In our work helping sales organisations improve performance, we’ve witnessed an interesting development over the past decade; Field-sellers are finding it increasingly difficult to get meetings and face-to-face time with buyers. Traditional sales training vendors will point towards “lack of the right training” as the root cause, but if we listen to the buyers, a different story emerges. Sales Benchmark Index did a survey of 12,500 buyers in 19 different industries and found that “in 75% of sales situations, buyers prefer not to spend time meeting face to face, but to engage through virtual meetings instead” (link).
The problem is not that your outside sellers lack selling competencies, but that they are being set up for failure if their primary mode of engagement is through face-to-face meetings. The old sales system sets the “road-warriors” up for failure, trying to meet with buyers who prefer a different type of seller engagement for many of their buying situations.
For the Managing Director, Chief Commercial Officer, CMO or Head of Sales responsible for delivering on company growth targets, this means rethinking the old sales force structure, to meet buyer demand for engaging virtually in 75% of sales situations. It means building an inside sales force fit for the new buying environment and for future proofing the commercial organisation.
Below we will explore the 5 most common reasons why commercial leaders are increasingly looking towards Inside Sales as lever for growth and efficiency improvement:
1. Digital Lead Generation Demands Structured Lead Response Management
Understanding that B2B buyers have “gone digital”, the vast majority of B2B companies have started generating leads online (through website lead capture forms, Linkedin forms etc.). Although the leading driver of high lead conversion rate is short time between lead registration (e.g. potential buyer downloads) and company response (e.g. call), the average response time for B2B companies is 42 hours, according to one 2017 study. 58% of companies didn’t respond at all. The probability of a successful call with a potential buyer is much higher in the buying situation, compared to 2 days after when the potential buyer is doing something else and in 35-50% of the cases, the sales goes to the vendor that responds first. Maximize return on digital lead generation activities and “leave no lead behind”.
2. Digital Lead Generation Demands Structured Lead Response Management
Just because the average B2B buyer is now 70% through the buying process before reaching out to vendors, doesn’t mean they are not engaging with you. According to research by Gartner, the majority of their time is spent researching online, where they use vendor’s website as a source of information to complete buying jobs, through the entire buying process. The majority of B2B companies now have a marketing automation platform (e.g. Hubspot, Pardot, ActiveCampaign etc.), where they use buyer behaviour tracking to understand (a) when leads are “warm” (i.e. in buying mode), (b) what they are interested in and (c) where they are in their buying process. Using inside sellers to proactively reach out to potential buyers when they are engaging with you digitally through your website, helps you “get control” of the buyers buying process and increase probability of getting the deal. Capture more leads that are demonstrating interest and convert more of them to sales opportunities and deals
3. New digital channels of information open up for new and better ways of prospecting
Successful inside sellers are always looking for “good reasons for reaching out”, instead of just cold calling on a list from top to bottom. Potential buyers using ROI calculators on the website or engaging with Social Media content are good reasons for reaching out. An inside sales function at one of our clients, were monitoring a list of identified prospects on linkedin to engage with them when they were changing job, using this occasion as a “good time and reason for reaching out”. From their unique information vantage point and ability to engage instantly, inside sellers are an extremely efficient engine for insight-based prospecting, generating new leads for the company. Start more conversations with potential buyers at the right time.
4. A growing need to “scale-good-sales”
B2B selling is increasing in complexity (more buyer stakeholders involved, more consensus driver, longer sales cycles) and in high complexity sales environments the difference in effectiveness between core performers and high performers in sales organisations grows (The Challenger Sale). As B2B selling grows in complexity, sales organisations need to become better at leveraging their best sellers by reducing the time they spend on (a) non-critical selling tasks and (b) potential buyers that aren’t interested in buying or able to buy. Taking ownership of tasks in digital prospecting, lead management & qualification, inside sellers are able reduce time spent by your best sellers working the “bottom 90% of the buying pyramid” and leverage them to do what they do best; Help qualified buyers through a complex buying process. Leverage top performing sellers to win more deals.
5.Meet new buyer demand for seller engagement and save costs
As highlighted in an article earlier this year, many sales organisations still have a misalignment between how their sales organisations a structured (70% road warriors) and how their buyers prefer to buy (75% of buying situations, buyers prefer not to meet face-to-face). Besides violating the rule of “sell the way your customers want to buy”, this misalignment also represents a big missed cost saving potential. An inside sales call costs less than 1/6th of an outside sales call and average customer acquisition costs is 40-90% lower for inside sales teams (HBR). Companies that successfully leverage inside sellers to manage the 75% of buying situations where buyers prefer to engage virtually, are able to engage with more potential buyers at a significantly lower cost. Lower cost of sales and engage with more buyers the way they want to buy.
Start small and scale big
The transition does not need to start with a global sales transformation. The smarter move is to start in one focused area (lead response management, prospecting, qualification etc.) in one part of your business, to understand the specific business case and discover the potential impact the new setup could have if you scaled it to your global operations. And do it before your competition does.