How is the sales force transformed in the digital age?

Let’s define Inside Sales How brands relate to their customers has evolved with the appearance of new digital channels. Thus, companies dedicated to managing customer experience have incorporated these new channels into their services. At the same time, the customer, increasingly more informed and demanding, asks for closer and more personalized attention and wants to count on a personal advisor who understands their needs and offers them customized products and services. As a result of this reality, an opportunity to create a new sales service model has emerged, focused on offering end clients a high-value proposal through highly-qualified agents who, assisted by Artificial Intelligence tools and analytic technologies, optimize decision-making and the resolution of complex problems. As a result, we provide memorable experiences to end clients. Extremely popular in the United States, this type of service is slowly making its way into Spanish companies that have a physical sales network distributed throughout the country. Thus, the Inside Sales professional has emerged from the need to replace and/or complement the traditional face-to-face sales network, commonly known as door-to-door, with a profile that offers the same services, but from their workplace or telematically. In this sense, they have the additional advantage of being supported by analytical technology and Artificial Intelligence tools to perform their function more successfully and efficiently. The SME segment is probably the one that best responds to this sales model and if we consider that, according to the United Nations, there are two hundred million businesses worldwide included in this segment, we can appreciate the high potential of the commercial activity that can be developed under the Inside Sales model. In this way, Customer Experience centers have recognized the opportunity in this type of service, as it represents an evolution of their own activity. The professionalization of the sales profile, as well as the technological tools used to make it more effective and durable, are the cornerstones of a service that changes the traditional telemarketing sales paradigm. The profile of the Inside Sales professional The Inside Sales profile does not correspond directly to the telemarketing professional profile since each of them performs different functions. In general, telemarketing is based on a single call with a previously defined script in which the professional focuses the customer’s attention on purchasing a product. On the contrary, Inside Sales identifies and captures business development opportunities with current and potential customers through remote sales tools (virtual demos, videoconferences, chat, emailing, telephone contact) and using advanced analytics. Inside Sales’ sales services offer a more complete service to the end users that in turn generates a better and more personalized Customer Experience. The Inside Sales professional stands out in four main aspects:

  • Consultant role. Thanks to their integrated view of the customer’s history with the brand they represent, the Inside Sales representative provides personalized advice understanding the real needs of the customer. The very nature of these services allows them to take more time to listen and prepare customized offers.
 
  • Specialization through Training. We go one step further. We do not limit ourselves to training the professional in the product or service that they represent, but rather they must have extensive knowledge of the sector where it fits. For example, if we are talking about the Telephony and Telecommunications sector, they will have advanced knowledge of the latest developments in technology, such as 5G, IoT, Big Data, Cybersecurity…In this sense, we see clearly how training is a fundamental pillar of these services. The norm is a minimum of 1 to 2 hours of weekly training in products, trends, the market and the competition.
 
  • Using Digital Channels to communicate with the customer. Social Networks, Instant Messaging, Chat, and Videocalls are the tools that an Inside Sales professional uses to communicate with their customers. Obviously, the telephone continues to be one of the main channels, but more and more, other channels offering other benefits are being used. Being able to use a complete mix depending on the moment and the need is a great advantage and directly impacts improvement of the Experience.
 
