The Anonymous Buyer Journey - Part 3: Evolution of Inside Sales

Inside sales teams are rapidly growing and becoming part of marketing for companies that understand the anonymous buyer journey and the shift between marketing and sales covered in the second post of this blog series.  The anonymous buyer is on a non-linear journey void of sales contact until 70—80% of the journey is complete.  So how does an inside sales team engage with qualified prospects?  The answer is the topic for this third blog post of the series.

Starting with the end in mind, context and intelligent outreach move to the forefront of your strategy for inside sales and are often supported from content and analytics residing within marketing.  Insides sales teams are becoming part of marketing for these reasons to improve their effectiveness.  Understanding the evolution of inside sales for intelligent outreach provides key insights and the opportunity to assess the maturity of your own inside sales team.

Cold Calling Era – reigned supreme well over a decade ago when voicemail was regularly checked, new contacts were found and appointments were set for face-to-face meetings. Inside sales – involving endless hours of voicemail delivery – was a stepping-stone into sales for career advancement. When these individuals were put into a live conversation with a prospect, however, a lack of solution knowledge quickly surfaced as an issue.  Those that could adapt on their own and learn the company storyboard were promoted into sales creating endless churn within inside sales teams.

Web Demo Era – enters with contact databases, email calendar reminders and the ability to share screens for presentations and overviews.  Inside sales adopts the introductory storyboard of the company, founders, history, solution space and product line or service overview.  Web demos are easy for prospects to view, but also susceptible to being disrupted by inbound email, other types of interruptions or just boredom.  Add in a major economic recession in this era cutting sales travel expenses, and web demos driven by quantity goals and not quality prospecting defined inside sales objectives at the time.

Spam Cannon Era – filled email inboxes from marketing automated email campaigns as technology advanced for email customization, analytics and campaign tracking.  Inside sales emerges as the bridge between marketing and sales to drive lead generation into sales funnels for predictable revenue models and digital selling for SaaS solutions.  However piles of email resulting in email filtering improvements led to cold calling skills re-emerging with inside sales teams – this time with more information and insight on prospects.  Eventually both email spam and cold calling drive prospects away from sales engagement into the anonymous buyer journey we know today.

Intelligent Outreach Era – supports the online self-learning process of prospects expecting to research your company, solution, advantages and expected outcomes online (all parts of a well defined sales equation from the first blog of the series).  Traditional cold calling is dead, the web demo has been replaced with a concise online video only minutes in length, and email spam will likely get your company domain blocked at desired prospect companies. Thus begins the era of intelligent outreach in multiple online channels.  Inside sales teams need context about the prospect, solution space, their product or service, and expected outcomes aligned with analytics for multi-channel touch points.  Here marketing and inside sales come together as one team nurturing 70-80% of the buyer’s journey with intelligent insights to educate on value and drive engagement.

The game now changes to quality over quantity for inside sales for a more predictable sales funnel.  The intelligent outreach era is also showing signs of prospects opening back up to calls and emails with a caveat: high quality insightful calls and emails relevant to prospects standout and are acted upon versus calls and emails from vendors lacking maturity for inside sales operations.  Prospects also expect to be found by vendors relevant to their job role and function with insightful information to drive their success within company and industry.

Therefore, campaigns, messages and sales interactions must be high quality, contextual and coordinated across the buyer’s journey.  The buyer is no longer dependent on sales to learn about solutions. They have many online options, peers and analysts to leverage today.  Buyers desire insights and a consultative partner adding value to every step in the sales process.  This puts the burden on marketing, inside sales and outbound sales to align on adding value quickly with prospects or risk falling out of the engagement cycle.  Inside sales teams are expanding and increasingly being managed by marketing for context and analytics while outbound sales takes on the challenge of having product marketing level expertise for their solution.

The next blog in this series will look at the role of outbound sales as B2B consultant sellers for the level of expertise expected from buyers today.

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