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Comdata joins Salesforce in explaining how a sales model that’s been emerging for decades has now gone completely mainstream.

What if your sales operation could use as much information and data as possible about your clients and end up offering them only services and items they were likely to want? That’s what “Inside Sales” is all about at its best.

It’s worth stepping back and defining “Inside Sales” for anyone who hasn’t come across the term before. Investopedia has it as "the sale of products or services by personnel who reach customers through phone, email, or the internet”. Other ways to define Inside Sales are "remote sales" or "virtual sales". This definition was obviously created before the outbreak of Covid-19 and no longer carries the punch of being unexpected.  What matters is that Inside Sales enables people to sell wherever they are and deploys their time more productively.

HOW INSIDE SALES HAVE CHANGED DURING COVID-19 

The secret of Inside Sales is no longer to master the technology behind it. It’s to make the most of it and take advantage of the fact that there is so much more information available to you than the face of a person who would have sat in front of you in a face to face meeting.

Vincent Placer, General Manager of Comdata Digital in Paris, is a firm advocate of the vision Inside Sales offers a business. “What’s important to me is that it offers a 360 degree view of remote sales,” he says. “It’s more than telesales, which has been used for ages, where you have a list and pitch. In Inside Sales you have a customer segment you want to address and you identify who the customers are; you have a longer cycle, it can be many interactions rather than one interaction leading to one sale.”

REMOTE SALES: HOW TO TRANSITION TO IN-PERSON TO ONLINE SELLING

Hold on though. In-Person selling, one interaction leading to one sale has been succeeding for centuries. Now online selling, many interactions leading to one sale can sound a little inefficient by comparison. Placer is keen to point out that Inside Sales is well-established itself and has been around for decades. “There are many reasons it’s better to work this way,” he says. “For one thing, at the moment a prospect might not have time to see you. In the past we were happier to have interactions with salespeople but now prospects want it to be more appealing before you arrive.” This effect is amplified by the fact that so many offerings are service-oriented rather than the sale of physical objects, he adds; even a photocopier would now attract a monthly fee including support and supplies rather than working as a one-off purchase. So the sales executive arriving with an object and saying ‘this is what I’m selling and this is how much it costs’ makes less impact as service offerings, which are intangible, become more important.

As Placer says, the Inside Sales model is well established and one of the pioneers in the area was Salesforce.com, whose software suite was one of the first Software as a Service applications ever to exist. The company’s product marketing senior director Guillaume Aurine confirmed that the virus outbreak had caused companies to change a great deal. “The Covid-19 crisis is making every company, pivot to a wholly virtual selling model with an all remote sales organisation,” he says. “This environment is demanding work-from-home flexibility and estimates are that 25-30% of the workforce may be permanently shifting to a WHH several days a week model over the next couple of years.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone, partly because businesses were already moving in that direction. For years there has been an impetus to use aeroplanes less and to burn less petrol and we are now moving towards that new normal model more quickly than we were. There are a number of implications from this. “It is more important than ever for organisations to be agile,” says Aurine. “Email template not working? Toss it. Product messaging landing well? Let’s get it out to the whole team. Who should we be calling now? How do we reach out? What do we say? All of these questions rely on efficiency and process managed through technology.”

INSIDE SALES MODEL: THE NEW NORMAL APPROACH OF SELLING

In the new normal approach of selling, one essential part of an inside sales’ outsourcing organization is the quality of the partner involved. Nobody could or should suggest that, for example, a car manufacturer should suddenly be able to assimilate demographic data, identify clients who may be ready to spend money on the type of car the manufacturer wants to sell, filter out time wasters, work out which contact points (social media, email, call) will work best for a particular customer and also arrange a draft finance agreement in the background. These are deeply technical issues that also touch the business’ culture, and a partner approach works best. Finding the right specialist with the skills and experience to match whilst helping train the internal salespeople in the new way of working is mission-critical. It’s also completely essential if a business is going to be able to approach the new normal and adjust to it; if Aurine’s forecasts are correct, the old normal isn’t going to come back.

By now and moving forward, Inside Sales  could just be called “sales”. This is a good thing. As we work on the path to the new normal, it’s important to understand that the depth of information and data available on clients and prospects is huge using the Inside Sales model. This means better deployment of salespeople and therefore higher profits per person, with happier customers who get more appropriate proposals.

And that’s what selling is all about.

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