Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thanks to SaaS, Inside Sales Teams Are Now Vital to the Organization

SaaS has not only transformed the way we do business, it has also elevated the importance of a great inside sales team. Inside sales has grown from an extension of marketing to a true extension of the sales team. Inside sales once had a negative connotation both internal to the company and to the external world. Don't believe me? Ever been cold called? Yeah if you ask CEO’s and VP’s if they think their inside sales team is important they will say yes, but ask them what they do and they will inevitably say, “they bang the phones and get leads for our sales guys.”

If your inside sales team is just blindly banging the phones, then I'm here to tell you that you're wasting company money. No inside sales department should be cold calling. The true value of an inside sales team is to sell. By selling I mean one of two things: either they are nurturing potential buyers throughout the entire sales cycle in conjunction with a sales director and selling your brand/credibility or they are managing their own pipelines and closing business themselves. Selling has essentially become a nurturing process. The inside sales model you select is dependent on the goals of the company. Do you need a focus on building a pipeline or do you need a focus on closed revenue? You can look to your inside team to do one or the other or even both. All models work. It just depends on objectives and where your company's product is in its life cycle. Calling prospects is a must, so I don't want anyone to think that they don't need to pick up the phones. There is a time and a place and I will go into this in much more detail in another article, but I want to stress the importance of nuturing in this article. It's the Web 2.0 way.

Prospects are having to be nurtured for longer periods of time given the state of the economy and a fundamental change in buying behavior. Prospects need and want to be nurtured. This being said, there should be no difference between the skill sets of your inside sales team and your outside sales team. Recruit, interview, hire, train and pay folks as if they were the best outside sales director money can buy. In fact, the majority of your sales team should be inside sales.

Companies looking for SaaS solutions want to buy online and they are becoming very comfortable with an online/remote sales process as well. Gone are the days where face-to-face meetings are critical, especially for small to mid-sized SaaS companies. Yes...there will always be a need for the classic "outside" sales role in any organization, but 80% of business is now being conducted over the web. Salesforce.com is the poster child for success when it comes to creating a great inside sales team. The overwhelming majority of their sales folks are inside and never travel. They are living proof that SaaS vendors can and must be able to sell their products via an inside sales team.

What are your experiences with inside sales, now that SaaS has become so main stream? Are you noticing a shift to more of an inside sales model?

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