Inside Sales Representatives: Must-Have Skills

Polish up on these must-have inside sales skills

What does it take to be an inside sales representative?

Inside sales is really in.

Undeniably, businesses are making inside sales the primary component of their sales strategies.

According to Mike Moorman of ZS Associates, there are three factors driving this shift from field sales to inside sales:

  • Cost
  • Buyer’s preference for remote purchase
  • Ability to create customer intimacy without field interaction

Because of this shift, the stars of the show are now the inside sales reps. Businesses are now rapidly making the transition–and with this transition, ramping up of professionals needed to execute inside sales strategies.

Whether you’re a headhunter for a company or a professional looking into a career in inside sales, this post is for you.

Here at Tenfold, we work with a lot of contact center leaders to know more about their company and their teams so we can provide them with the best service. In this post, we will discuss the necessary skills and traits of an inside sales representative you will want to hire or will want to be.

Let’s begin.

Stellar communication skills

It’s a no-brainer that sales representatives need to be great communicators. But when you’re selling remotely, both you and the prospect don’t get the benefit of seeing facial expressions and body language. An inside salesperson needs to know how to work around this situation and still get the prospect’s trust. How do you communicate effectively in a remote setting, you ask? Good inside sales representatives know that it’s not simple, but there are techniques and skills you must use to do it.

Vocal clarity

So, does a representative’s voice affect their sales? Of course! In a remote setting, the voice is the sales rep’s number one weapon.  They don’t need the most soothing voice to be effective–what’s important is clarity. They should be able to communicate well and not let their voice get in the way of their message. Ideally, their voice and its attributes–inflection, accent and intonation–support the sales process.

Speaking the buyer’s language

According to Ron Zemke, author of Knock Your Socks Off Prospecting: How to Cold Call, Get Qualified Leads and Make More Money, in order to make sales through calls, the salesperson needs to speak the buyer’s language: feature and function.

This way of speaking that focuses on feature and function is still in line with the emphasis on value-based selling. You don’t get sales by dishing out a spiel talking about how awesome your product is–you get sales by telling buyers how your products can make them awesome. This is the language of the customer.  It doesn’t matter how good your product handbooks are written, if the benefits are not outlined in them, you still don’t bring anything worthwhile to your prospect when you just read off of it.

Organizes thoughts well

In normal settings, talking in patches and hoping to make sense in the end is passable and understandable. Besides, it’s informal and you’re not expected to be a dashing speaker each time. But when it comes to inside sales, you must be a great thought-organizer. You need to know how to organize your conversation with each prospect. Know your hooks and what should come next. Being seen as scatter brain is not good for you and your sales. Remember, when you’re selling on behalf of a company and a product, everything you say will be associated with the brand.

Good salespeople know what to say and when to say them.

Critical thinkers, readers between the lines

When you’re limited to speaking to prospects over the phone, you need to be able to pick up cues from the prospect’s voice–their intonation, breathing, inflections, among others. Do they still sound interested? Are they bored? Are they engaging you or are they just letting you finish? With experience, the ability to spot and react to these cues can be developed. In time, good salespersons will be able to anticipate good and bad reactions from a buyer, and prepare for them. They can size up a situation well and can read beyond what the prospect is saying.

Most importantly, a good inside sales representative must know buying signals. Moreover, they must know how to react when the prospect expresses interest to buy.

Asks the right questions

Questions are an excellent device in sales. Through them, you get to know your prospects more and you benefit from having an idea what their particular needs are. This way, you can tailor-fit your pitches and statements based on what they really need. But, you can’t just ask any question.

Asking the right questions is crucial. Not only the right questions but asking them at the right time.

An inside sales representative has to know that before diving deeper into the customer’s thoughts, they need to get their trust first. So, asking the right questions and knowing when is key!

Active Listening

Inside sales professionals should take genuine in their prospects and their interests. Selling over the phone can take a wrong turn if selling is all you do. As such, active listening is an integral skill inside sales professionals must pick up.

What is active listening?

It’s being fully in the moment when talking to another person–not just sitting there, half paying attention. It requires you as a listener to take cues from your prospect and feed it back to them in order to go deeper into detail about the topic they’re talking about.

Active listening is essential to gain the trust of your prospect. Active listening is a tough skill to acquire. Research shows that, on the average, humans listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. This means we naturally have more urge to talk than listen. So, active listening is a conscious effort and should be part of your self-training. Some organizations actually have workshops on active listening as well.

Learning and information absorption

  1. When companies are ramping-up sales departments, the timeline is usually very tight. In a few weeks, new hires are expected to deliver at full capacity. This is why aside from having “sales skills” from previous sales experience, information absorption must be tested during the hiring process.If you’re looking for techniques in learning quickly, Jill Konrath has six strategies:
  2. Chunking- Breaking down information into smaller pieces.
  3. Sequencing- Prioritize what needs to be understood first down to the least important one, and work in that order.
  4. Connecting- Link new skills and information to those you already have and know.
  5. Dumping- Take what’s in your head and put it into a place where you can see it. Write it down! Record it!
  6. Practicing- Use your new skills in practical situations.
  7. Prioritizing- Schedule your day according to which skills are the most important to practice and hone.

Jill’s advice is applicable to all areas of life where learning is essential. For inside sales representatives, whether it’s updating product knowledge or onboarding a new software for day-to-day operations, learning stuff fast is an invaluable skill that helps personal productivity and directly impacts a whole team’s efficiency.

Sales skills

Depending on the organization, the way sales is done can differ. Most of these skills are taught during training, but as inside salespeople are given more responsibilities compared to years ago, there are skills that are helpful to have even before jumping into the profession. At least knowing what industry-specific words can help you a lot if you’re looking into sales as a career.

  • Lead generation- Seeking “leads” or potential buyers through different means
  • Prospecting- Involves seeking leads, qualifying them–finding out how probable conversion is
  • Conversion- Closing a sale
  • Value-based selling- Telling a prospect what the product can do instead of talking about the product’s features alone

These are the basic terms used in sales. In a future post we will talk about these more and go deeper into each point.

What skills did we fail to mention? What’s the hardest to pick up? Tell us more in the comments.


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Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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