Note to Inside Sales: Drop the Script — and Listen

Inside Sales is on the forefront of the Cloud sales revolution. The old model for Inside Sales instituted best practices for lead qualification through carefully crafted call scripts. Business development representatives relied on one-size-fits-all scripts to identify the best leads, which they handed over to field representatives, who then spent months nurturing relationships toward conversions on six-figure licenses. For a long time, the Inside Sales script was viewed as a universal requirement of the lead qualification process that led to closed business.

The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model changed the technology sales game dramatically, placing new responsibilities in the hands of Inside Sales and shifting the relationship between Inside and Field Sales. Cloud products are typically sold per user and billed monthly, so in most cases, what was a one-time, six-figure sale has mostly shifted to an “always-on” sales motion progressing from initial sale (acquisition) to expansion sale (consumption). Closing the deal is no longer the end of the sales process, it’s just the beginning!

Further, the audience of SaaS buyers has widened — both beyond IT to LOB leaders in Marketing, HR, and Finance; and beyond Enterprise to Mid-Market and SMB customers who now have access to nearly any technology they need. Today, lead qualification, nurture, and conversion can all happen in a single call — and that call may be with a wide range of buyer personas. Inside Sales experts have to be ready to uncover needs and use cases, position value, answer questions, and secure commitments within a compressed, single-call sales process. Success requires a “probe and pivot” sales motion that can’t be scripted!

Here are the 3 reasons to abandon sales scripts now and promote listening to the core metric for Inside Sales success:

1. Conversion: Cloud Sales Are Incremental

In the Cloud, sales is an incremental process with opportunities every month. An initial relationship with a customer may start with as little as one license, but additional users and functionality can be added over time and at any time. So the ability to convert a lead to a paying customer, regardless of the dollar value of the initial sale, is a critical skill. Net-new customer acquisition, now managed end-to-end by Inside Sales, is merely the first step in the SAS sales funnel, rather than the finish line. Microsoft applied this model to its Azure Cloud sales strategy, leveraging a global, full-cycle Inside Sales model to drive thousands of net-new customers from initial “free trials” to on-going customers with increasing month-over-month Azure consumption revenue generation.

2. Churn: Listen or Lose a Customer

Cloud-based software requires limited upfront investment and typically no internal infrastructure cost, so switching is easier than ever. Like all technology transitions, Cloud adoption requires a clear, clean initial project to accelerate use and impact. Successful Inside Sales teams enable prospective customers to identify workloads that can quickly be enhanced via Cloud solutions, then monitor usage activity to know when to engage early stage customers for additional support and to confirm the next wave of projects for migration to Cloud solutions. One-size-fits-all scripted follow-up messages are irrelevant in today’s Cloud Sales models, with long-term success for customer and Cloud solution providers dependent on exceptional listening and enablement skills within the Inside Sales team to “land and expand” consistently and fend off competitors.

3. Competency: No Script Required

Because the Cloud sales cycle never ends, Inside Sales can upsell the same customer every month. And the best are doing just that — upselling new features and helping expand the number of users. In order to do that effectively, Inside Sales professionals have to be true knowledge workers, or else their sales messages are ineffective annoyances. They engage with clients and prospects, listen to their challenges and see opportunities in their stories. They know the solution they are selling, they know how other customers are successfully using their solutions, and they can share relevant experiences and insights. “Best-of-Breed” Cloud Inside Sales teams can take an account from a free trial all the way to a company-wide deployment when the opportunity exists — and repeat that success at scale levels generating significant revenue month over month.

Scripts can’t navigate what services to upsell or the best way to position them.

The modern Inside Sales person for Cloud-based sales is knowledgeable, engaging and able to foster long-term relationships with prospects. Efficacy is based on the ability to “probe and pivot” with insight and knowledge, not read a templated script. For true experts, the modern Cloud Inside Sales role can be a long-term career opportunity. This is supported by a recent survey from the Alexander Group that revealed that more than 70% of the contact time Field Sales reps spend with their customers is not in person, but online or over the phone!

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