My guest today is Bob Perkins, Founder of AA-ISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals) and Vice President of Inside Sales at Merrill Datasite. Bob shared his perspective on how inside sales strategies have grown in popularity as companies strive to improve customer service and boost sales as efficiently as possible.
Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.
“We were fighting for a place in the sales chain,” Bob says about the early days of his inside sales career, over 20 years ago. After decades of developing new techniques for prospecting and nurturing leads, Bob says that inside sales professionals have earned their “rightful place” in most companies. In fact, Bob adds, inside sales “is probably the first priority that an organization will consider when developing its deployment and sales model.”
Customer Demands Blur the Line Between Inside Sales and Field Sales
Click to start video at this point—“We see the two different groups almost coming together,” Bob says. “The line between inside sales and outside sales has become blurred.” Because customers can a lot of the information they need online or with a quick phone call, many field sales professionals have been forced to adopt inside sales techniques, such as:
- virtual presentations
- e-mail communication
- Skype chats and instant messaging
Bob says that busy customers no longer want to spend hours in a conference room, often preferring a quick WebEx conversation. “Traditional field sales are deploying many of those techniques that were thought of as exclusive to inside sales,” Bob says. However, personal contact still plays a major role in closing big deals. “It’s tough to replace the handshake and the face-to-face meeting, and that’s still a huge step in the sales process.”
Some companies now deploy what Bob calls a “hybrid model” approach to sales, offering customers quick response times from office-based personnel who can still “hop on a plane” to close a big deal. Bob cites Salesforce.com’s team as an example of a home-based team that schedules two to three major customer trips each year, ensuring a mix of rapid response and personal relationship development.
Inside Sales Trends Point to Growth, Professionalization
Click to start video at this point—“There is a shortage of qualified talent,” Bob says. “The inside sales job growth rate was 14 times greater than field sales.” Referencing a nationwide survey of over 300,000 sales leaders and front-line representatives, Bob notes that companies have set a tall order for their talent:
- Many companies have moved from using sales teams to assigning a single professional to manage the entire life cycle of a client account.
- Today’s sales professionals must excel at all aspects of the solution selling cycle, from proposing to closing.
“Ten years ago, finding talent was not an issue,” Bob says. Today, recruiters struggle to find sales representatives with the right combination of skills to meet company goals.
Field Sales Reps Move Inside for Better Quality of Life
Click to start video at this point—“Ten to fifteen years ago, inside sales was viewed as a stepping stone to the field, and it still is today, as I believe it should be,” Bob says. However, Bob adds that inside sales jobs offer compelling perks and rewards for experienced sales professionals, such as:
- reduced travel requirements,
- regular hours, and
- work from home options and telecommuting flexibility.
With pay and compensation packages rising because of the challenge of recruiting talent, more field sales reps feel comfortable trading their traditional commissions for the relative stability of inside sales positions.
Bob’s research indicates that most sales professionals cite career advancement as their biggest concerns. Challenging inside sales jobs offer experienced representatives an alternative career path to management. With professional certifications, higher pay, and clearer career paths, Bob looks forward to an exciting future for inside sales experts.
You can connect with Bob and learn more about AA-ISP by visiting their website:
The next PowerViews will be with Dan Waldschmidt of Waldschmidt Partners International. Stay Tuned.
By Dan McDade