As someone who began in sales in the 1980s with a bag and a quota, I can entirely appreciate this migration. Steve W. Martin, who wrote about enterprise selling in Heavy Hitter Selling, partnered with Velocify to interview 1,000+ companies about their sales practices and results. One interesting finding was that remote selling has become preferable as a result of economic challenges and technological advances. The cost of an outside sales call is upwards of $500-1,000 if someone has to get on a plane, so more and more sales organizations are shifting teams from outside to in.
I’ve worked with companies that grew in scale, but their executives were the ones to go out and see clients from time to time, while building thriving, successful inside sales functions. Today, with an uneven economy and advanced technologies that enable remote selling, 46 percent of companies interviewed said they were abandoning traditional routes and making the same shift.
Mobile/home office: the new “Inside”
Some of the driving factors that came out of Martin’s study were margin focus on the business (60 percent), technology advancement (54 percent), and buyer acceptance of remote selling (47 percent).
These are not just early stage companies. Several years ago, HP here in Atlanta, over a couple of years and to a great expense, took a large scale salesforce out of a massive high rise building and outfitted everybody with very capable home office technologies: laptops, color digital printers, high speed modems and video collaboration technologies. Why the major investment? Because HP figured out it be more productive and give people a better work-life balance to work from home. But bundled in this shift is, in many ways, a migration to inside sales.
Can you see any part of this job description that couldn’t be achieved from a home/mobile office?
- Book orders from a broad base of customers/accounts via telephone.
- Access order-processing system to answer customer questions regarding delivery.
- Route customers to appropriate resource within the company to address specific requests/needs.
- Inform customers of company promotions and upgrades.
I thought not.
How technology supports the migration to Inside Sales
The tools HP equipped its remote workforce represent the basic I.T. infrastructure on which a successful Inside Sales function rests, regardless of whether it is located inside a corporate office building or operates via virtual teams.
Add to the laptop, printer, modem and video collaboration platform one more requirement: a collaboration and relationship management platform like Salesforce. Over the past ten years I’ve used Salesforce, and our team has helped dozens of clients with enterprise-scale Salesforce implementations. There are similar tools out there and you’re welcome to explore the options; I’ll refer to the one I use.
The tools developed by Salesforce to support the mobile, distributed “inside sales” function are Salesforce 1 (overall cloud platform) and Sales Cloud (sales-specific functionality).
Salesforce has been a leading innovator in the CRM automation space, as it has significantly aligned its capabilities with the trends of the sales profession. It integrates cloud technology with the way organizations are and need to be selling today, and forces us to think very differently about, talk through and bring those capabilities to life in our own organizations. Several capabilities in particular highlight Salesforce’s alignment with trends:
- Mobile: Salesforce knows that most sales professionals have smartphones. The smartphone is capable of taking a picture of a check for deposit, a purchase order, or an RFP. Salesforce 1 turns mobile devices into convenient connectivity with powerful CRM.
- Sell as a Team: subject matter expert in Chicago gets on Facetime using his mobile device with a sales rep in San Diego, and their client happens to be in Miami. Salesforce’s internal social platform – Chatter – makes it easy for teams to collaborate and align expectations.
- Manage Contacts: The single, shared view of a customer profile between sales, marketing, business development and customer service is invaluable. For example, a sales person walks in expecting a sale, but the customer has just been through a nightmare customer service issue. It would be dramatically more valuable for that sales rep to know what has transpired and be able to respond accordingly.
- Real-Time Visibility: The real-time dashboard of business performance helps a business and individuals in the field understand their contributions to overall outcomes.
Rewards of migrating toward inside sales
The benefits of an inside sales organization are that it is easier to on-board new sales people and share best practices, and it allows the sales organization to scale by increasing call activity and selling volume. In particular, inside sales is a better strategy for penetrating small to medium businesses and mid-market accounts, as there are just way too many of those to justify putting feet on the street. And undoubtedly, there is a benefit of real cost savings.
The migration of sales has taken an interesting path: the function has moved inside, but the location of “inside” has migrated from company facilities to a home/mobile office workforce. This highlights the importance of keeping all those distributed workers aligned with team and organizational goals via a mobile-ready and always-on, available-everywhere file storage/sharing capability.
Bottom line: To achieve your next transformative growth surge, bring your outside sales force in, outfit and train them for mobile work, and set them loose on opportunities with CRM/automation software for collaboration and tracking. It’s a new paradigm, ripe with potential.
- This is the year Inside Sales becomes a recognized best practice due to the convergence of economic challenges and technological advances.
- Inside Sales is no longer harnessed to corporate locations: the function can take place anywhere, thanks to mobile apps and cloud storage technology.
- Salesforce may be a worthy collaboration and relationship management platform for you to explore to enable the “inside/out” sales profession in your organization.