The Future of Inside Sales: Managing the Ever Changing Sales Landscape

The Future of Inside Sales: Managing the Ever Changing Sales Landscape

The Future of Inside Sales: Managing the Ever Changing Sales Landscape

The writing is on the wall: Inside sales is the future – and an inevitable one at that. 

Inside sales has grown exponentially since 2020. According to SalesLoft, the market has advanced 300% faster than traditional sales – a headline trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

The reason is simple. Inside sales can transform sales process and buyer affairs through a digital-first approach, helping businesses to sell more fluently, seamlessly and more cost-effectively – generating a better ROI and ROE from their people and processes.

In fact, companies with sales teams dominated by inside sales reps have a 9.8% higher quota than their counterparts.The truth is, companies today need to keep their head above the water more than they ever have. With so many changes in such a short period of time: what’s next for the industry?
In this blog, we’ll explore five key trends for the future of inside sales, and our predictions for the progression of the sales market.

What Does the Future of Sales Look Like?

All evidence and historical information points towards a continued shift to inside sales. For the periods of 2017 to 2019 the industry saw an average of a 6% shift from field sales to inside sales, as per Gartner.

That means, as people left field sales roles, they weren’t replaced with a like-for-like candidate. Their role was repackaged entirely as an inside sales position. In 2021, that shift rampantly increased to a staggering 33%. You’ll be forgiven for believing that the Covid-19 pandemic started the downfall of field sales, and it’s true. To an extent.

Covid-19 removed the option for field selling and forced sales jobs to be remote. It was a necessity – not a choice. What wasn’t predicted about that sharp increase until more recently was the long-term longevity. Currently, 54% of employees want to remain home working, on a hybrid, flexible or agile basis.

From the CFOs’ perspective, an even higher percentage want to retain that model due to the cost efficiencies and benefits in recruitment and retention. Working inside extends reach, meaning teams can be built across the globe.

All of these factors combined, clearly show that successful inside sales will continue to outpace field sales, and be the chosen method where possible.

Buyer Habits Will Continue to Move Towards Digital

Buyers have always been moving towards a digital-first behaviour during the last decade. They’ve become self-sufficient in researching purchasing decisions.

There’s no longer an expectation for the ‘travelling salesman’, wine-and-dine experience. Modern buyers expect a seamless, digital, customer experience-first approach. One that’s entirely on their terms. This digital-first approach to selling has become almost second nature in the B2B world, just as e-commerce has boomed for B2C.

This isn’t a new phenomenon – or even entirely down to the impact of Covid. Business buyer behaviours tend to follow consumer buyer behaviour. In fact, 2016 data from SBI suggested that nearly 75% of customers preferred not to spend time meeting face-to-face with sellers. The universal truth is, customers – whether at home or at work – want to buy online, over a sales call or email.

The only difference between B2C and B2B behaviours, is the convenience. At home, buyers simply take a credit card and purchase – it isn’t that simple yet in business terms. Whether due to business purchasing procedures or procurements, the digital-first process causes a lag. B2B buyers are rarely armed with a company credit card. The majority of purchases go on an invoice, then through a statement of work or contract.

But, as the shift to home working moves, it’s only a matter of time before this changes. That whole process is the thing that takes time to catch up. Not the buyer behaviour, which is already in place. It’s their ability to seamlessly demonstrate it in the workplace that takes longer.

Not to mention, people work remotely now – that doesn’t just impact the nature of selling, but also buying. Clients, prospects, buyers aren’t all office-based anymore. You can’t just visit them at their home and expect to make a sale sitting on their couch. Just as 54% of employees want to work at home, the same can be said of buyers. They’re equally employees of a company.

AI and Automation

Contact ability through media has evolved seriously. Just as marketing bodies have powered their results through intelligent tech, inside sales has been quick to follow suit.

Insights and data intelligence is more meaningful and powerful than ever. It’s not just limited to statistics or activity metrics. With a wide range of plug-and-play CRM systems like Salesforce being used across the FT1000 and small startups alike, sales softwares are investing more time and effort into the creative side. AI has become the main driver.

