Ok, the election is over. Like it or not. Fellow entrepreneurs… it’s time to get back to work and create those jobs we are supposed to be so good at creating. No excuses, we need results. – Ken
Inside sales has been the high-growth area of sales and lead generation since the market crash of 2008 when companies scaled back travel and high cost positions in favor of a new generation of sales people, a high velocity business model, and leveraged yet affordable technology that companies rent instead of buy.
In fact the inside sales industry has proven to be counter-recessionary, growing more when the economy struggles. Research done in conjunction with Dr. James Oldroyd and infoUSA has shown that inside sales is growing at a rate that is 15 times greater than the traditional outside sales model.
Inside sales is where the jobs are.
And where they will be for the foreseeable future.
Inside sales is far more efficient and more effective at creating revenue in small and mid-size businesses over the phone and through the internet. But now even large enterprise-class businesses have crossed the Geoffrey Moore chasm to bet on inside sales in greater numbers than ever before.
The membership of The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) boasts companies like IBM, ADP, Abbot, Cisco, Dupont, EMC, FedEx, Hershey, HON Company, Level 3, LexisNexis, McGraw-Hill, McKesson, Oracle, Pfizer, and salesforce.com, to mention a few.
Inside sales is where the growth is, and the cost isn’t.
Those who bet their jobs a few years ago on inside sales, remote sales, virtual sales, or sales in the cloud, still have their jobs. And they are hiring.
And they are getting promoted.
I started the inside sales department at Franklin Quest, before they merged with Stephen R. Covey’s Covey company and became FranklinCovey. We were the fastest growing department for four straight years at what was then the second fastest growing company in all of America.
That was 1993 through 1997.
The name ‘inside sales’ was just starting to be used instead of telesales or worst of all, telemarketing.We all thought ‘tele’ was a four letter word.
I think it still is.
Inside sales is not telemarketing.
Telemarketing is that annoying call at dinner time that makes you say “no” seven times before hanging up. The ‘Do-not-call’ legislation has curbed much of this abuse from companies still using a predictive dialer technology that is nearly forty years old. Telemarketing is single call, scripted, high pressure, lower ticket sales items, small business to consumer sales.
Inside sales is professional sales done remotely. It is multi-call, strategic, professional, higher ticket sales items, and mostly business to business (B2B) or larger business to consumer (B2C.)
The inside sales prodigies are becoming much like Tony Stark, encased in his Ironman suit, with superhuman speed, strength, and a heads-up display. Notice the young, scrappy, tech-savvy, Gen-X or Millennial sitting at the controls.
They do eight hours of work in 2 hours. then they go home at night and have a life.
Inside sales professionals are using power dialers with new predictive 2.0 technology elegantly integrated into customer relationship management solutions like salesforce.com; hosted in the cloud. They still rely on the intelligence of the salesperson, but they are fused with nanosecond reflexes of machine learning and predictive analytics that recommend who to call and when to call and continually improve with more data.
The Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation still think it is all about the relationship.
The Amazon top-selling Challenger Sale book, by the Executive Board, completely disrupted that line of thought.
Inside sales is at a stage much like in the movie Moneyball that depicted how baseball was forever changed by the A’s in 2002, when they learned to rely on statistics, not intuition.
Back then we in inside sales were fighting just to be recognized. We got the scraps off the table from an entrenched outside sales or field sales infrastructure that had ruled for fifty years or more. But they had one key flaw, they didn’t know technology and wouldn’t use it. They still won’t. We were the Gen-X and Gen-Y Millennial generation that grew up with technology.
We use it, we live in it.
The top problems of the inside sales industry today are vastly different than even recently. Nobody questions the viability anymore of the sales department that uses web conferencing tools like GoToMeeting or the cool new multi video and web conference tool iMeet. Lives in LinkedIn, and sells over the phone and through the web far better than it’s aging predecessors. In fact, recent research is showing that outside sales is spending half their day trying to catch up by using the exact same remote selling approaches we pioneered.
