Re-thinking Inside Sales

May 9, 2017

 

I was originally going to title this blog post Re-Engineering Inside Sales, then a flash back to the 90's, when re-engineering  became a ubiquitous term in American corporations, shook me to my senses. Much like the 90's, I do believe we are nearing a time when some truly significant advances that have been simmering, are about to come to a full boil. As such, we are at a place where we need to again re-think an area of our revenue engine that is poised to help B2B sales organizations start a steep growth curve that is long overdue. 
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First, let me provide some perspective. What I am about to say here may come as a surprise, but selling has changed over the last 20 years. While the core elements are still the same, the who's and the why's and the how's are vastly different. Of course you didn't need me to tell you that. There have been no shortage of studies, research papers and books that have all confirmed everything from the way businesses consume products to the process and number of people it now takes to make a buying decision. There was a time when a single department head could make a purchase decision, a single decision maker made the now outdated qualification framework BANT possible.  Of course now, purchase decisions are made by committee. According to market research firm CEB there are, on average, 6.8 people involved in making a B2B purchasing decision. 

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The typical buying process begins with someone doing some research, they begin a journey of discovery where they scour the internet, but not just vendor websites. They look for reviews and groups to validate the overall experience with both the solution and the supplier. The

 

customer of today, is not looking for a product, they are looking for answers. When they finally feel satisfied that they have a found something or someone that can help, the next step is to validate. That usually comes with a trial or at the very least a really good demonstration that supports their assumption. It is here that the sales process actually begins. By many estimates, the customer is more than 60 percent through the buying cycle before they want to engage a vendor. 


So as the buyer has changed so must the seller. Much is now being written about the sales force of tomorrow. There are some who believe that the salesperson as we know them today will be a thing of the past, replaced by robots. Indeed Artificial Intelligence does hold a lot of promise. There are many things that will be put in place to help guide consumers that obviously won't require human intervention. While this might sound like a prediction that salespeople will loose importance and become less valuable, I believe exactly the opposite. Notice, the sales process still has to start and at that point all of the skills and abilities that were necessary before will be needed even more in the future. I believe that what we are really automating is still above the opportunity funnel. 

 

While the landscape of sales has changed and will no doubt continue to do so, people will continue to prefer to work with and interact with people. The work for sales of the future is to become as dutiful as those we look to serve. We must offer more than features, benefits and costs. The successful salesperson of the future must offer education, insight that goes beyond what a product does and helps answer a more philosophical question, which is, how do I help the buyer achieve their goals? 

 

So, why make a point of singling out the way we think about Inside Sales? It is my belief that we have long thought of Inside Sales or Sales Development as junior roles. We hire young, give two weeks of training and throw them in to the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. As the buyer becomes more informed, sellers must do the same. We must train better, understand the buyer and when we make that initial connection, we must offer something that undeniably helps the customer understand why, not just how we will help them. 

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