With inside sales growing fifteen times faster than outside sales in the US, there’s little doubt that inside sales representatives are in high demand these days. In fact, according to a SalesLoft infographic, for every outside sales rep being hired, there are ten inside sales reps being brought into the company. That translates to roughly 800,000 new jobs for inside sales reps every year. But what is an inside sales rep exactly?

An inside sales representative is defined as a salesperson who works inside an office and does not visit prospects in person. Traditionally, they did business over the phone—telesales—but technological advancements now allow them to work via email, Skype, and all the other online communication services. Forbes contributor Ken Krogue notes that inside sales reps are best referred to as ‘remote’ reps.

The Rise of the Inside Sales Representative

Inside salespeople have always been synonymous with telemarketers, who became ubiquitous in the 1970s. Telemarketers were commonly used to describe people selling products and services over the phone, and they developed a terrible reputation for interrupting everyone’s daily lives.

In the 1980s, the term ‘inside sales’ started to gain traction and separate itself from telemarketing. Inside sales started referring to more complex phone-based business-to-business and business-to-consumer selling practices. Unlike telemarketers, inside sales reps did not rely on full-on sales scripts as they had the training, acumen, and ingenuity that telemarketers usually lacked. Inside sales reps also focused on big-ticket items and tended to earn much more than telemarketers.

Whereas in the past inside sales reps were limited to talking on the office phone, today they are closing deals via mobile devices or working from home. This has allowed them to connect with more leads and have smarter conversations based on real-time data. Thus, the rapidly maturing inside sales industry has now become even more prevalent than traditional face-to-face outside sales.

The Responsibilities of the Inside Sales Representative

What does an inside sales rep do? Well, he or she plays a fundamental role when it comes to achieving a company’s customer acquisition and revenue growth goals. They make a dozen or more calls per day in the hopes of closing sales with qualified prospects to achieve the company’s quarterly quotas.

According to Workable, other responsibilities include the following:

  • Sourcing new sales opportunities via inbound leads and outbound cold calls and emails
  • Researching accounts to identify key players and generate interest
  • Maintaining a constantly expanding database of prospects within one’s assigned territory
  • Partnering with other channels to build a pipeline and close deals
  • Performing online demos to prospects
  • Routing qualified opportunities to sales executives for further development and closure

Inside Sales Representative Skills

Unfortunately, not everyone has the skills to become a successful inside sales representative. Aspiring inside salespeople should possess specific characteristics to do the job effectively – from generating qualified leads to connecting with prospects. These skills help them achieve their ultimate goal: making sales for the company.

The following skills are deemed instrumental to an inside sales rep’s success:

  • Research skills

Inside sales reps do not just pick up the phone and call the next number in line without a concrete game plan. They conduct pre-call research to know something about their prospects and their business needs, increasing their chances of success.

A couple of important things to research before the call include gathering relevant background information on the prospect and any social network connections, such as LinkedIn.

It is also important that inside sales reps are thoroughly knowledgeable about the product being sold. It might seem common sense, but deep product knowledge is one of the things that separate highly successful reps from the rest. By researching and understanding the product beforehand, they would be able to explain in detail how it works, the value it offers for the client’s business, and the appeal it has for the client’s ideal customers.

  • Rapport building skills

Just because inside sales reps don’t meet customers, face-to-face does not mean they should be complacent when it comes to building rapport with prospects. On the contrary; building rapport has become more important than ever as it is harder to build a connection with someone over the phone or the Internet.

Some reps research beforehand so they can establish common ground between themselves and their customers, while others simply have the natural ability to create instant rapport by establishing a solid sense of credibility and integrity. Whatever method is used, building rapport is a crucial step in the direction of making a sale.

  • Communication skills

In inside sales, it is not so much about what the representative says, but how they say it. Customers don’t just listen to the content of the pitch, but also to tone, volume, and pace. In fact, statistics from Sandler Sales Training show that as much as 38% of communication relies on the speaker’s tonality, while a mere 7% favored content.

Inside sales reps should know how to mirror the prospect’s tone and style of talking so that the customers can identify with them. However, they should also learn how to let their personality shine through, so the prospect knows he or she is speaking to a human being, not a robot!

  • Interviewing skills

An inside sales rep should learn how to ask the right questions. Good questions can keep prospects engaged in the conversation and provide valuable information that can be used to advance the sale.

Successful salespeople do not share all of their products’ benefits and capabilities right away. Instead, they focus on asking questions about their customers’ business pain and problems before offering their product as a potential solution.

Smart questioning can also lead to more information about the customer that can be used later on to push for a sale. Inside sales reps usually find out about the prospect’s budget, needs, and buying process just by asking the right questions.

  • Discipline and time management

Though most inside sales reps work standard office hours, some of them are simply much more productive than the others. The difference boils down to time management and discipline.

Considering that most inside sales representatives are paid on a commission basis, it is imperative to make as many sales as possible in the amount of time available; otherwise, they end up with lower pay. They should know which prospects are worth following up and which ones are just wasting their time so that they can get the most out of their eight-hour day.

These days, any company looking to grow its revenue would do well to invest in quality inside sales representatives. Not only do they drive company sales, but they are also highly cost-effective alternatives to much slower-moving, traditional face-to-face encounters.

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