Bob Perkins, the Founder and CEO of The American Association of Inside Sales
Professionals or the AA-ISP says that “Inside and Outside Sales are converging into just… sales.”
So what are the top problems of the selling remotely or inside sales today?
The InsideSales.com Research Division just recently finalized nearly a year long research study that surveyed over 200,000 companies with inside sales departments. There were 608 respondents with 350 inside sales managers and 258 inside sales reps. An executive summary is available.
Respondents were asked to select the top problems they faced and could make multiple selections.
Top Problems of Inside Sales Managers
The Top Problem for Sales Managers was ‘Finding Good Leads.’
Here are the top seven problems for Sales Managers compared visually:
- Finding Good Leads = 56.9% of inside sales managers ranked this the number one problem.
- Hiring the Right People = 48.3% ranked this number two.
- Making Sure Information is Reported Correctly = 41.4% ranked this number three.
- Properly Training Reps = 36.0% chose this as number four.
- Compensating Sales Agents = 20.9% made this top problem number five.
- Employee Turnover = 14.0% made this number six.
- Using the Right Equipment = 9.4% chose this number seven.
Sales Managers mentioned 34 other problems besides these 7, with Motivating, Contacting Leads, and Better Software as the rest of the Top 10 Problems of Inside Sales Managers.
Deeper analysis shows some very different weighting of concerns of Inside Sales Managers based on the size of the company they work for:
Companies with less than 20 employees felt ‘Finding Good Leads’ was far and above the Top Problem they care about, and ‘Compensating Sales Agents’ hardly matters.
Companies with more than 5000 employees cluster leads, hiring, compensation, and accurate reporting almost equal by comparison.
Top Problems Faced by Inside Sales Representatives
The top concern voiced by inside sales reps on the front line was ‘Making Contact with Leads,’ linked with the top concern of sales managers of finding good leads for their reps.
It’s all about the leads… and contacting busy decision makers.
In fact, the top four issues that sales reps deal with are connected with contacting, accessing, defining, and inaccurate leads:
- Making Contact with Leads = 46.1%
- Accessing Decision Maker in Company = 41.5%
- Knowing who to Contact and When = 35.3%
- Inaccurate Lead Information = 20.2%
5. Lack of Product Knowledge = 13.6% of sales reps aligned on product knowledge as the fifth top problem they face.
The full report by the InsideSales.com Research Division outlines 29 additional problems mentioned as they responded about problems they face on a day in and day out basis.
Additional problems in the top 10 include ‘Specific problems contacting leads’ and ‘Lead generation’ as #6 and #7 top problems, with ‘Communication problems’ #8, ‘Pricing’ #9, and a tie for #10 with ‘Creating demand’, ‘Administrative work’, ‘Showing value’, and ‘Training.’
Notice that three more of the top 10 are still issues relating to leads. That is a total of 7 of the top 10 issues related to leads.
Besides the broad issue of leads, notice the emphasis on contacting busy decision makers. #1, #2, and #3 are all related to this concept of improving contact ratios.
A contact ratio is the amount of contacts divided by how many dial attempts. 10 contacts divided by 100 dials is a contact ratio of 10%, which is about average.
My favorite new measurement of success in inside sales and web marketing is the contacted ratio. The amount of leads contacted divided by the amount of leads.
Our research shows only 27% of web-based leads ever get contacted by a sales rep.
This stat should scare the daylights out of every CMO who is generating leads and sending them to sales reps, and every CEO who approves the budget.
It also explains a lot of the contention that seems to exist between marketing and sales. Marketing is wondering what sales does with their leads… it seems there may be reason to wonder.
We have secret shopped over 14,000 companies in the last five years by going to their web sites and submitting a fake lead, with a real phone number and email address. We track how fast sales reps respond, and how many call attempts they make before giving up. We call this a ResponseAudit.
The scary thing is that only somewhere between 64.2% and 30.7% of leads ever even have attempts made at a phone or email response.
(NOTE: a phone response is showing to be 35x more effective than an email response, especially only an auto-responder. People see through these and aren’t impressed any more. But an auto-responder is better than nothing.)
Why even have a website?