Inside Sales: The Secret Weapon
Originally published: 05.01.18 by Jodie Deegan
Proper Training Can Boost the Effectiveness of this Overlooked Element of Your Business
What if I were to tell you that the key to generating calls for your company is a simple and easy process that won’t cost a lot of money?
You may have most of the key ingredients already, and with a few simple adjustments you can be up and running in no time. I’m talking about the process known as inside sales.
The inside sales position is often dismissed as something only large companies do. Don’t believe it, because inside sales can exist even f you don’t have a dedicated person for the job.
If your company is like many, you have at least one person wearing multiple hats. For example, if your business doesn’t have a full-time customer service manager, that’s fine. Someone is doing that job at least part of the time; and you make it work. You can do the same with inside sales. You may not need an additional person; one person wearing multiple hats might suffice.
Now that I have your attention, let’s focus on the benefits and roles of inside sales.
Anything that involves generating revenue activity by calling customers falls into the inside sales title. There are also some sub specialties of inside sales that we will talk about in a moment. We’ll also talk about who might wear this hat if there isn’t a dedicated person.
Typically, this involves outbound calling. It may involve calling potential customers or your existing customer base. This is the most basic and effective way to generate work right now, aside from knocking on doors. Just to stress how basic and essential this role is, if you were a one truck owner and didn’t have work today, you would get on the phone and start making calls. This is inside sales in its purest form.
Great inside sales people generate a lot of revenue by calling customers with compelling offers. Calling your existing customers usually yields the best response.
The offer could be a water heater flush special for plumbing customers or a heating or cooling check for HVAC. This is especially helpful when you’re launching a new service line and don’t have the awareness or marketing to keep everyone busy yet.
Inside sales can also make follow-up calls to support marketing campaigns. This can often give campaigns the one-two punch that makes them more effective.
Telemarketing has gotten a bad rap and has lost a lot of ground due to technology and customer distaste. Therefore, it’s important that your outbound calls are made by someone who sounds like a friend. Your caller shouldn’t sound like a telemarketer.
Short for “professional follow up,” it’s a sub-process of inside sales. This sales professional follows up on work that was quoted but not sold.
There may not always be a need for this role. It isn’t the most efficient approach, because success lessens as time passes. Initial follow up should be within 24 hours unless there are specific reasons or notes why there should be an exception.
Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder when it comes to professional follow up! There may be a need for this position if your sales team has a high volume of leads that aren’t being closed or followed up on. Again, this isn’t the most efficient approach; on the other hand, it only takes a few sales to make this position viable. The quality of the initial visit and how well information is given to customers will have a direct effect on results.
I’ve seen great long-range success when technicians are setting up off-peak season work, like duct replacement leads, for installation crews to do in the cooler months.
This is a logical strategy given the attic temperatures in some markets. If opportunities like that are set up properly, a PROFU can really deliver some much needed off-season revenue. Customers are getting their work done when it’s more comfortable for them, crews are working, and revenue is coming in when you need it the most. Everybody wins.
This is another sub-process of the inside sales umbrella. This is another high return activity and one that I think is pretty efficient. This sales professional interacts with technicians, sales people, and customers when you’re in the home.
The goal is to help customers find the right solutions so that work can be taken care of the same day. This eliminates return visits, which are inefficient. In many situations, your chances of getting back in customers’ doors are pretty small.
By having conversations when you’re in customers’ homes, it’s much more likely you’ll secure the work and get customers taken care of right away.
Inside closer is often the role of the person wearing the sales manager hat, but unfortunately, it often falls to the wrong person or nobody at all. I’ve seen strong inside closers make mediocre sales teams shine.
This person has to be familiar with your products, pricing, and margins, so this is usually best executed by someone with a high level of experience.
This person must be willing to drive the team to achieve desired results.
This sub-process of inside sales is typically a more entry level position; or possibly a CSR or dispatcher. This involves calling to schedule customers who are in your club or hold maintenance plans.
This person needs to be proficient at scheduling and understanding the payment and renewal structures, to avoid customer confusion. Make no mistake about it — this position requires a certain amount of sales ability.
Who makes a great inside sales person? The number one asset is likeability over the phone. The common ingredient I have seen with the best inside sales professionals is that they enjoy carrying on conversations with complete strangers.
They are typically solution oriented and empathetic. They have to be OK with hearing “no” because there’s a pretty high level of rejection. There’s definitely a mental game taking place here, and the inner communication to stay positive is a skill not everyone has.
One of the most common mistakes I see in companies who don’t have dedicated inside sales people is “making” all the CSRs do outbound calling. That’s sometimes the only option, but I would encourage you to identify or hire at least one person who excels at outbound calling.
Keep the person who is best at this focused on generating calls.
Training and scripting are the tools for success in this role. Identify the obstacles and create scripts that address the most common scenarios. Most of the time the objections will be consistent. With proper training you can boost the effectiveness of this process dramatically.
The best results are typically achieved by having compensation plans that deliver bonuses or spiffs based on results. Finding the right person who is motivated by results is important.
Make sure you have accurate tracking in place to measure results so you can coach, reward, and recognize success. A good way to track results for many organizations is to make the inside sales person the lead source on the calls they book.
If you’re able to generate reports in your software for calls and revenue by lead source, paying for results becomes easy.
Make the tracking fun and have goals to celebrate. This can be a tough game, so it’s important to make it fun to keep your inside sales person’s head right.
This person will hear a lot of “no’s”, so hire a person who can absorb these and keep dialing. I’ve found that people who are successful in this role typically take to it pretty quick. If someone is struggling in this role, then they probably aren’t the right fit for this job.
When you find the right person who enjoys inside sales, you’ve truly found the secret weapon to stabilize your business and keep your team moving!