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Stick With the Sales Status Quo at Your Peril

Inside sales can play a strategic role in cultivating and nurturing customers who on their own may not represent significant revenue, but who as a group can pack quite a punch.

By Phil Krohn, vice president, Sales, West Business Services

For many businesses, it’s time to do some serious re-thinking about the field sales model they traditionally relied upon.

Most companies that cater to businesses and professional clients have the fragmented customer base that requires they adapt their sales strategies to maintain market leadership in the face of growing competition. It’s equally important for them to look to the model to generate efficiencies and savings within their sales departments in a still-restrained economy. 

If you’re not making your numbers using traditional sales models, you already know the time has come to take some action. And if you are hitting your marks, you should realize it is notthe time for complacency. The highway is littered with companies that settled for the status quo, instead of aggressively viewing their options for driving new business. And simply put, there is no way your organization effectively can be covering the millions of businesses that could benefit from your products or services using only a field-service play. 

What Inside Sales Should Be 

You may only know inside sales as a customer service and care model, or a telemarketing function. In reality, inside sales can play a strategic role in cultivating and nurturing customers who on their own may not represent significant revenue, but who as a group can pack quite a punch. Too often the cost of sales to these customers can’t support all-out field efforts, so they’re signed on and then largely tuned out. That makes them ripe pickings for your competitors as soon as the contract comes to an end.

Individuals in the inside sales function can take courting and servicing these customers to a new level. These staffers have to be skilled associates who can target and create opportunities in these markets, and then be the customers’ touch-points throughout the account lifecycle, with the goal of driving renewals. They also can be teamed with field sales personnel to develop opportunities in some larger accounts for those individuals to close on. That’s a smart step to take to retain the best talent that services your major accounts, as those field sales pros can reap bonuses without doing all the footwork. 

Leveraging the expertise of an inside sales team can make the difference between staying a sales leader and becoming an also-ran. Inside sales experts work directly with smaller customers and hand-in-hand with field personnel on bigger accounts, and they’ve had a strong hand in helping turn things around. That gives field service reps more opportunities to close sales, which cuts down on attrition. The number of smaller customers that stay with the company when their contracts are up is a lot more solid, too.

Supporting an inside sales model of this type costs more than supporting a telemarketing function, yes, but it is less expensive than hiring on another full slate of field reps. The ROI an inside sales staff represents is even more evident when you consider that they can cover by phone a larger breadth of territory much more quickly and efficiently. It’s the difference between conducting a handful of face-to-face meetings a week or reaching out to 80-plus prospects daily, qualifying them and moving them into the funnel probably three times faster than the traditional model. Inside sales reps are—or at least should be—sales success leaders in their own right if they’re to deliver the value customers expect from this major adaptation of their selling models.

Setting the Stage for Success

Companies that have tried to create internal inside sales organizations soon discover that the technology and workflows that are in place for field sales can’t just be transplanted to the new model. Smart Sell Toolkits can be customized to clients’ requirements, from utilizing customer relationship management (CRM) and digital marketing with sales analytics and predictive modeling capabilities, or any combination thereof. Tools also are available to help reps virtually illustrate what they’re selling to potential customers. For example, inside sales staffers can host a Webinar to show interventional radiologists, cardiologists, and cardiovascular surgeons how to use a vascular plug, from where to make the incision to implant it, to how to seal it. Being able to do that makes a much more lasting and effective impression on the audience.

It’s a significant investment in both dollars and time to harness expertise, deliver training, and develop tools around inside sales, and coming out of this recession many companies can’t afford to do that on their own. Those that do try also may come up against the retention issue. Often they’ll staff the function with new grads who want to learn the business. That may be effective for some organizations, but for many it just leads to a lot of turnover as these employees, and the skills they’ve developed, move on. In that respect, doing inside sales internally may compromise the whole point of adopting this model as a long-term part of a business’ strategy to remain at the forefront of its industry.

It isn’t putting too fine a point on it to say that many organizations have to adapt their sales strategies…or die. Sourcing inside sales expertise from a company that’s committed to providing it can be an important part of your adaptation.

Changing a long-existing sales structure is difficult, no doubt—but the alternative is worse.

Phil Krohn, vice president of Sales, is responsible for new business strategy and sales solutions for West Business Services, a provider of business-to-business sales and account management solutions. Prior to joining West, Krohn held leadership and strategic sales roles in the medical device, logistics, and wireless verticals industries. West Business Services is a subsidiary of West Corporation, a provider of technology-driven, voice-oriented solutions. For more information, call .888.873.6000 or visit www.westbusinessservices.com.