  • Using analytics and Artificial Intelligence capabilities. This is a determining factor as it accomplishes a dual objective: on one hand, it makes the professional’s activity more efficient, and on the other, it increases success in sales and, as such, the Customer Experience. Artificial Intelligence helps them to achieve greater efficiency, for example, automating daily processes and activities, while analytical technology provides them with the ability to understand the customer moment in more detail, with a 360° view of their history and the power to accompany them on their Customer Journey, offering them products and services that are 100% adapted to their particular needs.
 Structure of Inside Sales services There are 3 complementary profiles within the Inside Sales service structure that guarantee success by taking advantage of the strength of each of these profiles: PROSPECTOR These are the professionals who work on new portfolios. The business relationship does not yet exist, but neither can we say that they capture customers by cold call, since they work with highly qualified databases that significantly increase their conversion rates. This is made possible thanks to the role of the Qualifier, who conducts research taking advantage of analytical tools. The profile of the Prospector is characterized by their self-motivation and competitiveness. Extremely focused on the goal, they are more likely to take risks. DEVELOPER In this case, we are talking about the professionals who manage existing portfolios in order to grow them. Their strength is building loyalty, but they also have sales goals, leveraging upselling and cross-selling techniques. There is one fundamental characteristic of the Developer: they must have a total view of the customer’s history, so it is important that all customer interactions be found in a single repository. In that case, the mix between inbound and outbound is very balanced, and many steps are taken to follow-up on the sale to ensure customer satisfaction. QUALIFIER As we noted before, the 3 profiles complementary each other, although in the case of the Qualifier, this aspect takes on special relevance. Their work is the foundation upon which the success of the Acquirer and the Developer is built. Analytics technology makes the research work of the Qualifier possible, and, in addition, allows them to create predictive models of the propensity to purchase and to analyze patterns of behavior in order to improve the conversion rate. Their work as a lever to improve the Customer Experience is essential since they use the technological capabilities available to create differential value in these services. Likewise, Inside Sales models integrate other types of capabilities, such as Automation through RPA technology (Robot Process Automation), Process Consulting to optimize monitoring of the Customer Journey, and Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Technology for sentiment analysis and more humanized interactions with consumers. SOCIAL SELLING TOOLS This is much more complex than creating a company Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile or a professional Twitter account and launching your corporate messages. It is about really being in contact with your customers or prospects through social networks, learning about their interests and looking for the strategic moment to approach them, both to contact them with a more informative objective and to close a sale. One of the main advantages of social selling is its ability to generate confidence. This succeeds in humanizing the Brand and generating valuable conversation that demonstrates your position as an expert. Professional social networks offer several advanced Social Selling tools, although by themselves they are clearly a source of knowledge that allows you to establish a conversation and better understand the needs of your customer. If you implement a layer of listening technology that helps you to automate this type of task, the potential is significant and with an extremely high ROI. A well-designed Social Selling strategy allows you to meet your target easily. If you have previously developed a detailed segmentation system, the subsequent work to impact your target is simple. Likewise, it is essential to automate target audience publication notice systems to decipher their interests and know about changes in their professional situations. Listing potentials and searching for related profiles can also be done thanks to Social Selling. It is clearly a tool that requires dedication to exploit it, but it is a gold mine for the Inside Sales teams. Inside Sales versus Outside Sales Given the success that many of the companies where we have implemented this service are having, the Inside Sales model could cause a conflict with the face-to-face sales network. In such a case, the question is: Are the two models at odds with each other? Can they work together? It is a fact that the economic effort that is entailed for an organization to bear the cost of a salesperson in the field is quite different than that of an Inside Sales professional. However, a priori, the former has a higher conversion rate than the latter. The close relationship that personal contact brings is hard to deny, especially for the generations that have traditionally been assigned their own face-to-face representatives. Finding the balance of the acquisition cost is the crux of the matter. The Inside Sales model enables contact with many more leads in less time, as well as execution of multiple tasks in parallel, preventing lulls in activity. Moreover, it leaves more time to research customer needs and close sales faster. It also can cover several geographical zones that, being spread out, are difficult for a face-to-face salesperson to access and thus make profitable. On the other hand, if you have a customer with higher long-term value, you probably will need face-to-face meetings with them to ensure the sale and build future loyalty. The mixed model is probably one of the best options as it combines the benefits of both worlds, allowing you to have a more agile and flexible sales force that contacts many leads, expanding the pipeline, and that closes some of the more complex sales personally, guaranteeing the efficiency of the funnel when the lead is at a more qualified level. In conclusion, we can say that the ideal model will be the one that works the best for each company, always keeping in mind that the mixed system is more effective for products and services of higher economic value and high complexity, while there are other products that given their nature can perfectly well eliminate face-to-face sales and achieve significant returns in terms of savings and sales effectiveness.   5 big advantages of the Inside Sales model
  1. There is no doubt that the business activity that you conduct remotely generates more leads and higher return, since you do not waste valuable time traveling and waiting.
 
