What the Growth of Inside Sales Means to B-to-B Marketers
I heard an arresting comment at the LeadsCon conference in New York in August. The speaker claimed that inside sales has outstripped outside sales in B-to-B, a statistic that both surprised me and got me thinking. Turns out, the statement was based on a recent study showing that inside sales is growing 7.5 percent, compared to field sales at only 0.5 percent, and that as of 2013, 53 percent of the B-to-B sales rep population sells by phone, instead of face-to-face. It strikes me that this development bears enormous implications for B-to-B marketers.
On reflection, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, since phone-based selling is so much more efficient than hitting the road to make face-to-face sales calls. Inside sales has graduated over time from the role of inbound order-taker to a full-fledged territory rep, with a full sales quota, but one who can handle a lot more accounts.
Interestingly, inside sales reps appear to be more effective as well. The same study shows their quota achievement levels at 85 percent, compared to field sales, who only achieve their quotas 81 percent of the time.
Many large enterprises have moved to a tiered selling model, where field sales cover large accounts, inside sales manages the relationship with mid-level accounts, and the smaller, less active customers are served by distributors, catalogs, or e-commerce.
Another common model is pairing up one or more field reps with one inside rep, who handles tasks like appointment setting, and in effect extends the reach of the field reps by keeping in closer contact with their accounts and nurturing the relationship. The efficiencies of both sales coverage models are apparent.
Another driver of this trend is changes in buyer behavior, where business buyers are researching online, and demonstrating buying signals. The first human interaction with these researchers is likely to be over the phone, in a lead development role.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.