In 2011, inside sales eclipsed outside sales by an astounding 300 percent (source: InsightSquared.com), and became the dominant means of business development. Companies had to adapt to a changing dynamic to keep up with the increasingly competitive marketplace.
Improving inside sales efficiencies allows companies to better manage, nurture, and convert leads while improving productivity and delivering actionable insights.
Today, inside sales success requires a software-based platform that:
- Simplifies how inside sales teams work and collaborate
- Makes it easier for sales managers to set goals and objectives consistent with future growth
VanillaSoft is an industry leader in lead management and phone sales. It is intuitive, simple to use, and easy to manage. At its core is a simple concept: empower management and sales to work together to improve productivity, obtain higher contact rates, and increase sales.
The Shift from Outside to Inside Sales
Companies formerly viewed business development entirely from an outside sales perspective. More customer face time equated to higher revenue, increased customer retention, and improved account penetration. The goal was to spend as much time in front of the customer as possible in order to maintain that all-important position as the incumbent supplier and keep competitors at bay. However, the landscape has changed. Companies no longer focus solely on outside sales to increase marketshare. Today’s companies increasingly rely on inside sales as their primary revenue-driven activity.
Inside sales is better aligned with today’s business reality, where customers are always mobile and distracted. Selling today requires a tech-savvy salesperson who understands the importance of remaining in contact with a constantly moving, constantly connected customer base.
In order to manage the sales team and ensure a steady flow of leads, inside sales managers need appropriate tools and strategies. The ability to identify inside sales approaches most likely to produce consistent returns is critical in moving prospects forward. Managers must manage the sales team’s activities, provide timely guidance, and ensure that the company’s value proposition is properly conveyed. This often involves listening in on live conversations and reviewing calls with salespeople to ensure quality.
It's About Quality of Conversations - Not Only Quantity
Far too many companies place the greater emphasis on the number of conversations. This is largely due to their reliance on both leading and lagging indicators. While both are useful key performance indicators for inside sales teams, relying too heavily on these numbers can be misleading and counterproductive.
Lagging indicators dictate what actions were taken by inside salespeople in order to hit their sales targets from the previous quarter or year. These define the number of actions inside salespeople need to make in order to close new business. Lagging indicators might include the number of cold calls, warm calls, repeat calls, customer discussions, quotations, and sales as a result of these actions. Each action is critical to ensuring the next one is properly completed. For example, X calls need to be made in order to reach X discussions, quotations, or sales.
Lagging indicators are used to define future leading indicators. The company then defines the number of daily, weekly,and monthly activities that must be completed in order to duplicate and or improve past results. The focus is either to maintain or grow market share. However, one critical aspect of inside sales success is missing from lagging and leading indicators: conversation quality. The quality of customer conversations is what determines success — not the number of conversations.
This means companies must eliminate manual approaches that do little to improve the quality of conversations while allowing salespeople to pick their own leads based on individual preferences. In fact, the company should determine the next-best lead based on a series of predetermined qualifiers, not the salesperson. Only then can the company be assured that leads are being managed, worked, and reworked at the appropriate time and manner.
Fortunately, real-time productivity tools exist that ensure the company’s value proposition is communicated, remove human error, and counter the natural tendencies of salespeople to cherry pick their next calls.
So what are some of the critical tools today’s inside sales teams must have in order to properly manage these leads from initial contact to final close of sale? Below are nine must- have inside sales tools for the modern inside sales team.
1. Fresh Leads
Keeping the sales funnel full isn’t merely a question of reworking the same strategies with existing customers. It’s about having a continuous flow of leads worked by multiple levels within your sales organization. However, the focus must be on working those leads using a consistent and proven process.
Control, speed, and efficiency are critical to success. Companies can’t afford to let salespeople decide which customers to call, which customers to follow up on, and which opportunities are most important to them personally. After all, individual bias as to who, when, and how to call a lead will drive the salesperson’s decisions rather than solid criteria such as customer readiness, demographics, customer behaviors, or other factors.
