Blow the Doors Off of Inside Sales Performance in 2016

Inside sales is becoming a preferred channel for organizations to drive sales conversations and pipeline growth. It offers major efficiencies over traditional direct sales models, including the ability to specialize sales reps on certain activities and areas of the funnel, and provides major scale in increasing the volume and improving the conversion of deals.

Sales leaders are also experiencing major challenges with traditional tele-sales models. On average it is taking more than 8 contacts to get to a prospect (up from 3-4 just a few years ago). At face value this makes sense given the shift of buying behavior and consumer preference to digital and the web. However, organizations can react in surprising ways to this new buyer behavior.

One organization I spoke with recently was presented with this data by their outsourced tele-qualification vendor. The vendor suggested that this meant they needed to double the investment in tele-sales resources (i.e. it takes 8 calls instead of 4, so we need to put twice the capacity against the problem). Sounds like a great deal for the tele-qualification vendor, but not in the best interest of their client!

The real question sales leaders should be asking is “how can we better understand and anticipate the buyer journey, using channels that matter for our customers?” This has lead progressive companies to invest in technologies, data, and new channels to improve the productivity of their existing teams (as opposed to simply hiring more reps).

In recent posts, I’ve talked about the convergence of three technologies which have changed the way we sell and improve the performance of our sellers. Social selling, digital content, and predictive analytics have the power to transform both how we engage and convert prospects. With this in mind, I wanted to share some major trends we’re seeing as we talk to Inside Sales executives about where they are focusing to improve their results in 2016.

1. Sales coverage
At the core, this is trying to answer the question “what combination of traditional and digital coverage is required to engage more prospects more efficiently”? By examining the current process, digging into what is working well, and ensuring that sellers have the right technologies and data, we are seeing improvements in both prospect conversion and in the ability for sales people to cover more leads/accounts. This is leading to improvements in cost, both the number of sellers required to cover the market opportunity, and reducing costs associated with inefficient use of various data and technology spend. Some firms are able to rationalize 10% of their cost of sale and re-invest that resource into incremental growth based on their ability to improve coverage.

2. Sales capacity
Give low value time back to reps so they can re-focus on higher value activities…like selling! This means automating portions of the workflow like research, customer profiling, and account/customer prioritization. There are technologies that can help here, but also basic process and behavioral shifts that organizations can make to support their reps and give them back time. We see estimates that only 25% of seller’s time is focused on selling. Imagine if you could double that…huge potential impact.

3. Sales conversion
With the first 2 areas focusing on efficiency, this final area is really about putting more opportunities in the funnel and closing them at a higher rate. We see some real innovation here as organizations look to leverage predictive analytics, not just to prioritize who to focus on, but to predict what matters to those prospects, how they want to be engaged, and what content or offer is going to compel them to become a customer. Even small improvements here can have a really big impact. For a $50M sales organization, we are seeing 5% improvement in both opportunities into funnel and deal conversion, which can add up to 14%+ in revenue growth without adding incremental headcount.

As organizations look into 2016, they recognize the importance of evaluating how they can improve performance across their inside sales teams and are focused on three key levers in that effort – coverage, capacity, and conversion.

How are you thinking about improving your team’s performance? We would love to hear from you.