How to manage a high-performing inside sales team: 12 mandatory best practices

Abhishikha Chatterjee
March 23, 2022
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Last modified on

March 23, 2022
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According to CSO Insights, inside sales reps spend only 33% of their time selling.

With the advent of the novel coronavirus, most sales teams shifted completely from field sales to inside sales. And yet the inside sales teams aren’t performing up to their potential and losing time on non-core inside sales activities.

Bringing change is the need of the hour, as inside sales teams are here to stay and most likely make up for the significant part of the sales teams.

Today, we’ll focus on the following areas of inside sales:

  • What is inside sales, and why are companies investing in inside sales teams?
  • What are the common inside sales challenges?
  • 12 mandatory best practices for managing a high-performing inside sales team
  • How is conversation intelligence transforming inside sales teams?

What is inside sales, and why are companies investing in inside sales teams?

Inside sales is a way of remote selling where sellers interact with prospects through various mediums like phone, email, or chat.  These sales professionals are responsible for virtual meetings and engagements as compared to their counterparts–outside or field salespeople– who interact with prospects in face-to-face meetings. 

An inside sales rep's responsibilities include:

  • Build relationships with leads and prospects on cold calls
  • Answer product questions and inquiries
  • Build brand trust and credibility with the audience.
  • Meet monthly sales quota by enabling closure of customer deals.
  • Nurture the leads to convert them to customers.
  • Manage to get referrals from existing customers
  • Reporting on relevant sales data

According to 2019 data, of 5.7 million salespeople in the U.S., 45.5% are inside salespeople, and field sales reps comprise 52.8%.

In the pandemic, approximately 68% of sales leaders claimed they’d either shift to a hybrid or fully remote selling model in 2021, meaning outside sales reps were diverted to inside sales teams. 

The sudden and unexpected switch to inside salesforce was uninvited but accepted worldwide because of several solid reasons:

  1. Cost-effective and low investment method.
  2. Physical distances and participant numbers are never a big issue.
  3. Improved team selling and cross-team collaboration
  4. Sales meetings are productive and time-efficient. 
  5. More time spent on core selling activities.
  6. Easier to scale the inside sales team
  7. Faster response time and turnover-rate

Noticing the above advantages, multiple sales organizations are revisiting their sales strategies and intentionally adopting hybrid or fully remote to tap into the advantages of virtual selling.

To build a high-performing inside sales team, we need to consider the challenges first. 

Unless the challenges are not discussed, it’s impossible to resolve them according to inside sales best practices

What are the common inside sales challenges?

Inside sales performed by SDRs selling online by cold calling is a routine task but tricky at times. However, field sellers taking the remote landscape and joining the inside sales team find adapting even more challenging. Here are some common inside sales challenges that remote salesforce face: 

1. Switching to virtual selling 

Not all outside and field salespeople are used to sitting at their desks and building connections with prospective customers. 

Most field reps are happy meeting new people and networking wildly. The sudden transition to virtual sales is not only overwhelming but time-consuming. 

Field sellers deal with severe resistance due to the new change.

2. Complex relationship-building process

Building in-person relations is easy because each meeting is allocated a time that allows enough time for networking. Moreover, every stakeholder has access to each other’s expression and behavioral changes, which is otherwise tricky to notice behind laptops.

3. Lack of virtual selling skills

Mastering virtual selling is the need of the hour, but all employees aren’t trained, and the employees are trained for normal circumstances. However, virtual selling needs specific communication and cognitive skills that make the sales meetings productive and exciting. 

4. Sales cycle process changes 

Account executives have a specific process to handle clients after qualification and lead them to the closure stage. The sales process in offline mode is more prolonged and takes its own sweet time but builds long-term relationships. The scenario is quite the opposite, with inside sales-all investments are made for short-term gains.

5. Identifying decision-makers at a later stage

Decision-making buyers are usually senior people and get specific about the product details and value. Remotely facing the decision-makers doesn’t help in narrowing down the ultimate buyers. The primary decision maker is often introduced or identified at a mature stage in the sales cycle. 

We are on top of all critical challenges sales teams face transitioning from outside sales. Now we need to address the challenges and build high-performing teams with the help of 12 mandatory inside sales best practices.

Overcoming challenges: 12 mandatory best practices for managing a high-performing inside sales team

1. Identify the goals and objectives.

Before taking the plunge into inside sales, every company needs to identify the goals it wants to achieve as part of the inside sales process. 

Once the business goal is clearly defined, the next series of sales goals, strategies, and plans can start taking shape. Any vague and unrealistic goal will create chaos at a later stage. 

2. Define an inside sales plan and strategy.

Any project starts with an end game in mind, and the end game helps define the core strategies and activities. 

In this case, the sales strategy and plan for the inside sales team should be the sales leaders’ first point of concern and should be connected to the business goals and objectives. 

Once the business plan and goals are established, the sales plan is constructed. Requirement of sellers, sales cycle, the process, business plan, lead generation tactic, budget, etc., is straightforward to decide and act. 

3. Recruiting and training the sales team

After freezing the sales objective and the sales plan, senior leaders must start recruiting skilled sellers who can master the remote selling landscape and achieve their sales quota even in difficult times. 

Two questions clearly impact the sales teams construction:

Recruiting salespeople means searching for the best talent globally without spending time on physical interviews. Today’s senior leaders are searching for recruits who showcase: 

  • Resilience 
  • Confidence on camera
  • Ability to produce content
  • Exploit multiple touchpoints
  • Ability to follow-up
  • Uses automation over manual processes
  • Smart conversation builder
  • Implements personalization
  • Tracks call quality analytics

Once recruitment is completed, onboarding and training remotely become the primary focus area. We have built an in-depth post about the same here.

4. Periodic Coaching 

Sales coaching is another way to sharpen the virtual skills of your inside sales team. The best practice is often overlooked but plays a critical role in scaling the team. 

Mock discovery calls, conceptual discussions, inside sales best practices sharing, getting better in an existing skillset, etc. Most of these sessions should be conducted online and with a turned-on camera. 

5. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and team selling.

The team selling approach isn't as simple as it sounds. Introducing entire teams into the mix makes things a little more complicated, and hosting everyone on an online platform is more complicated. 

Suppose sales leaders want to encourage cross-functional collaboration and team selling as part of the inside sales best practices. In that case, you need to clear the corridors and establish a clear path for communication.

Sales teams must adhere to a few industry best practices to exploit cross-functional collaboration in virtual selling. A few key measures could be:

  • Best practices playbook
  • Use case discussion
  • Process standardization
  • Goal setting 
  • Clear agenda
  • Use common technology

6. Use the right technology and software.

Inside sales teams collaborate and seamlessly work together because of sales technology. And they owe a big thanks to technology and automation. 

A continuous flow of data and engagement is possible because of several sales technology stacks:

7. Invest in the sales playbook

Inside sales teams, too, need a common glossary, a platform to consult, and a sales playbook that can do the magic.

Post shared by Francis Tam on Linkedin

High-performing sales professionals can share their fast-selling tips and tricks with other team members through the sales playbook. These playbooks can store ample data and content. But remember that investing in a playbook that offers a call recording platform is a wise decision as it directly connects with the sales meetings. 

Learn: How to build an A-grade sales playbook using Conversation Intelligence for today’s sales teams?


8. Define a reward structure for your team.

Along with major structural changes, the incentive and reward structure will also need revision. Sales hacker suggests investing in a common dashboard that offers the live feed of the closed deals and other sales goals. 

Although the Dashboard is a great starting point, remember to discuss the NEW incentive structure with your team and seek feedback on an online meeting.

9. Motivate and engage sales reps

Distance can’t be a dividing factor, and teams need to collaborate frequently due to the geographical distance. 

Sales leaders can step in and motivate the teams to engage in joint discussions and offer solutions for administrative issues. 

The idea is to make sales reps must feel comfortable and engaged throughout the virtual selling process.

10. Periodic performance review

Inside sales best practices also demand continuous monitoring and tracking of performance. Unless a strict review process is not taken into account, leniency and demotivation can set in. 

As a best practice, review sales reps’ performance with the help of a conversation intelligence tool that automatically scores the call quality and offers a customizable feedback mechanism. 

11. Seek feedback from the team

Implementation of the inside sales structure also demands constant amendments to the structure. The sales team may feel suffocated and trapped in misleading practices unless regular feedback is not received. 

12. Implement periodic changes to the inside sales plan

Timely feedback can support sales plans and strategy changes in regular intervals. Setting a feedback and revision process is also part of the sales plan and must be established initially. 

How is conversation intelligence transforming inside sales teams?

Inside sales can be a tough nut to crack for rookies and beginners who've just tasted the various pros and cons of remote selling.

Inside sales rep works hard to start reaching potential customers, researching every contact, composing cold emails and calling prospects for hours at a stretch, following up, and finally calling it a day after adding a few new connections to the sales pipeline.

Isn’t it better to use the right sales technology to automate a few jobs that the inside sales teams perform manually?

For example, the inside sales teams can stop making notes and rely on automatic note creation. Or no more guesswork while preparing for follow-ups. 

Introducing conversation intelligence can prove to be a game-changer for inside sales teams. Right from recording & analyzing calls, the tool is equipped with a sales playbook and well-built review scorecard.

Inside sales is the way forward and will remain an integral part of all growing sales teams. Sellers may start traveling for offline sales meetings, but the frequency will reduce and take preference as per the cost of acquiring the customer.

Considering the new normal, all sellers must start adopting the inside sales best practices and offer a seamless customer experience considering the new normal.

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