  1. Because of the previous point, we have found that the Inside Sales model generates more contacts in less time and is therefore less expensive. The savings in travel, fuel, meals, etc., are substantial (we estimate them to be between 50-90% comparatively speaking).
  2. ”57% of the purchasing process takes place before the potential customer speaks with a sales representative”
  • NEW CONSUMERS. Millennials, and even more so Generation Z, do not need, nor do they like, that physical contact that prior generations demand. They have grown up in a digital environment where remote interaction is a common characteristic. In addition, they are extremely self-sufficient when it comes to finding out about a product, which saves time and reduces their need for face-to-face advice. According to The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing published by the CEB Marketing Leadership Council in association with Google, 57% of the purchasing process takes place before the potential customer speaks with a sales representative. Hence, the importance of AI tools and analytics to map prospects or even the intentions of the customers in your portfolio, whatever their situation (new products contracts or abandonment risks).
 
  1. The task of customer research is part of an Inside Sales service and thanks to the different analytical tools available on the market, we can better understand your business and your needs. Moreover, it is parameterizable and even automatable, continuously feeding itself and, thus, achieving a level of complexity that constantly increases its effectiveness.
 
  1. EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE. Improving the employee experience is a fundamental lever nowadays, as it has been proven that a satisfied employee provides better customer service. Thus, one of the advantages of Inside Sales is its ability to generate a culture of teamwork aligned with an Agile work methodology. Other factors that directly impact employee satisfaction are adaptive training and working closely with one’s immediate supervisor. Both factors are easily accommodated the more the sales force is located physically together.
Applications of the Inside Sales model The sectors that have more opportunities to increase their sales ratio using an Inside Sales model are mainly those that offer products and/or services of limited complexity and investment to SMEs and the self-employed. In large companies, where purchasing decisions involve more decision-makers and service or product acquisition procedures are more protocolized, this model is more effective in the initial phase of prospecting. In the B2C world, in which the Lifetime Value or LTV (net value of the income that a customer generates for us during the time they stay with us) is normally smaller, traditional telemarketing models are giving way to much more directed sales fed by analytic technology. Likewise, the level of customization of an Inside Sales service could be achieved in B2C, taking advantage of the benefits of automation, which will help us to make the sales model profitable for the specific consumer. It is important to highlight that here we can also find potential in the acquisition of services. Taking this all into account, some of the most relevant sectors might be Technology, Telecommunications and Healthcare. Technology Sector: Inside Sales is an interesting model for this industry because it allows the offer to be customized and tailored to each business. In addition, thanks to remote communication channels, post-sales support services without travel and with maximum efficiency can be offered. Telecommunications Sector: Likewise, this is another key activity where an Inside Sales service can be implemented. The need for all companies to bet on equipping their communications structures with cutting-edge technology that helps them to update and transform their business models. In this sense, this sector has all the pros to successfully develop a sales model Like that of Inside Sales. Healthcare Sector: Medical sales representatives and the pharmaceutical industry can be other major beneficiaries of applying an Inside Sales model. In this case, maybe the best option is to implement a mixed model. Medical equipment sales are not likely to be 100% marketed under an Inside Sales model, however, developing a solid, well-trained remote sales team with the appropriate lead generation program allows the face-to-face sales team to have a more immediate response to the prospects and transfer some tasks to the Inside Sales team. In this way, the sales structure would be balanced, reducing the sales team in the field and relying on high-performance teams at Inside Sales. Other sectors: The Inside Sales model can be applied to any business whose objective is consultative, customized sales and who invests the effort in knowing the customer in order to adapt their product to the Customer Journey. In conclusion, the most important thing is that the product and/or service be flexible enough to be adaptable to the customer life moment and have a profitability strategy based on higher sales in the medium and long term, providing the best Customer Experience from the moment of prospecting.   Business Case: Customer: Large company in the telecommunications sector Objective: Grow and build loyalty in your SME segment customer portfolio through a Customer Experience differential that will maximize cross-sell opportunities and generate a long-term relationship of trust with the customer. Strategy: To offer a more complete service to the end users based on a consultative model that supports the customer in the Digital Transformation of their business. How?
  • Customizing the offer by basing it on the information obtained thanks to analytic technology.
  • Training the Inside Sales professionals intensively and repeatedly on the customer’s product portfolio, as well as on general aspects related to the telecom sector, such that they have the competence to autonomously resolve the customer’s questions.
  • Leveraging all existing channels to communicate with the customer, always using those that they prefer. Thus, we enable communication with the customer through Social Networks, Chats, Instant Messaging, Videocalls, Emails, in addition to the Telephone.
Results:
  • Significant rise in sales
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • High levels of team productivity
  • Employee satisfaction