Transitioning from Outside Sales to Inside Sales

We’ve had something of a mini-series on outside sales lately – from talking about the transformation of field sales to offering productivity tips for on the road. Today we’ll be talking about how to transition from outside sales to inside sales. We raise this topic because we have seen this as a trending topic with many of our clients and there are a lot of reasons this might be happening – maybe an organization wants to reduce its cost of new customer acquisition and doesn’t feel a face to face interaction is needed to convert opportunities. Or perhaps there is a desire to increase the number of new customers and an inside sales approach allows for a more effective and less time-consuming way to operate. No matter why, the change represents a major shift, and here’s some ways to make the transition a little easier.

  1. Adapt to a potentially shorter sales cycle
    According to Velocify, 70% of inside sales teams had a sales cycle of two months or less, with almost 50% reporting a cycle under 30 days. In contrast, Velocify found the most frequent cycle length in field sales was nine months. That means a much faster turnaround, and more frequent wins, which is always great for the top and bottom lines.
  2. Learn your tools and how they can help you
    While you may still need to travel sometimes, it’s obviously going to be much less often. Instead, you’ll be using technologies to replace most of your face-to-face interactions. That means familiarizing yourself with how to get the most out of inside sales tools such as web-conferencing platforms, intelligent dialers, CRM databases, social selling best practices, etc. Get comfortable with programs such as Skype and Slack as well – they’re two of the primary technologies in the market today for remote communication. Learning all of these different programs will not only help you adjust to your new role quicker, it’ll make you an effective hybrid sales rep – still able to wow when you do go out into the field, but flexible enough to be a remote sales star as well.
  3. Brush up on your reading and writing skills
    Before, you relied on reading verbal communication and body language. As an inside sales or hybrid rep, that still applies to things like video meetings. But it’s very likely you’ll see an increase in written communication (email, chat, etc.), mirroring what customers frequently prefer when working with inside sales reps. What that means is you’ll need to ramp up your reading and writing abilities to add on to your pre-existing skills. There’s no faster way to sink a potential sale than to have typos or the wrong tone in an email or instant message. And having good text comprehension will allow you to do things like read between the lines to determine what a customer’s needs really are, or how they’re feeling about the buying process.
  4. Hone your listening skills
    Active listening is important in any interaction, as we’ve discussed before. But it has even greater primacy with inside sales, where your communication is almost exclusively by voice alone. Being able to read a client’s vocal cues – such as changes in tone and pauses – is a critical part of effective interaction. You’ll also want to be sure you’re eliminating any distractions that might impair your ability to listen, such as a noisy fan, your cell phone notifications or conversation going on around you. One possibility is for sales teams to invest in technology such as noise-cancelling headsets to minimize sales reps’ distractions.
  5. Know your CRM and marketing team, love your CRM and marketing team
    As an outside sales rep, you used your “hunter” mindset, winsome charm and affability to generate leads. When you’re a hybrid or inside sales rep, leads are primarily generated by marketing. That means lead generation and qualification is now a team effort rather than you riding solo. It actually can make things much easier, but you’ll need to get into the mindset of being a team player. And because it is a team effort, it’s critical that everyone gets adequate training into how to maximize CRM software and other workflow applications that have been adopted by your sales organization. With all data and information in one central place, it’s easier to track what’s working and what isn’t, and your sales leadership has an accurate picture of the sales pipeline at any given moment.Another part of this is just getting used to being in an office again and partaking in the company culture – whether it’s chatting with colleagues around the water cooler or navigating the sometimes-internecine world of office politics.
  6. Figure out how to build rapport remotely
    By 2020, 85% of customer relationships will happen without human interaction, according to Gartner estimates. That means the majority of relationship building will happen remotely. So you’ll need to not only become a better reader and writer (all those English classes *do* matter, contrary to what you may have thought in school), but have excellent phone communication skills – which may require you to invest in further development in that area. You already have a great baseline as a field sales rep – now you just need to augment it with new techniques – including paying even closer attention to things like tone of voice, word choice, etc.

The shift from outside to inside sales is a major life change – almost like taking on an entirely new job. It represents new challenges, calls for new skills and a different emphasis for old ones. But it’s also a way to make your career fresh and interesting, and approached with the right mindset and these tips, it can be ultimately rewarding in unexpected ways.