The trend for inside sales is not coming—it has fully arrived at our doorstep. Rising fuel and labor costs have soared, and because of intense competition, the prices of our products and solutions have largely flat-lined—as have sales achievement levels. Companies have been forced to examine the complete cost of outbound sales and what they discovered was startling. According to inbound marketing leaders Hubspot, the average cost per inbound lead is 61% lower than an outbound lead.
Research by Sirius Decisions supports the Hubspot data and indicates that, on average, inbound leads cost less and have higher conversion rates than outbound leads, though an integrated approach between the two is generally the more optimal.
Inbound marketing techniques such as strategic SEO, building thought leadership positioning through blogging and particularly the prolific use of social media communication tools allow sales executives to target relevant prospects so they can learn about products and services on their terms. Today’s educated consumer will find you—the question is, will you be ready?
Virtual tools empower sales professionals like never before, driving a new economic equation for businesses in this economy. According to Dave Stein, CEO of ES Research, “Customers everywhere increasingly prefer virtual interactions with sellers. Trend data reveal that sales organizations are shifting resources from outside to inside sales. Inside sales growth is 30% faster than their outside sales counterparts. The number of Inside Sales departments is projected to grow from 800,000 in 2009 to over two million this year.”
So why is selling really going inside?
The traditional “cold call” once seemed indispensable to the selling process—the time and expense incurred were a basic cost of doing business. But according to a recent study by InsideView, over 90 percent of CEOs stated that they NEVER respond to cold calls. The return on cold calling has decreased so drastically that it is essentially dead.
The good news is that there are better choices. For many companies, social media channels and web conferencing tools have made the cold call an option, not an inevitability. Advances in technology mean that we can now effectively conduct face-face meetings online and manage five, six, or even seven meetings in one day. In addition to our virtual face-to-face schedule, we can reach out to prospects through social media channels and step into the world of the “Educated Consumer.”
Regardless if you are selling B2B or B2C, your prospects are online and getting younger each day due to the growth of the Millennial generation. Consumers continue to diversify the online channels they use to discover brands and information, increasingly relying on the Internet for information. According to Forrester Research, 43 percent of users aged 24 to 32 used social networks as their primary resource for brand and product information. Overall, social networks are the preferred means of discovery for nearly one-third of all Americans regardless of age, up from 18 percent in 2010.
The model of modern sales is simple and more effective without the traditional cold call. The Educated Consumer demands relevant knowledge about their business and their specific needs, and sales people must respond with timely intelligence in order to achieve successful engagement. Instead of wasting valuable time with dozens of cold calls that never manifest in true relationships or closed deals, sales professionals should instead focus their efforts on prospects who have already entered the buying cycle and demonstrated interest in what they have to offer.
By targeting prospects using modern tools like LinkedIn and Twitter, sales executives can identify companies ripe with opportunity and cultivate intelligence on market shifts, new product offerings, acquisitions and more that ties your product to prospects needs and making the sales conversation relevant again. Inbound sales teams may be a reaction to a shift in the economic market, but with the right tools in hand, the shift to the future looks bright indeed.