Inside sales: mind the information gap

How do you measure the value and effectiveness of your sales strategy and structure? For some, it’s a question of revenue. For others, conversion or cost of sales. But there’s another consideration that critically impacts on all of those – and it’s one many organisations overlook when setting up their sales model.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then business abhors stagnation – and that’s never truer than when it comes to finding an innovative B2B sales strategy that delivers growth and scale.

According to Whitehall statistics, there were 2.2 million more businesses operating in the UK in 2018 than there were in 2000 – an increase of more than 60%. That’s 2.2 million more voices hunting for a share of markets that, for the most part, haven’t grown at the same pace.

There’s a lot of noise out there. The imperative to finding a winning sales strategy that delivers results in crowded markets whilst also being cost-effective to implement and run has never been greater and explains the rapid growth in the trend for many businesses to adopt the inside sales model.

We know the inside sales model has clear advantages: it’s more cost effective than running traditional field sales teams; digital confidence among buyers and consumers has enabled easy access to product or service research, meaning trusted ‘remote’ client relationships can be built quickly; and technology innovation has created alternate ways for sales teams to communicate with buyers – e.g. Zoom, Webex etc.

In many businesses, the true barrier to a successful sales strategy is the lack of information they have around their ideal customer profile.

This information gap – the unconsidered consideration I talked about at the top of this article – isn’t an issue for organisations that have an effective inside sales structure because the strength of inside sales is in having total clarity on the ICP to begin with.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for field teams in the modern sales landscape – most successful B2B sales operations use a hybrid approach – but it does mean that field sales teams need to bring something different to the party in terms of adding value to new or existing relationships in some way.

Where many companies see the greatest value of the inside sales model is at the early and late stages of customer and prospect engagement to drive net new business, upsell, cross sell and manage smaller accounts.

This is typically at the lead generation phase where it’s about higher volume and at repeat purchase points where it’s about scalability.

This makes all sorts of logical sense – leveraging email, social media and other digital or non-touch systems to identify potential buyers, markets and segments has become as much a part of modern sales practice as the more traditional – and now largely outmoded – techniques that predated them were in the past.

Similarly, inside sales also come into their own at the back end of the buyer journey as repeat business can be stimulated easily using the same tools and approaches.

That’s all well and good, of course, and an inside sales process that reduces cost of sale, generates and nurtures leads, delivers good conversion rates and drives revenue is one that easily justifies itself through the bottom line.

But for many businesses, the hiccup in that transactional inside sales journey comes at conversion. Often the team is generating and qualifying plenty of leads but then not managing to achieve desired conversion rates to close. This is a problem that affects a great many organisations and it’s one that’s rooted in how sales teams qualify the leads they generate.

The smart sales teams are the ones that have invested time and money in understanding not just their target addressable market, but their ideal customer profile at a forensic and granular level. They know where those people ‘live’, how, what and why they buy, how they define value and a hundred and one other behavioural attributes.

Just over a decade ago it took fewer than 4 attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 – and success is predicated on due diligence in identifying your market. In other words, what you know affects what you sell. The principle really is that simple. Implementing it successfully is a different matter.

There will always be window shoppers and tyre-kickers out there, people who may express a passing interest in a product or service but who are either too early in their buyer journey or don’t fit your ideal customer profile, or whose needs are mismatched with your offering.

A successful sales structure and strategy – particularly those like inside sales that are largely remote – are the result of a commitment to gaining market intelligence that allows you to identify, closely target and then expand your audience according to a known – or at least informed – ideal customer profile.

That not only results in better leads at the start of the buyer engagement process, higher conversion and increased revenue, it also supercharges customer stickiness, increasing potential for upsell and cross-sell (repeat business) and advocacy (referred business).

And those are the sales gifts that truly (and literally) keep on giving.