The world of sales is rapidly evolving. The road warrior is increasingly becoming less common and quickly being replaced by the savvy inside sales executive. In fact, a recent study titled "The Trend Changing the Sales Landscape" reported that 47 percent of sales leaders were making a shift from field sales to inside sales.
This change is occurring for good reason. Inside sales teams are cheaper to hire and operate, faster to ramp up, and many business buyers and consumers alike no longer want a salesperson to be present when they are making their buying decision; a remote relationship is preferred.
As someone who creates sales software for a living, I have a vested interest in continuing the hype cycle around the inside sales movement, since technology like Velocify, is critical to how an inside sales team functions. However, it has always struck me that there are a broad array of sales situations in which an inside sales team is the wrong solution.
This was the basis of a conversation I had some months ago with a sales thought leader who is one of the most profound thinkers in our field, Steve W. Martin. Steve and I partnered on a research report, interviewing and surveying more than 100 leading high technology and business services companies. The research certainly proved that many sales organizations are moving towards an inside sales model, however, it also demonstrated that an inside sales model is not right for every situation.
What sales model is right for your organization? Below, I've provided a deeper dive into the top considerations to factor in as you determine the right mix of field to inside sales reps for your organization.
1 - Inside sales teams suit certain organization lifecycles and not others: At any given time, an organization exists within one of five stages of development: Build, Compete, Maintain, Extend or Cull. As an organization moves through the different stages, the ratio of field to inside salespeople changes. In the beginning, your organization is pushing a product into the market and needs sufficient sales coverage to do so; many organizations at this stage rely more heavily on an inside sales team to scale their coverage quickly. In the later stages, your organization needs to attain widespread adoption and set the de facto standard; a field team is often required to make that happen. The challenges your sales organization faces should directly influence its structure and will determine your ratio of field to inside salespeople.
2--Inside sales cycles tend to be short: As one might expect, inside sales teams, due to the lower complexity of the sales engagement, tend to produce more immediate pipeline results than a field sales team. In fact, our research found that 70 percent of inside sales teams had a sales cycle of two months or less, with nearly half reporting a less than 30-day sales cycle. For field sales however, the most common length of sales cycle was nine months. More immediate results are obviously one of the highly seductive aspects of building an inside sales team.
3 - Inside sales can be more efficient for building your pipeline: While an inside sales team that handles the entire sales cycle might not be right for your organization, some companies are leveraging sales development reps to help build a pipeline of opportunities for their field and inside sales teams. Leveraging more inexperienced sales development reps to manage inbound leads or work through outbound prospect lists can be both cost effective and help to free up your senior sales reps to focus on later stage opportunities.
4 - Inside sales teams would be more prevalent if it were not for the biases of many sales leaders: I come across this bias quite a lot. A typical senior sales leader has an existing perception of how effective inside or outside sales models are. Sales leaders, for the most part, are partial to the sales model they have grown up with, and for most, that is field sales. As a result, they believe field sales reps have superior skills and are the most accomplished sales professionals. This will automatically influence their decision about which sales model should be implemented.
While it is clear that inside sales is a pervasive and accelerating trend, there is always going to be plenty of reason for inside and field sales teams to coexist. Are there any other factors you would consider when choosing between field and inside sales? Please share your comments below.