Bumped into Chris Sheehan, one of the two Managing Directors at Common Angels, the other day, and we quickly got into a discussion about inside sales, and did I know of a good manager for one of his portfolio companies. Off the top of my head, no one came to mind, (Qualified Lead Opportunity to anyone reading this to ping me), but then I hesitated since I'm not sure that the terms "inside sales/outside sales" apply any longer, and when they do apply, they exist with very different meanings today from the context in which they historically (three to five years ago) had been used.
Back in the day (pre 2005-2007), the lines were drawn that inside sales most typically did pre or post sales work either qualifying the lead at the beginning of the process or exanding, upselling or retaining an existing customer after the initial sales was done. In that ("Old School Sales") world, the pre-sales Small Dog Inside Sales Guy handed the qualified opportunity off to the Big Dog Outside Field Guy who would then jump in the car or on an airplane and go meet the prospect. Followed by another outside meeting; followed by another outside meeting, and then followed by another outside meeting...and hopefully somewhere along the six month path somebody would remember to close. Things get stretched out, other priorities get in the way, and long stories become the metric of this type of Old School Selling rather than measured activities which today move along from one formal step to another.
The good news is that this world of Old School Sales is very rapidly being replaced by a new environment where the Hunter, even for high ticket ASPs with complex solutions, never goes into the field, and is able to take the handoff from an automated qualified lead and drive it to ground right from their desk using a highly integrated set of online tools. With sales tools environments of HubSpot (my personal favorite) and other marketing automation tools to Salesforce and its increasing number of built-in apps of Brainshark (also my personal favorite) and Go-To-Meeting, automated lists, integrated event management, automated video, chat, and everything else, why should an experienced salesperson today ever leave their desk?
Clearly, if we're in the world of jelly bean sales of highly commoditized products with low ASPs, inside sales from lead to close is the only way to cost effectively close. The other side of that equation is that face-to-face selling is often the only means for closing deals in community-based, small town services such as banks and accounting and law firms.
However, take that sales-effective concept of a highly trained inside sales professional, translate that into a heavily experienced Hunter plus then add in a variety of highly integrated automated online tools, throw in a formal stepped process, and what you have is a well-oiled selling machine that will consistently close on $25K to $500K orders even in complex sales environments.
That's the excitement of what we see popping up all of the time now. It's happenning today, and it's only going to get better. And, oh, by the way, our time-constrained, multi-tasking prospects and customers would also prefer to be sold this way.
Looks like we need to think about rewriting our definitions so that it no longer will be "inside or outside salespeople", but we'll start asking for those experienced salespeople with a minimum of five years of experience selling complex solutions in highly automated sales environments using integrated online selling process and tools.
Doesn't flow off one's lips, I know, but you get the concept.
Whatever the selling process, let's get out there and sell something today.
Good Selling !