Leading software brands are investing in totally new ways to quantify prospecting and engagement. Intonation AI tracking has become important for sales teams, but this intelligence is now starting to move into more visual interaction.

Looking ahead, machine learning and AI will improve the affairs between customers and inside sales teams. Whether through automation, data management or even engagement analytics. If you aren’t looking at your tech stack and considering how you can use it to create dynamic, innovative customer interactions, you’re already behind.

The Sales Cycle Will Shorten Further

According to the 2021 Buyer Experience Study, as per Hubspot, 80% of SaaS buyers report that the buying process is too cumbersome. There are too many steps. It’s too complicated. There’s too much paperwork. We’ve heard it all before.

B2B buying is only just catching up to the digital-first buyer behaviours customers are used to. That massively changes the sales cycle, increasing the ability to prospect, sell, and close at pace.

In fact, recent research by CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council shows B2B buyers complete nearly 60% of the buyer journey before even talking to a sales rep.

With rich, researching tools at their fingertips, buyers know what they want – and where to get it. This naturally shortens the sales cycle, resulting in an increase in inbound enquiries. It also makes investment into CX and lead qualification an important part of capacity planning. This value shows very little sign of change.

Marketing’s Influence Will Only Grow in Significance

In the early days of sales and marketing, each team would be held accountable to their own targets. Activity, connection and success metrics for sales teams and conversion, traffic and lead source data for marketing.

Today, with the omni-channel approach to buying/selling, marketing has a huge role in the sales cycle. Without a shared idea of what success looks like, and how it can be measured, there’s really no alignment for business goals.

Typical “marketing-specific” channels such as social media, web and content is ever-improving as a resource for lead generation. 60% of the B2B buying cycle is completed before a buyer has even engaged with a sales rep. 

Future lead generation efforts will likely be dictated by combined efforts from inside sales and marketing. It will attract and engage prospects on their terms, whether that’s phone, email, SMS, or other new social selling channels like TikTok.

Now, more than ever, sales and marketing teams need to make better joint efforts to ensure both parties are held accountable to the same end-goal. The only way to successfully achieve that is to be open and honest about goals and results from the onset.It’s a topic we’ve discussed in greater depth in our How to Improve Marketing and Sales Alignment Blog.

Personalization Will Only Grow in Importance

In inside sales, “the riches are in the niches”. Those who personalize their prospecting outreach always see a better return on effort. Why? Because when you approach prospecting too broadly and try to appeal to everyone, the opposite happens. You end up resonating with no one.

There’s a huge amount of research and money going into improving inside sales tools. From lead capturing and CRM all the way through to AI and engagement data. These tools are now far better at sourcing, quantifying and displaying human behaviour.

Human behaviour isn’t filling in surveys anymore. It’s considering the way prospects respond to specific sales channels and activities. Through tonality analysis and visual interaction. The difference today is that human data is being combined. It’s less about the group you’re selling to and more about the person. Not just personalized around their job title either. Personalized around the human being sold to.

Armed with rich data into each buyer, sales reps can shorten the time it takes to prospect well. This saves wasted energy on chasing the “wrong” leads, and maximizing genuine pipeline. Equally, as personalization becomes an expected practice from buyers, it’s natural to think that it will become second-nature for sellers. It’s worth investing in the right tools to enable personalization, before your business is left behind.

Final Thoughts

The “uncertainty” of the inside sales industry is a myth. With logical research and assessments of current market trends, business leaders and sellers alike can monitor the direction of the market and prepare accordingly. The proof is all in the data

If you’re monitoring an industry trend, create a data source for that. Your assumptions are nothing without numbers. Experimenting is also critical. Assign a portion of your headcount to messaging testing for your assumptions. There’s absolutely no value in rolling out the unverified, based on a hunch!

Not possible with your current setup? At InsideOut, we have the resources and sales strategy to begin experimentation less than 90 days after an SOW has been signed. Our work is achieved alongside your existing outbound sales organization, meaning you’ll never have to reduce existing capacity or resources, or see a reduction in MQLs, customer service & pipeline.

Christina Cherry

Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *