Today, more businesses are focusing their efforts on realising the potential of inside sales teams. Consider, for example, that in recent years Astra Zeneca exchanged a field sales team for a 300-person inside sales team. Similarly, IBM accelerated their high-quality inbound lead rate with renewed investment in inside sales. Moreover, some industries are reporting that 55% of their sales originate from inside teams. The trend among sales development reps is clear.
The Engine of Inside Sales
This groundswell of activity around inside sales is in response to the converging influence of competition, budgets, and schedules as well as advancements in sales and marketing automation. These efficiencies offer more cost-effective ways for business development reps to reach more customers with audio and video. Traditionally, many businesses relied on face-to-face meetings to win the sale. However, “Cost pressures resulting from the economic downturn have forced many B2B vendors to reevaluate that stance, with surprising results,” writes McKinsey. By emboldening their inside sales team, one global brand “reduced travel costs for sales specialists by 50 percent globally, saving millions of dollars a year.”
However, in the race to reach more customers, sellers cannot afford to sacrifice quality for volume. The customer must still be part of the consultative telephone selling equation in inside sales. Sellers can do this with a consultative approach.
Why the Consultative Approach to Inside Sales Matters
Competition has forced many businesses to establish nuanced differentiators. As a result, sellers need to make a greater effort to understand these details across a range of customers. One Accenture survey of more than 1,200 companies worldwide shows that sellers who “build a trusted relationship with customers can improve results.” Sellers who fell into this category saw a higher percentage of forecasted wins and quota attainment than other, more traditional, sales models. Customers need a partner, not just a seller. However, less than half of customers believe sellers adequately address their problems according to Gallup.
For sellers, this problem stems from a selling environment characterised by mismatched solutions and needs. The result is a landscape where “approximately 70 percent of firms have yet to develop strong relationships with customers,” continues Accenture. Inside sales is only effective if the seller brings value and credibility. Doing so requires a few key concepts underpinning a consultative telephone selling approach.
How To Unleash the Potential of Inside Sales Teams: Make Every Call Count
- Research Customer Needs, Offer Only Relevant Findings: By researching potential needs in advance, sellers can identify opportunities to create differentiated value. Once these differentiators are understood, sellers can map their capabilities to customer needs. Ultimately, customers are receptive because the information is relatable. However, keeping information relevant means avoiding the tendency to show the volume of one’s findings. Sellers must share only the most relevant information, otherwise they risk losing the customer. Volume doesn’t necessarily equal value.
- Legitimise Presence By Creating Context: Nothing discredits a seller faster than vague generalities. Context setting starts with a carefully crafted value statement linking the seller’s capabilities to the customer’s challenges. A strong value statement fits the inside selling model because it’s brief. Brevity matters because inside sellers use technology to reach more customers in less time. With a concise articulation of value a seller can form a connection faster over several calls.
- Balance Questioning with Insights: The core of consultative selling is the ability to understand customer needs. It’s also the skill most lacking is sales today. Effective questioning starts by providing the rationale for the inquiry. This preface encourages customers to share information. However, questioning shouldn’t be an interrogation. Sellers need to earn the right by balancing their questions with insights. By offering relevant ideas the seller establishes credibility. As the seller moves through these questions, they must acknowledge what the customer said as they lead to the next question because it’s too easy for the customer to disengage over the phone.
- Consider the Impact of Phrasing: The “framing effect” is a psychological principle asserting that the same person will make two different choices depending on how information is presented. Once a seller has properly positioned the solution with framing, they must check for feedback. Open-ended questions are an effective way to get the customer’s thoughts. Remember, the risks associated with not knowing the customer’s outlook are greater than any negativity the question may elicit. Though it may feel unnatural, checking for feedback is critical.
- Build Knowledge-Based Trust: Follow-up is the most effective way to build credibility. Delivering on a promise, no matter how small, earns the customer’s “knowledge-based” trust which develops from actions that are consistent with words. Meanwhile, internal follow-up is equally important. Sharing and recording information about the call shortly after hanging up is critical to preserving the details.
As technology, budgets, and schedules present greater influence, inside sales are a priority for most businesses. Therefore, excellence in telephone selling, the driver of inside sales, is critical to success today. However, with this approach comes the challenge of establishing value with numerous clients exhibiting different needs. The power of the consultative approach is that it helps sellers apply a consistent methodology to varied customers and ultimately drive more sales.
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