If the trends are to be believed, many B2B sales units have recently transitioned from primarily utilizing a field sales model to bringing their salespeople back to the office to act as inside sales reps. According to the Harvard Business Review, a study indicated 46% of respondents were reporting this shift had taken place. For managers and reps alike, the transition from field sales to inside sales is not one that should be taken lightly, but it is possible to position your team for success and optimize your processes for this new model with some preparation.
Optimize your sales cycle and pipeline to take advantage of the inside sales model
In many ways, the inside sales model gives you more flexibility in terms of how you fill your sales pipeline. To take advantage of this fact you will have to evaluate your organization’s specific idiosyncrasies to determine the best structure for your needs. For instance, you may find your transitioning field reps are initially more comfortable as closers, where they can cultivate a more intimate relationship with clients. Meanwhile, reps with less experience can build multitasking skills and engage with many clients nearer to the top of the funnel.
Also, it’s important for managers and reps to understand the sales cycle for an average inside sales organization is quite different from a company that sells primarily via the field. Studies have shown approximately half of inside sales units surveyed had complete sales cycles of 30 days or less. On the other hand, sales cycles of up to nine months are exceedingly common when it comes to field sales.
Promote the value of inside sales throughout the organization
Field sales reps who have spent their careers getting face time with important clients may feel their abilities are marginalized in an inside sales model. From their perspective, they no longer have the same impact on the company when they’re sitting behind a desk making calls and entering data. It’s up to sales leaders and company directors to demonstrate that the skills necessary to excel at inside sales are integral to the success of the organization, and to reorganize reward programs and recognition initiatives to reflect that truth.
Begin the transition period by moving to a hybrid model
Successful leaders must be forward-thinking, and one aspect of that is perceiving in advance when significant structural changes will be necessary. If you try and switch from a field sales-dominated business model to one dependent on inside sales in a short period, you will have a very difficult road ahead.
If you and your leadership team are able to discern that an inside sales model will be advantageous in the future, ease the transitional pain by implementing a hybrid model. This approach will allow your unit to start experiencing some of the benefits of an inside sales model while reliving some of the culture shock.
Review your technological needs
As you begin to restructure your operation for inside sales, it’s likely you may have differing technological needs than you did when you were mostly managing field reps. This could include the addition of automated dialers, additional desktop licenses for CRM or other software, access to marketing automation tools, and even additional hardware. If you can give the IT management enough lead time to facilitate your needs, you can have your tools up and running when the transition begins.
Discuss revised budget allocations with company leadership
One of the byproducts of changing to an inside sales model may be a reduction in costs due to the absence of travel expenses and client meetings. At the same time, you may be anticipating additional revenue streams that will be possible through the ease of remote sales activities. Sales leaders must discuss these budget expectations with the C-suite executives and decide how these cost savings will affect the organization and the unit. For instance, will some of the cost reductions initially be offset by new hiring and training investments?
Reps must learn to deliver effective sales pitches without relying on body language
Polished field sales reps have so much experience reading the body language of clients that it often becomes second nature to them to pick up small clues and analyze behavior to direct the conversation. Humans, in general, are usually accomplished at reading certain signals sent by body language, but the most successful field sales reps hone this skill like a vital tool in their tool belt. Under most circumstances this opportunity won’t be available once reps transition to inside sales, so it’s critical to practice reading subtextual clues without visual aids.
Prioritize the success of the team
Another transition field reps often need to make when moving to inside sales is integrating themselves with the sales team as a whole. Being in the field can sometimes feel like being a one-person unit, and sales professionals who spend most of their time on the road learn to become self-reliant. The inside sales environment is quite different, however, and frequent collaboration and handing off of leads and prospects is commonplace. Rather than view this as a slight, salespeople need to regard the success of the team as a whole as a win for themselves personally.