Relying upon a consistent number of leads isn’t just essential to increasing sales, it’s a critical part of reaching your target audience. List companies like ListGiant, ZoomInfo, and InfoUSA provide a steady stream of leads. However, any list you buy must be focused on your ideal target prospect, one with whom you can have high-quality discussions that are likely to lead to repeat sales.
2. Queue-based Contact Routing
The surest way to eliminate any preferences or biases on the part of salespeople is to rely upon queue-based contact routing. VanillaSoft’s lead management software puts an immediate end to cherry picking calls. Sales agents can no longer fall into a position of convenience where they continually call contacts that they have a rapport with and already know.
The platform revolves around a customizable workflow. VanillaSoft software focuses your inside sales team’s efforts on leads that meet your specific qualifiers. Your salespeople will automatically work on the next-best lead — the lead your company has defined as the all- important priority at a particular time.
Rather than relying on a list-based lead platform where salespeople select comfortable leads from a nondescript, random call list, VanillaSoft’s queue-based platform puts the power of choice in the hands of management.
With queue-based contact routing, the focus is on increasing productivity and improving how and when customers are called based on predetermined variables. Management sets the order and salespeople follow. Salespeople no longer spend time searching for the next call to make. They no longer show preference to one contact over another. Instead, management defines the criteria for the next-best call.
A queue-based lead management platform removes personal preference from the equation. It forces salespeople to prepare for the next call based on the company’s predetermined criteria.
3. Preview or Progressive Dialing
Deciding between preview and progressive dialing platforms comes down to your target audience, the type of sale your team is pursuing, and the length of your company’s sales cycle.
Long sales cycles that involve a series of repeat calls or steps require a preview dialing platform where notes are retained and reviewed prior to the next call. Consider this a stage-gate process where your dialing platform takes your company’s long sales cycle times into consideration by feeding your salespeople with essential data and notes from that last call. No call can be made until the inside salesperson has properly read and understood the notes from the previous call.
Progressive dialing is better suited to inside sales teams where multiple list calls need to be made and where prior notes on calls aren’t a prerequisite to moving forward. However, it’s important to note that progressive dialing doesn’t assume that the person answering the phone is an immediate qualified lead or involve making random calls to any prospect, anywhere. Qualified leads have been preselected.
4. Email and Call Integration
In today’s multichannel world, we communicate using a variety of technologies, including email. VanillaSoft combines email capabilities with voice calls, making it possible to extend the conversation electronically as well as respond to and summarize customer discussions in a timely manner.
Management can create email templates containing predefined attachments, sender CC/ BCC fields, and messages. These messages can be sent automatically based on the result of the call or in response to an incoming web or trigger lead. For example, if a call results in a request for a price sheet, an automated email could easily satisfy that request. Rather than waiting around for the salesperson to gather the requested information, compose, and send the email, the customer receives exactly what was requested automatically. Because a prewritten template was used, the message will also be professionally written as well as potentially contain a relevant call to action or links for additional information.
You can also integrate drip and mass email campaigns. Drip campaigns involve sending multiple messages over a period of time to educate prospects, build your brand, qualify leads, and follow up in a timely manner. Mass email campaigns involve selecting a target audience (such as prospects interested in particular product or service) and sending a message to the entire group.
VanillaSoft’s e-Gen email platform takes email and call integration to the next level. For example, calls can be scheduled and prioritized based on the contact opening an email.
5. Personalized Recorded Messaging
When a prospect is unavailable, calls in a call center typically go to voicemail or an answering machine. While a salesperson could leave a message and move on, leaving messages is not the best use of your resources. It’s time consuming and repetitive. It could even sap some of the drive and energy from your sales team.
VanillaSoft’s Voice Drop feature relieves salespeople from the tedious task of leaving a message. Voice Drop is a prerecorded messaging service that delivers the desired message perfectly every time. Since the message is prerecorded, you can ensure that the narrator’s voice comes through sounding fresh and clear with no coughing, throat clearing, or embarrassing memory lapses. From the prospect’s perspective, the message does not sound automated whatsoever. From your company’s perspective, Voice Drop allows your sales team to work more efficiently. Best of all, Voice Drop frees your sales agents to focus on what they do best: share information about your products and services.
6. Base Scripts
Most dialing solutions support call scripts; however, long, redundant, and time-consuming scripts don’t engage prospects nor do they touch any of their pressure points. You’ve likely been on the receiving end of numerous telemarking calls. How often have you been truly engaged? What happened when you caught the agent off guard by asking a question? Do you really want your sales team to read through a five-minute script only to find a disinterested prospect who can’t wait to get off the phone?
VanillaSoft helps you to avoid this problem while at the same time providing your sales team with helpful information to draw upon as needed. Before you develop a base script, you’ll need to:
- Define a unique value proposition
- Understand customer fears
- Develop leading questions that uncover those fears and help to explain how the company’s value proposition removes those fears
From there you can use VanillaSoft to create a base script that covers the main value proposition and allows the salesperson to branch out and cover other customer-centric topics. With this approach, salespeople are able to have a two-way conversation and can modify the call to address the customer’s unique issues and concerns without straying too far from management-approved messaging.
Scripting should be considered a starting point and used as a training tool and guide, not as a verbatim message to be read to a captive audience. With that in mind, management should train salespeople to thoroughly understand the product and service they are selling. By blending product knowledge with a base script, your team can talk about it intelligently and answer questions while still using key messaging elements provided in the base script.
7. Recording and Monitoring for Coaching
To ensure that salespeople remain true to the value proposition and key messages outlined in your base script, you will need to track and monitor calls as they take place. Recording and monitoring calls provides management with a fantastic opportunity to coach the team as well as get a more realistic view of the customer experience, verify orders, or comply with any applicable regulations.
VanillaSoft’s intelligent call recording feature connects the recording with the contact record. Managers can eavesdrop on live calls as well as access and listen to existing recordings from any computer or mobile device with Internet access. In addition, you can look up recordings by contact name, date, salesperson, or call result.
For example, if you’re coaching a salesperson with a higher than expected number of “not interested” call results, you might start by listening to calls marked as “not interested” to see what they have in common. Perhaps the agent is asking “yes/no” questions rather than probing questions. Similarly, you may want to find and listen to successful calls so that you can recognize a salesperson for a job well done. Being able to quickly find recordings based on specific criteria is essential to making your call recording efforts productive.
8. Streamlined Document Management Processes
Documents and forms play an important role in the inside sales process. Streamlining and centralizing document management eliminates the time-consuming and error-prone manual process, as well as ensures that only the most current, management-approved documents are used.
By merging all documents and forms under one central database, sales agents can quickly find the documents that they need (assuming an automatic email hasn’t already delivered it as mentioned earlier). Because documents are just a click away, agents can even send them to prospects during the call with minimal searching required. This streamlined document management process saves the sales team both time and money.
9. Data Collection
The dynamic nature of customers and markets makes it essential to continuously collect and analyze customer call data. VanillaSoft’s data collection and management insight tools help you to keep up with an ever-changing market so that you can make smarter decisions moving forward. VanillaSoft prompts salespeople to enter the right information into the call result field.
The business intelligence gathered during calls can then be studied or used to create best practices. The data collected during calls appears in real-time management dashboards where you can see calling statistics by campaign, user, result group, call result, or call results per lead source. You can also look up historical data, score leads, build custom queries, and much more.
Taking Your Inside Sales to the Next Level
Clearly, inside sales has evolved in recent years, and Excel spreadsheets and manual paper processes are no longer sufficient. Not only are they cumbersome to use, they’re never updated in real time and extremely costly to manage. They also do nothing to help your sales team communicate effectively with prospects or work productively.
VanillaSoft is the solution to drive productivity. The web-based sales platform eliminates inefficiencies and increases visibility for your sales team. VanillaSoft leverages all nine of the success factors discussed with features, such as: