When I started my career in sales, the most common sales model was the lone direct sales person and their territory. Many long days were spent cold calling into the territory, trying to penetrate accounts.
Later, it became more common to use inside sales teams (or outsourced telesales) to do the bulk of cold calling. Once leads were developed by inside sales, they were passed to the direct sales team. There were numerous advantages to this model, including a lower cost model and a better prospecting process.
Having inside sales do the bulk of the cold calling allowed more expensive direct sales executives to spend more of their time face-to-face with customers, where their value was more fully utilized. Cold calling was carried out by lower cost inside sales reps.
Another advantage of this model was that slower moving prospects didn’t fall through the cracks when direct sales got sucked into intense sales cycles. The inside sales group typically would use a centralized Contact Management System to track all prospects and to make sure that they were contacted on a regular schedule. Without an inside sales team, even the best direct sales executives would get tied up with closing deals, to the detriment of following up with early stage prospects. The pressure of closing each quarter set their priorities.
More recently, with the emergence of inbound marketing and lead nurturing, a better model has emerged. Internet marketing can be used to front-end inside sales. Just as inside sales was a more cost effective approach to cold calling, internet marketing is more cost effective than inside sales.
Using inbound marketing (SEO, blogging, downloadable content, social media) to attract prospects to your website, and then using lead nurturing strategies to progress leads along their individual buyers’ journeys, is a terrific front-end process for inside sales.
The diagram above makes it appear as though this is a linear process, but it’s not. There’s overlap between inbound marketing and inside sales during the lead nurturing and lead qualification process. If someone downloads a few white papers and spends 30 minutes reading a dozen pages on your website, that’s very promising inbound activity. The next step should be to have inside sales call to ask the classic BANT-type questions (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe). Maybe they have the need for your solution, but the timing is further out. Let inbound marketing continue to nurture the lead. Or maybe the prospect is further along in their buying cycle and they’re ready to meet with direct sales.
Inbound marketing has benefits for the inside sales process as well. If a prospect has downloaded a white paper from your website and has visited 10 pages on your website, this gives inside sales a great way to start their conversation. They have a good idea what the prospect is interested in. In fact, inside sales can make a “warm” call rather than a cold call. After all, the digital conversation has already begun between the company and the prospect. The inside sales person just needs to join the conversation. This is a much more cost effective way to use inside sales compared with cold calling.
Just as inside sales team members cost less than direct sales team members, inbound marketing costs less than inside sales. How much less? According to HubSpot in their State of Inbound Marketing report, Inbound marketing costs 60% less than outbound marketing. With inbound marketing, you attract prospects from your entire market, across all time zones and geographies, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day.
A complex sale will never happen without the eventual face-to-face sales cycle. But that sales cycle is happening later in the buying process, due to the immense about of information available on the internet. So, what’s the best way to generate leads and to prioritize the work of nurturing and qualifying leads? The best way is to mix inbound with outbound. Outbound includes email and inside sales. I would use inbound marketing to replace cold calls, and never call a company until they raise their hand, so to speak, by downloading some content on your site.
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