal customer profile based on location, company size, and industry.
- Company Research: Before outreach occurs, inside sales reps perform online research to ensure the prospect needs their solution.
- Outreach: Depending on the sales model, reps may reach out to leads directly via social media or cold emailing or calling, or create drip campaigns to nurture leads and wait to reach out.
- Sales Pitch: Once the lead is qualified and has expressed interest, the sales rep reaches out to pitch. This may include a demo or presentation, generally delivered virtually, that speaks to the customer's needs.
- Close the Deal: After objections are handled, the inside salesperson works to close the deal. This may include offering discounts, adjusting the onboarding process, or adding additional features.
The inside sales model generally focuses on lead generation and qualification, rather than diving straight into a pitch. The benefits of inside sales include a faster sales cycle and scalability. Inside sales is also more cost-effective since it uses technology, such as a CRM, to track sales tasks and automation to send notifications and qualify leads.
Calling all marketers! Looking to optimize lead conversion? Our MQL vs. SQL guide is essential.
Must-Have Tools for Inside Sales
You’ve probably noticed one thing about inside sales: it uses technology a lot. Whether it’s to send an email, host a video conference, or leverage automation to stay on top of tasks, inside sales reps need tools.
So which are the most important? Here are the must-have sales tools for an inside sales representative job:
1. Phone (or a CRM With Integrated Calling)
Inside sales might happen online, but building relationships is still important. A voice conversation is one of the most valuable interactions between a sales professional and a prospect. Two important sales calls for inside sales are the cold call to set an appointment and the follow-up call to conduct a pitch.
To make those calls more effective, inside sales reps should use a telephony tool to call, track, and record calls.
Using Close, the process of calling prospects is easier than ever. Inside sales reps can dial and make calls from our platform with the push of a button. Calls are automatically synced directly to a contact's profile, arming reps with a 360 view of the activity on the frontlines.
2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software to Pull All Your Inside Sales Info Together
The best CRM software provides an overview of all your sales activities, so you can stay on top of your pipeline. Most importantly, an excellent CRM system arms your team with the critical information and organizational tools to manage relationships more effectively—which is the core of effective inside sales.
The right CRM should integrate with your existing tools, make sales management easier, and generate reports. Ideally, there would be a little automation thrown in for good measure.
Close does all this, and a whole lot more. Check out our demo and see how Close helps inside sales teams close more deals (and spend less time sorting their inbox!)
3. Social Intelligence Software to Keep Prospects Engaged
Social intelligence software is valuable for an inside sales professional to help uncover insights from social media.
For example, social intelligence software can equip inside sales professionals with information from LinkedIn about new hires and other organizational changes.
The best inside sales professionals use this data to re-engage prospects, nurture leads, or even inform their cold emails.
4. Social Selling Tools to Connect With Prospects
Social selling is all about using tools that integrate with social media to establish, build and nurture relationships. Whether it’s a social media management tool or the messaging systems built directly into Facebook or LinkedIn—these tools help professionals embrace social selling.
For example, LinkedIn’s paid Sales Navigator is a popular social selling tool for inside sales teams in the B2B industry.
Don’t think of social selling as a hard sell that happens in your DMs on Twitter. Instead, look for ways to engage in authentic ways by:
- Endorsing a customer
- Liking and commenting on interesting posts
- Engaging in LinkedIn groups
- Sharing interesting content
- Writing thought-leadership posts
5. Email Tracking Software to Tame the Inbox Beast
Marketing teams across all industries are told to focus on acquiring emails that the sales team can then utilize for outreach and nurturing. That’s because most inside sales outreach happens through email.
Inside sales professionals identify a lead and reach out to them via email to schedule a call or product demo. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, inside sales professionals spend 28 percent of their day reading and writing emails (which is why so many sales training programs focus on this strategy!) Still, that’s a lot of time spent crafting a great message, attaching files, pressing send, and hoping there wasn’t a typo in your introduction.
For inside sales purposes, email tracking software lets inside sales professionals see when an email is opened, whether files are downloaded, and when it’s time to follow up. 🚀
6. Reporting Tools & Dashboards to Track Inside Sales Performance
To build a successful inside sales process, you need to keep a close eye on the metrics that matter and understand how to extract actionable insights from your data.
That means not just seeing if you met your sales quota, but tracking each sales representative, SQL, time to close, and churn.
Here other questions your inside sales reporting tool should answer:
- Which reps are performing best?
- How does their activity correlate to the results they achieve?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of different reps, and how can you best position them to succeed?
- Which email templates elicit the highest response rates?
- What’s the ideal follow-up sequence?
- Are you on track to hit your target this month?
Remember, just tracking all the data points in a system isn’t enough. What matters even more is the ability to generate these reports quickly-and use that data to make meaningful changes.
7. Inside Sales Productivity Apps
The final component of an inside sales professional’s sales stack is tools designed to improve productivity. Some inside sales professionals use tools like Focus to block websites like Reddit and Facebook and prevent distractions.
Other inside sales professionals use messaging platforms like Slack to automatically feed sales-related notifications into their chat rooms to stay in the loop on recent developments and day-to-day operations.
Close comes with a sales productivity feature called Inbox. It unifies all your sales communication, tasks, and reminders in one place. It's a distraction-free zone for salespeople.
Want to Succeed at Inside Sales? Keep Learning
Inside sales has been around long enough to establish a set of best practices, so to succeed, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
It's no stretch to say that inside sales is the future of sales.
Field-heavy sales organizations such as W.W. Grainger and Oracle are shifting sales responsibilities from field salespeople to inside salespeople and digital self-service channels.
To be a sales leader, you must be willing to embrace technology and invest time upfront in learning about your target customers.
As you go through this process of embracing inside sales, you’ll likely discover insights we didn’t cover in this post. Inside sales has been around for quite some time, but as technology gets smarter, so are inside sales strategies.
Want to keep learning? Start with our book, The Follow-Up Formula: